Cleveland Cavaliers season preview
This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.
Cavaliers Betting Odds
NBA Finals: +3000
Win Total: 49.5
Playoffs: Yes (-1200)
Cleveland was one of the most statistically dominant teams in the league last season. It led the league in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (111.0) and averaged the seventh-most points per 100 possessions on offense (116.7). That led to the second-best net rating in non-garbage time (+5.8) and 51 wins. However, they bowed out in the first round of the postseason due to inconsistent offense and 3-point shooting. The front office used the offseason to upgrade this roster, and while the moves are not flashy, they are exactly what this team needs to improve.
The biggest issue for Cleveland last season was its 3-point shooting. It was a slightly above-average team that shot 36.9% from beyond the arc, but it took only 33.8% of its attempts from that area of the floor. Only four players shot better than 35.6% from 3-point range. Those issues caused problems when it came to spacing for this offense and led to its downfall. That is why the additions of Max Strus and Georges Niang are massive.
Strus is a career 37.1% shooter, and while he only shot 36.1% on catch-and-shoot attempts last season, he did hit 41.3% of those attempts the year prior. He is a capable shooting threat who will benefit by playing next to Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Niang is a career 40.3% shooter who shot 41.2% on catch-and-shoot attempts last season. Both can also play minutes at small forward, which is a godsend for Cleveland who had to sacrifice offense for that position last season.
Neither Strus nor Niang are lockdown defenders, so this team will sacrifice some efficiency on the defensive end of the floor. However, the team’s frontcourt is so good that any sacrifice will not drop their production too far.
When Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen were on the floor together last season the Cavaliers outscored opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions. They did so by limiting the opposition to 110.7 points per 100 possessions, which was a defensive rating that ranked in the 88th percentile. In those minutes, Cleveland allowed 32.4% of attempts to come at the rim, and opponents shot 59.5% on those shots. As long as those two remain healthy, this team will be elite on the defensive end of the floor.
Having said that, more will be asked of Mobley on offense this season, and he will need to answer the call if Cleveland is going to step into the realm of conference contender.
Mobley averaged 16.2 points and 9.0 rebounds on 55.4% shooting last season, so on the surface he was a perfectly adequate offensive option. However, he struggled when it came to efficiency from distance. Mobley shot just 39.7% from mid-range and 21.5% from beyond the arc. The ugliest aspect of his shooting game was from the corners, where Mobley hit just 18.2% on the season. Those are numbers that have to improve.
Allen is a true center with no perimeter game whatsoever. Should Mobley continue to struggle from distance opposing teams will be able to help off of him frequently when Mitchell or Garland drive to the basket. It will make spacing a massive issue for this team, much like it was in the series loss to New York in the postseason.
If Mobley can take that next step in his offensive game, this team is primed for a jump in the standings. This bench has depth to it with Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro, and the backend has some positive pieces like Dean Wade and Ty Jerome. Should rookie Emoni Bates build on what he showed in Summer League, this reserve unit gets even deeper.
Last offseason, there were few who turned their heads when Denver acquired Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, both players were integral to the championship run that the Nuggets just made. Similarly, the acquisitions of Strus and Niang can make a difference for Cleveland this season. Both players fill needs perfectly, and they join a team with a superstar already in place.
This team will also have to improve its performance on the road if it is to compete for a championship. The Cavaliers were 32-12 SU/26-18 ATS at home last season in both the regular season and postseason, but they went just 20-23 SU/17-23-2 ATS on the road. If that can improve this should be a good team to follow early on in the season, as it comes into the year as the forgotten contender in the East.
Win Total Analysis
Cleveland will benefit from one of the most manageable schedules in the NBA. Positive Residual has the Cavaliers with the fifth-lowest strength of schedule this season. Cleveland has a negative net rest advantage on the schedule (-1) and 15 back-to-backs, but they do not travel many miles given the makeup of the division which is a massive advantage.
The Cavaliers can also expect to be much better on the offensive end of the floor with better shooting personnel, so we can assume a team that finished seventh in offense last season will take a step forward on that end of the floor. They will likely slip defensively because it is hard to lead the league in defensive efficiency in consecutive seasons, but this will still be one of the best defensive teams as long as the frontcourt is healthy.
At the very least, Cleveland has the look of a strong regular-season team. They have a distinct homecourt advantage, and they have a defense that is driven by strong frontcourt play. Once the Cavaliers get to the postseason, there will be different questions to answer, but in the regular season, this team will compete for a top-four seed or better again.
Win Total Recommendation: OVER 49.5