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Cleveland Cavaliers’ Preseason Notes

Donovan Mitchell Cavaliers
(Marc Lebryk /The Associated Press)

The Cleveland Cavaliers finished up their preseason slate on Friday, going 1-3. Their only win came against the Israeli Maccabi Ra’anana. While that’s not the most sterling record, preseason wins are not very correlated to regular season performance. That being said, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be gleaned from the three games against NBA opponents, and they mostly have to do with shooting.


Shooters Shoot in Preseason 

Sixers forward Georges Niang

Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer

The most apparent weakness last year for the Cavs was pretty clearly shooting. Of course, rebounding was an issue in the playoffs, but really, the defense was fine. The offense failing to score 100 points almost every game was the real kicker. The Cavaliers took measures to address that in the offseason, picking up Georges Niang and Max Strus. They also drafted Emoni Bates with their only pick in the latest draft, whose one real trait is his shotmaking. 

In the preseason, those guys shooting along with Dean Wade were on full display at least a few of the games each. Even Isaac Okoro, who seemed to take a big step shooting-wise in the second half of the season (playoffs notwithstanding), looked like he’s picked up where he left off. Against the Atlanta Hawks, Okoro, Wade, Bates, and Niang all hit multiple threes. In the next game against the Orlando Magic, Wade, Bates, and Niang repeated their performances, but this time with Strus hitting three but not Okoro. The Indiana Pacers game was the worst of the three shooting-wise, but Niang still shot 3/5, and Bates made 1/2. Strus’ shot so far has been a bit disappointing, but he has had trouble with consistency his whole career. 

Still, it looks like Niang is as advertised, and there are quite a few guys who could really become reliable shooters. Bates, especially, could possibly push for minutes this year if he keeps it up.


Frequent “Let-It-Fliers”

Besides who’s shooting it, the most significant change has been the number of threes taken. Last season, the Cavaliers were 24th in the league in three-pointers attempted at 31.6. In their three preseason games this year, they took 44, 48, and 35, a clear uptick in frequency. The Cavaliers haven’t increased their pace all that much; just a much higher proportion of shots are threes. That’s going to be key for this coming season. It will be interesting to see if that’s just a preseason trend or not, but with the new personnel, the new focus should be here to stay.


Overall Preseason Thoughts

Niang will be a weapon in the regular season. In the playoffs, his defense can get exposed, and if he goes cold, the leash will be short, but he is going to hit a lot of threes for the Cavaliers. Emoni Bates might end up the steal of the draft if he can accept his role. Strus is a bit of a worry. He doesn’t look majorly different from his hot and cold self in Miami, which is not what the Cavaliers wanted when they signed him.

Finally, I’m ready to get hurt again by believing in Dean Wade. He’s been the potential solution to all of the Cavaliers’ problems for multiple years now and can never put it together for various reasons. Maybe this will be the year. If it is, the Cavaliers might be loaded up on shooters, a far cry from where they were last season.



Patrick Yen is a contributor on Back Sports Page.  He has written for NBC, SB Nation, and a few more websites in his four-year sports journalism career. He has been the Back Sports Page beat writer for the Philadelphia 76ers and now the Cleveland Cavaliers. Patrick, a graduate of Ohio State University, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved to Columbus, Ohio, early in his life and has lived there ever since. You can find more of Patrick on Twitter @pyen117.

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