By many statistical measures, the Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the league’s more enviable starting fives. Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and Jarrett Allen are all All-Stars (either this season or last), while sophomore Evan Mobley is also staring down a bright future.
But once the first quarter begins to wind down…the Cavaliers take a nosedive.
The Cavs’ bench is 29th in points, 22nd in assists, and 28th in offensive rating. In short, Cleveland’s offense is dynamite when the starters play, but sputters when JB Bickerstaff starts going to the bench.
Recently, cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto called out the Cavs coach in a column, urging the skipper to experiment with the backups to find the right mix of players.
“Somehow, Bickerstaff has to revive Rubio and LeVert, playing them more together,” Pluto wrote.
“In the last 15 games, Bickerstaff needs to find some of the right combinations for players coming off the bench. That takes time for these guys to play together.”
Cleveland’s depth has been a problem all season. Despite gaping holes at wing and backup big, the Cavs were one of just two NBA franchises that didn’t make any moves before last month’s trade deadline.
Bickerstaff Urged to Pair Danny Green and Darius Garland
It’s not the first time recently that Bickerstaff has been called out for failing to strike the right balance on the roster.
Buyout addition Danny Green was hailed as an excellent pickup, bringing his significant playoff experience to a Cavs core still wet behind the ears.
But since his arrival in mid-February, Green hasn’t received much playing time in the wine and gold. He’s averaging 9.3 minutes per game with Cleveland this season, a far cry from the 20+ he received with the Philadelphia 76ers last season. As Tommy Wild of si.com explained, Green hasn’t yet “found a clear spot” with the Cavaliers.
What’s more, Green could be a perfect pairing with point guard Darius Garland.
“Green on the floor with Garland could be a fantastic duo,” Wild noted. “This is because DG averages the seventh most assists per game with 7.9 and Danny’s ability to run the floor and move without the ball. This is a lineup I would love to see!”
In fairness, Green did suffer a torn ACL less than one year ago. The Cavs may well be easing Green back into playing shape, keeping him healthy for what the team likely hopes to be a deep playoff run.
Bickerstaff Urged to Play Lamar Stevens More
Pluto threw out a third name that Bickerstaff should lean on over the next few weeks: Lamar Stevens.
“Then there’s one of my favorite Cavs: Lamar Stevens,” Pluto explained. “Bickerstaff often mentioned how the Cavs ‘feed off his energy.’ I agree. Play him more. He is the original Junkyard Dog. He rarely seems intimidated by anything happening on the court.”
Stevens is averaging 17.8 minutes per game this season as a reserve, usually for Mobley.
If Stevens does indeed play with that mentality, it could benefit the Cavs come playoff time. Almost all of the Cavs’ starters (aside from Donovan Mitchell) lack significant playoff experience.
It’s not like Stevens has loads of it (he has none) but the rest of the team can easily feed off of that “Junkyard Dog” attitude when the teams’ back is against the wall.