The Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled against some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and ESPN insider Brian Windhorst believes the squad should be worried about their viability as a true contender.
The Cavs have lost four of their last six, including losses to the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. Windhorst hit the Cavs with a reality check during an appearance on ESPN Cleveland, pointing out that Cleveland might just not be as talented the other top teams in the East.
“They’re not as good as the Celtics The Celtics would beat them in seven-game series unless there are injuries. The Bucks would beat them. The Sixers would probably beat them, although it might get a little more interesting there,” Windhorst said. “Although, Jared Allen has pretty much never had a good game against Joel Embiid, even when he was with the Nets. So I don’t like their chances. They’re not as good as those three teams. That’s just the reality of it.”
Windhorst didn’t completely shut down the Cavs, commending them for the improvements they have made this season, going from a feel-good story to among the top teams in the conference.
“The fact that they’ve graduated to being compared with those teams is terrific commentary for the season. But they’re not there yet,” Windhorst said.
Windhorst Unsure How Cavs Can Reach Elite Level
The Cavs made a big splash in the offseason, sending a haul of first-round picks to Utah to acquire All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. He ranks eighth in the NBA with 27.4 points per game, adding 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
Darius Garland has continued to develop into a star talent, as has big man Evan Mobley. However, Windhorst is unsure how Cleveland could take the next step.
“I think there are two ways to look at it,” Windhorst said. “One way to look at it is just to enjoy where they’ve been and enjoy the success of this year. And then the other thing is, how are they going to get there? I don’t have a good answer for that.”
Winhorst pointed to Mobley’s development into a consistent weapon at both ends as a key factor. But for now, he thinks the Cavs should be focused on bolstering their playoff position to maximize their postseason experience.
“The Cavs’ goal has got to be to get to [No. 4 seed] to give themselves a fighting chance in that first round, to have this group experience and playoff success,” Windhorst said. “That’s really their honest goal. They can’t state that but that’s where they’re headed.”
Cavs Draw Praise From Pistons Skipper Dwane Casey
Not everyone shares the same view as Windhorst, including the Cavs’ most recent opponent, the Detroit Pistons. Cleveland throttled the Pistons 114-90 on Saturday and coach Dwane Casey had some high praise for Cleveland.
“This team is going to be in the money, in the playoffs,” Casey said. “They’ve got a superstar in Mitchell, and Garland is right behind him. I also love Mobley’s temperament. You can’t tell if they’re up 20 or down 20 by looking at him.”
The Cavaliers have not been shy to talk about their lack of playoff experience. Mitchell has been there and has delivered some massive performances, but beyond him, the Cavs’ key players are not well-versed in postseason basketball. The team did sign veteran Danny Green off the buyout market and he will play a key leadership role for Cleveland when it’s win-or-go-home time.