Coming into the 2021-22 National Basketball Association, very few people outside of Ohio expected the Cleveland Cavaliers to do anything of note.
Instead, they got off to a strong start and gave themselves a real shot at making the playoffs.
After they were hit by some key injuries, the Cavs fell to eighth place in the Eastern Conference, forcing them to take part in the play-in tournament.
After losing to the Brooklyn Nets, they took a large lead over the Atlanta Hawks in the second game in the tournament, only to fall, 107-101.
All of a sudden, the 2022 campaign looked like a disappointment for Cleveland, and it begs the question of what one should realistically expect from the team next year.
Cleveland Has Young Players On The Rise
Garland averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per game last year, which left Cavs fans with high hopes for him in the future.
In 2022, the Vanderbilt University product upped his production to 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game, and those improved numbers sent him to the All-Star game for the first time.
Garland also improved his efficiency, as his true shooting percentage went from 54.7 to 57.6, his 2-point shooting percentage got a boost from 47.9 to 51.2 and his free throw accuracy, which was 84.8 percent in 2021, went to an outstanding 89.2 percent.
In the loss to the Nets, Garland did just about all he could to help Cleveland’s cause with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but he failed to come through against Atlanta, making just 9-of-27 shots and committing five turnovers.
— Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) April 13, 2022
Mobley had a strong rookie season, contributing 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game.
Cavs fans feel he got disrespected in the Rookie of the Year balloting, as Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes won the award, but many feel Mobley will ultimately end up as the better player in the long run.
Evan Mobley blocking people but it gets increasingly disrespectful pic.twitter.com/PbVmRMrdph
— Tony Pesta (@Tony_Pesta) April 19, 2022
Also noticeable was the improvement of big man Jarrett Allen, who was acquired from the Nets last year.
He gave the Cavs 16.1 points and 10.8 rebounds a game en route to an All-Star appearance.
The Cavs Have Some Decisions To Make
Guard Collin Sexton, another promising young player, will be a free agent this summer, and he is sure to command top dollar on the open market.
The Cavs have to decide whether to keep him, as he could be an awkward fit with Garland.
Both are small guards who are lacking defensively, and it is not clear if Sexton would accept a sixth man role.
Then there is the matter of Kevin Love, a holdover from the team’s 2016 world championship squad.
He had a strong season in which he remained relatively healthy, but he has one season left on his contract for nearly $29 million.
Do the Cavs want to keep him, or should they trade him and get some value in return for him?
If the roster remains largely the same, a playoff appearance at minimum is a reasonable expectation.
But if Mobley makes a big jump in Year 2, perhaps Cleveland can get to the second round of the playoffs, especially given how strong it is defensively, a very uncommon quality for such a young team.