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How Will the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Offense Work?

Cleveland Cavaliers
(Joshua Gunter/

The overall key to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season this year is the offense. The defense is elite and was elite all regular season and into the postseason. Between Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Isaac Okoro, they got things locked down. Mobley, for himself, said his offseason work didn’t involve much on the defensive side of the ball, saying he has the defense “down pat.” The problem, if you will, is the offense.

While they were a top-ten unit in the regular season by offense rating, they were not good in the playoffs. They averaged just 94.2 points per game, which in today’s NBA is putrid. There are a couple of avenues of improvement they can make, and it’ll be something to keep an eye on.


Push the Pace

The Cavaliers had the slowest pace in basketball last year. While that can help defensively, it more than likely hurt the Cavs on offense more than it helped. They have some really good athletes in Donovan Mitchell, Mobley, and Okoro, just to name a few, and Darius Garland is an excellent ball-handler who could thrive in transition. 

It looks like this will be addressed quickly. Mobley and coach J.B. Bickerstaff both talked about using Mobley to push the ball up quickly after securing a rebound, something he does quite often. If Mobley’s dribbling and passing can handle such a role, they’ll have a number of options filling the lanes and have great shooters leaking out with the additions of Max Strus and Georges Niang. The Cavaliers certainly have the personnel to play faster, and that should open up a lot more easy looks and make them less reliant on the half-court offense.


Let’s Get Moving

Speaking of the half-court offense, another step the Cavaliers need to take is their offensive sets in the half-court. The team was too static most of the time. Beyond pick-and-roll and Garland or Mitchell isolations, there wasn’t too much else going on with the offense. That led to a lot of standing around by everyone else. To be fair, Mitchell’s pick-and-roll was one of the most efficient plays in the last 15 years of the league, but you need more than one avenue of attack. 

Bickerstaff promised at media day that the offensive will be more dynamic with the additions of two good shooters in Strus and Niang. That extra spacing may be all they need to open things up, but getting more players moving will only help. Time will tell if Bickerstaff can install that sort of system, which was his biggest criticism last year. 



The final piece of the offensive puzzle will be increasing the fit Garland and Mitchell have together. Both so far do best with the ball in their hands, but there’s only one ball. Someone will have to learn to excel off-ball to really take their partnership to the next level. Garland said they’ve both been in constant communication throughout the offseason, and Mitchell said this was the first offseason he was really able to work out with his whole team. 

Mitchell, for his part, said they have much more experience playing together and are able to communicate non-verbally. That’s a good sign, but talk is cheap. Seeing them work together on the court will be the proof. Getting guys like Mobley and Allen more involved is great, both Mitchell and Garland said they wanted to do that. The key, though, is getting each other more involved. 


What Will the Offense Look Like?

The Cavaliers need to address at least one, ideally all three, of these problems. They won’t get far relying on Mitchell and Garland’s iso ball. Especially Garland, who averaged just .73 points per possession on those plays. The dynamic offensive Bickerstaff has promised will need to come to fruition. Maybe an extra offseason and adding some shooters will be all they need.


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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