Connect with us


How Has the Cavalier’s Offense Progressed?

Jarrett Allen
(Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

With the All-Star Game over and the NBA season officially in its second half, it’s a good time to revisit how the Cleveland Cavaliers offense looks so far. Offense was their downfall last year in the playoffs, and the lack of spacing really started to hurt them in their ill-fated run-in against the New York Knicks. The offseason acquisitions, along with promises made by the front office and coaching staff with a new dynamic offense, gave hope that things would be different. Last we looked, twenty games into the season, change was being made, but to little effect. Their Pace was up, but overall offense AND efficiency were down. Even with the extra shooters, they were not taking or making any more threes at the time. With another thirty or so games to run their new offensive philosophy, has anything changed?


Getting Used to It

Sam Merrill threes have been key to the revamped offense

Kim Klement Neitzel/USA TODAY Sports

Unsurprisingly, given their record, the Cavalier’s offense has gotten a lot better and aligned closer to their stated goals. They’ve kept the same improved pace but, unlike before, are actually scoring more. To be clear, the Cavs still don’t play fast, but they aren’t glacially slow like last year. The offensive rating is still middling, but it’s better than it had been earlier in the year, and they are now better adjusted to the modern NBA game compared to last season. That’s a clear step in the right direction, and at least some credit has to go to J.B. Bickerstaff for getting guys adjusted to a new system. 

An even bigger improvement has been in the spacing. Twenty games in, there was no improvement in three-point shooting. Not in attempts, makes, or percentages. Now, the team looks much different. A large factor has been the breakout of Sam Merrill, who for a short time was the league leader in three-point attempts per 36 minutes and now sits second to Stephen Curry amongst players with real minutes. With Merrill and Dean Wade finally doing what he’s always been supposed to, the Cavaliers are letting it rip from deep. Since December, they are taking 39.9 threes per game, which would rank fourth in the league. Even factoring in their whole season, they are tenth in both makes and misses, a marked improvement from last season, where they were 19th and 24th, respectively. 


Lineup Shakeup?

What’s most promising is that the improvement, especially in the three-point shooting department, has stayed relatively stable. The Cavaliers’ run, and especially their three-point shooting bonanza, started with Darius Garland and Evan Mobley missing a month. It was a concern with them coming back and seeing guys like Merrill, and Wade lose minutes that the three-point shooting might regress to their November numbers, where they took just 30 per game. While it has dropped slightly since their return, it’s still far above their numbers pre-injury. Without Garland and Mobley, the Cavs took 41.9; since their return, they’ve taken 38. Less, but still way, way more than before. That shows a shift in offensive philosophy rather than just a circumstance of who’s out there. 


Keeping Promises

Jan 20, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff on the bench against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

While coach Bickerstaff has things he’s still not great at (the Cavs are still last in PPP out of timeouts), transforming the Cavs from a slow, grind-it-out team to a faster, modern, three-point shooting one is a testament to him. It’s a testament to GM Koby Altman, too, who identified the weakness and made major steps to correct it. They both promised more pace and space, and halfway through the season, they have it. That’s also without a drop in defense, as they are still on top on that end.

The new offense gives them multiple avenues to play through. They can still grind it out if need be. They can also pour on points in a hurry with 6 to 7 guys a real threat from three on the roster. Compare that to the two, maybe three, from last year. Adding dimensions to your game makes it harder to stop and much more matchup-proof. That makes the the Cavaliers as a real threat in the East.



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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Featured Writers

More in NBA