Heading into the 2022 NBA season, there are several promising young teams across the league. One of the more underrated teams among that group are the Cleveland Cavaliers. After losing Lebron James in free agency several years ago, Cleveland went into a rebuilding phase. They’ve since built the team back up, and have an exciting young core that was able to make the play-in tournament last season. Question is, do the Cleveland Cavaliers have what they need to take the next step and become a true contender in 2022?
The Young Core
First, lets take a look at the young group of players leading the Cavs. First, we have Darius Garland. Garland was picked up early in the first round of the 2019 draft, and through three years he’s already become arguably their best player. The young point guard averaged nearly 22 points and eight assists last year, and was a big reason the team was able to make the play-in.
He was joined in the backcourt with the Cavs’ other impressive guard, Collin Sexton. Sexton averaged 16 points last year, and he plays well with Garland. Sexton did become a free agent this offseason, so it remains to be seen whether he sticks with this core or not. There’s no guarantee on a deal happening, but both sides have been in contact.
At small forward, the Cavs have Caris LeVert. LeVert was acquired at the deadline last year, and he’s got one more year on his contract, so he’ll be a free agent next summer. Whether he decides to stay in Cleveland or not will largely depend on how they perform next year.
In the front court, Cleveland has a dynamic duo with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Standing at 6’11” and 6’10” respectively, the two are an absolute force on defense. Both can score as well, forming a dynamic pick-and-roll duo with Garland.
Last year, Cleveland was able to make the play-in, but unfortunately suffered losses to the Nets and Hawks. The Cavs never got to play in the playoffs. For a young team like this, sometimes all it takes is another offseason of development.
With that said, if Cleveland really wants to make a splash move, now would be the time considering a majority of their roster remains on their rookie contracts. A splash move could immediately make them a true contender in the Eastern Conference, but it’s something they’ve failed to do yet this offseason.
The only major asset Cleveland has lost this offseason was Colin Sexton. They could re-sign Sexton, as the two have been in contact. Still, over a month into free agency, Colin and the Cavs haven’t been able to reach a deal. The only two notable players to sign with Cleveland this offseason have been Ricky Rubio and Robin Lopez.
With the addition of those two and the current loss of Sexton, the team hasn’t improved much, if at all. The Cavaliers had a chance to make some significant moves this offseason. Up until now they’ve failed to do so.
Are the 2022 Cleveland Cavaliers Truly Ready?
That question remains very much up in the air. Cleveland took a massive jump in 2021, improving by 22 wins from the 2020 season. That was good enough to make the play-in, but not any further than that.
There is a case to be made that further development from key players like Garland and Mobley, combined with a full season of LeVert might be enough to make Cleveland a true contender. There’s also the case that Cleveland didn’t improve, and may have actually gotten worse if Sexton doesn’t re-sign. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the Cleveland Cavaliers have an exciting young roster, and should at least contend for the playoffs again in 2022.