The Cleveland Cavaliers are back and better than ever — well not ever.
However, they are on pace to be the third-best non-LeBron James Cavaliers team in history.
The Cavaliers have just one title in franchise history.
This team appears to have the structure of one that could fight for a title in the future though.
It is not good news that injuries are unfortunately coming for the Cavaliers.
The injuries may lead to a drop in the standings for Cleveland, as a losing streak is forming:
Fought to the finish. #LetEmKnow
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 25, 2022
So, how did we get here where the Cavaliers are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference?
Also, how are we at the point where Cleveland has to avoid being too confident as the playoffs approach?
Let us start with the former: how have the Cavs played so well thus far in 2021-22?
The Success Of The 2021-22 Cavs
The Cavaliers are among the league’s best defenses, as J.B. Bickerstaff has the new and improved team at new heights.
For the first time since James went to the West in 2018, the Cavaliers are not near the bottom of the standings:
- 2018-19: 19-63
- 2019-20: 19-46
- 2020-21: 22-50
- 2021-22: 35-24
The Cavs want to be for real this year, and the acquisitions of LeVert and Rajon Rondo mean that the franchise wants postseason success this year.
If they make the postseason this year, it will be the first non-James Cavaliers playoff team since 1998 when Mike Fratello was the coach.
When looking more closely at Cleveland’s defense, here is where the 2021-22 Cavs are excelling:
- Free Throw per Field Goal Attempt Allowed: second in the NBA
- Effective Field Goal Percentage Against: fourth in the NBA
- Opponent Turnover Percentage: ninth in the NBA
Those top 10 ranks are important, and the free throw numbers this season are impressive.
The Cavaliers rank as the best defense in terms of preventing free throws.
Their opponents’ free throw makes and attempts per game are the lowest in the league.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Cavs have three top-20 players in defensive rating thus far this season:
Allen and Mobley also rank in the top 10 in defensive win shares, so the defense will need to keep up the success in order for the Cavs to play well going forward.
The Cavs Have To Avoid Being Too Confident As The Playoffs Near
However, will the Cavs be able to bounce back from their three-game losing streak?
They lost at Detroit on Thursday without two of their best players.
The Cavaliers will be without Caris LeVert for 1-2 weeks.
Darius Garland is also OUT for tonight's game against the Pistons. 🤕 pic.twitter.com/C6ujiLC1gV
— theScore Bet (@theScoreBet) February 24, 2022
It was not the best way to start the post-All-Star break schedule.
Fortunately, fifth-seeded Cleveland has the opportunity to feast on future play-in teams during the next homestand.
The Cavs will face the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Charlotte Hornets.
They cannot play down to their competition though.
Bickerstaff and his hoarse voice know that his team needs to step it up:
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) February 25, 2022
You can see that the Cavs head to Philadelphia after their next homestand.
These next three games will be big for the Cavs as they look to turn things around.