The Cleveland Cavaliers are essentially two separate franchises since 2003.
The team with LeBron James achieved great heights and brought the city a championship in 2016.
The team without him is an absolute disaster.
James first left following the 2009-10 season.
James left again following the 2017-18 season, and the Cavaliers have missed the postseason in the three ensuing years.
This season marks the fourth year without James and that means the fourth year of a rebuild that so far has not resulted in more than 22 wins in any season.
So what is a fair expectation this year?
The Cavaliers at least have to qualify for the play-in tournament if they want to call the season a success.
Just like old times 🤝 Ricky Rubio feeds Kevin Love!pic.twitter.com/g9qzotssWS
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationCP) October 2, 2021
Young Talent Getting Older
The core is in place, barring some shocking trade for a player like Ben Simmons.
The point of mentioning all the experience is the fact at some point, a giant leap must be taken.
This year, that means going from a low-level Lottery team to actually fighting for a playoff spot.
The play-in presents a unique opportunity for teams usually tanking at the end of the year for draft position.
A team like the Cavaliers would benefit more from giving this core some much-needed playoff experience.
They just took Evan Mobley at No. 3 overall and at some point they cannot continue to just add top picks and never take that next step.
Help Around The Young Core
To their credit, the front office actually made some nice moves this offseason.
Lauri Markkanen the most impressive player from this scrimmage. Evan Mobley's quickness and suddenness for a player his size is just unreal. Could tell that Darius Garland was out having fun distributing at point guard. Excited to see this group on the court. #Cavs
— Mac Robinson (@MacRobinson95) October 2, 2021
The addition of Ricky Rubio should be huge as well if he can keep up the play he showed this summer at the Olympics.
But let’s address the elephant in the room that is Kevin Love.
What will the Cavaliers get from him this year?
That is the giant unknown that has hung over Love since he signed a new deal right when James left for Los Angeles.
His name will obviously remain in trade rumors all year, but his contract makes a deal tough unless the Cavaliers are really helping out another team by taking on a bad contract.
Love is not in the future plans and may only see limited action if he cannot stay healthy.
The team is already stacked with seven-footers, so this may be a situation where he is phased out in order for the team to truly move into the future.
However, his presence alone should help keep the focus on winning.
Perhaps a competitive season will get Love focused and back to his old ways.