After overachieving and nearly making the playoffs this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are filled with reasonable optimism as they head towards the NBA draft and free agency.
But as is always the case for a team that wins 44 wins, as they did this year, the Cavs still have plenty of work to do.
The team could have a greater margin of error next season, especially if it picks up some reinforcements.
However, there is still a realistic chance it will miss the playoffs again, especially if certain things go wrong.
To be fair, this is true for all teams in all sports, but the Cavs had to deal with key injuries more than plenty of other teams this season.
It started early for them, as Collin Sexton, one of their other promising young players, suffered a knee injury just weeks into the schedule and was done for the season.
Then Ricky Rubio, the veteran point guard who was supposed to keep the offense flowing smoothly when Garland was on the bench, injured his ACL in late December and missed the rest of the season.
Ricky Rubio was helped off the court after suffering an apparent injury on this play. pic.twitter.com/QuNciWZB2y
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 29, 2021
In addition, Garland missed 14 games, Mobley missed 13 games and All-Star big man Jarrett Allen was out for 26 games.
Another rash of key injuries during the 2022-23 season could single-handedly keep the Cavs out of the playoffs again.
Kevin Love Could Decline Or Have A Bad Season
Cavs fans were pleasantly surprised at the year Kevin Love had.
After several seasons in which he was often injured and a 2021 campaign during which he nearly averaged a career-low in scoring, Love had a mini-renaissance this year.
He managed to play in 74 contests and adjusted well to his new role coming off the bench while shooting an impressive 39.2 percent from 3-point range.
Cleveland going CRAZY right now 🤯
Kevin Love and Cedi Osman lead a monster 14-0 run by the Cavs 🔥pic.twitter.com/rFdDDt95EY
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 7, 2022
It was his highest mark in that department since the 2018 campaign, which happened to be LeBron James‘ last in The Land.
But Love will be 34 next season, and Father Time is undefeated.
The Cavs have reportedly tried to trade him in recent seasons, but they were rebuffed, likely because of his injury history and big contract.
The 2022-23 season will be the final year of his contract, but if his production regresses, or if he misses a lot of games, the Cavs may find themselves a little thin in the frontcourt.
Not Making Outside Shots
The Cavs shot 35.5 percent from beyond the arc this year, which ranked just 15th in the NBA.
Only three players in their regular rotation – Garland, Love and Rajon Rondo – made at least 36 percent of their treys on the season.
If Cleveland fails to address this need during the offseason, opposing teams could pack the paint and perhaps trap Garland while watching his teammates throw up enough bricks from the outside to house Northeast Ohio’s homeless population.
But with one or two more proven 3-point marksmen on the roster, this problem could be rectified, and perhaps Garland could flirt with averaging double-digit assists next year.