Cavaliers Called Out Over ‘Devastating’ Lineup Choice Against Knicks

Donovan Mitchell Cleveland Cavaliers

Getty Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled to generate any offense outside of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland against the New York Knicks. The Cavs have trotted out the worst offense so far in the playoffs, less effective than the already eliminated Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Aside from Caris LeVert‘s 24-point Game Two performance, no one on the Cavs has managed to score more than 20 points in a game other than Mitchell and Garland. Knick skipper Tom Thibodeau doesn’t have to be a defensive guru to develop a double-teaming game plan to limit the tandem.

With the playoffs on the line, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report identified the Cavs’ lackluster offense as the “X-Factor” set to limit the team’s ability to reach the Finals.

“Throughout the series, New York has been aggressive in sending multiple bodies at Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, forcing the ball out of their hands, often to Even Mobley around the foul line,” Hughes wrote recently. “From there, many teams feast offensively in a downhill, 4-on-3 scenario. But Mobley’s processing has been a half-step slow in space, he’s struggled mightily to finish against Mitchell Robinson, and worst of all, the Knicks can pull in an extra defender because they aren’t concerned with the likes of Isaac Okoro beating them from deep.

“The Cavs have had a hole at small forward all year, and they’re paying for failing to fill it. Too often, Cleveland has three non-spacers on the floor around Mitchell and Garland.

“As great as those two guards can be, the lack of capable offensive support around them, particularly at the 3, is devastating.”

The Cavs’ decision against finding an upgrade on the wing at the trade deadline appears to be haunting them in the first round. With Okoro rendered impotent by his inconsistent shooting, head coach JB Bickerstaff benched him for Game Four, instead opting to start LeVert in his place.

Cavs Facing Isaac Okoro Roster Decision

Okoro should be playing with supreme confidence after the front office essentially gave him its vote of confidence at the trade deadline by not dealing for depth at the position. But that patience might be wearing thin; according to an Eastern Conference GM, the Cavs are closely monitoring Okoro’s future.

“They are not at a point where they are going to trade (Isaac) Okoro, but they need to figure out what he is for them,” the GM told Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney recently. “If there is an opportunity to move him, I don’t think they would mind trying. But they probably give him another year to figure things out.”

Since being taken fifth overall in the 2020 NBA draft, Okoro’s promise as a three-and-D wing has yet to materialize. This season was his best shooting year from deep (36% from three), but his volume remained the same from a year ago (2.3 attempts per game).

While there’s still time for the youngster to develop, the Cavs’ championship window was pushed up significantly after the Mitchell trade. Perhaps the Cavaliers decide to bring in a win-now vet on the wing, someone capable of handling more responsibility.

Cavs Exploring Wing Options This Summer

If recent reporting from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Cleveland is one of several teams that will look to bring in an upgrade on the wing.

Scotto’s report came amidst a longer discussion about the Brooklyn Nets’ bevy of wings several of whom (Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith) may be on the move this summer.

“While many rival executives around the league are convinced Bridges isn’t going anywhere, there’s a belief the Nets could break up their surplus of wing depth and trade either Finney-Smith or O’Neale. Various teams around the league, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, are expected to pursue potential 3-and-D wings this summer,” Scotto wrote on April 23.

For Cleveland, the sticking point will undoubtedly be compensation. The team is light on first-round draft picks after the Mitchell trade, which the Nets have already suggested they could have gotten for the pair back in February.

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