The Cleveland Cavaliers are sitting comfortably in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with the postseason in sight. Just one year ago, fans had to watch as a once-promising season’s wheels came flying off after the All-Star Break, with injuries to Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen crushing the Cavs’ hopes at April basketball.
Now, the Cavaliers are cruising full speed ahead. Last season’s stellar defense has remained, but last season’s oft-sputtering offense has new life thanks to the arrival of Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell’s been stellar lately for the Cavs. Over his last five games, Mitchell is up to 31.4 points per game on 39.6% from three. That PPG figure is 11th-best in the NBA over that stretch; the Cavs are 4-1 as a team.
The All-Star’s play is certainly turning heads, both human and AI. 2K went so far as to upgrade Mitchell’s player ranking amid the guard’s excellent form.
“Spida movin’ up,” the Cavs tweeted along with a graphic showing Mitchell’s ranking now at 91, up one point from the 90 it sat before.
At 91, Mitchell is tied for 16th in the game’s player rankings, sharing that figure with Kyrie Irving and Devin Booker. Among guards, Mitchell ranks tied for 6th.
Mitchell isn’t the only highly-rated member of the Cavs. Darius Garland, Mitchell’s backcourt mate, is currently slotted at 27th, just behind New York Knicks stud Julius Randle. Cleveland’s two bigs, Evan Mobley (86 overall) and Jarrett Allen (84 overall) sit at 36th and 57th, respectively.
Cavs Not Among the Finals Favorites
Only two other teams have four players in the top-65 of the current 2K ratings: the Milwaukee Bucks (Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez) and Phoenix Suns (Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Ayton), two favorites to win the Finals.
Despite that, the Cavaliers are rarely considered among the NBA‘s favorites to win the Finals this season. According to FanDuel, the Cavs have the tenth-best odds (+3300) to win it all.
A big reason? Cleveland’s lack of playoff experience.
Aside from Donovan Mitchell, who routinely appeared in the playoffs with the Utah Jazz, the rest of Cleveland’s starters have little experience playing in April.
Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Isaac Okoro have never played in the playoffs. Jarrett Allen‘s two playoff series appearances were both losses; the big man is riding an eight-game postseason losing streak.
Cavs Speak on Lack of Playoff Experience
That lack of playoff experience is something several players have discussed recently.
“[Outsiders] looked at us as a young team, and you don’t expect a lot from a young team,” Allen told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps last week. “You expect them to come in and try to figure themselves out.
“But I feel like we came in and made an impact on the league,” Allen finished.
Even Mitchell is feeling the heat, admitting that the Cavs don’t have the most experience under their belt.
“Obviously, it’s no secret that we lack the experience,” Mitchell said, per Chris Fedor of cleveland.com.
Nonetheless, Mitchell is confident this team can compete.
“When people talk, we’re not in their top 3 or whatever it is, and that’s fine, but the biggest thing for us is we believe we can not just make the playoffs but make a deep run. It’s all a learning experience and about continuing to get better, so, when we get to the playoffs, whatever seed we are, we’re ready.”