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One Improvement Each Cleveland Cavalier Needs to Make

Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) celebrates with guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Monday, March 6, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

The NBA preseason proper is coming up soon, with training camps opening in less than two months. It’s the perfect time for players to work on their games. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ need to make some big improvements to outdo last year’s disappointment. Here’s one improvement each starter on the Cavaliers can make this season.


Donovan Mitchell

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Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Off Ball Movement

Mitchell doesn’t need to improve much after a record-breaking season. Of course, playoff consistency would be great, but it’s hard to improve that in the regular season. Not only that, but Mitchell was a noted playoff performer in his first few seasons with the Utah Jazz. The playoffs, in general, will have a ton of variance with its overall small sample size, especially when you only play five games like Mitchell did last season. 

So, moving past that, one area Mitchell could improve on would be continuing to increase cohesion with Darius Garland. To that end, his off-ball movement needs to get better. To his credit, he did do better as the season went on, but more often than not, Mitchell seems to almost exist outside of the offense when Garland is in. He does his own thing while the other four do theirs.

 Mitchell is a knockdown shooter and should also have the athleticism to excel as a cutter. However, an incredibly low percentage of his shots, especially threes, are assisted. Even guys like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Damian Lillard, who are some of the most renowned shot-makers in NBA history, have a higher percentage of assisted threes. Even on twos, his assisted percentage is one of the lowest out there (26%, according to shooting data on Basketball-Reference). Garland is an excellent distributor, and Mitchell has every tool to take advantage of it, so it’d be great to see more of that this season.


Darius Garland 

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Ron Schwane/AP


Garland could also stand to be more assertive, as sometimes he defers too much. There were a couple of games in the playoffs where he seemed to disappear despite shooting well, game one being a prime example. Again, though, that’s a hard improvement to make in the regular season. For the upcoming year, what Garland really needs to do is put on more muscle.

Entering his fifth season in the league, increasing his strength would help in two ways. Defensively, it will help him check his matchup, who are almost always going to be bigger than him. Offensively, it will help him continue to improve his drive and kick game. There are times when Garland is clearly suffering through contact, and the physicality of the New York Knicks definitely affected him. Getting some muscle will make him a more potent finisher and just improve his overall inside game.


Isaac Okoro

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David Zalubowski/AP


Okoro was the starter last year, so he gets the starter treatment for now. The problem with Okoro has always been his offense. He can only shoot wide-open corner threes, and even then, his shooting isn’t at the level that allows him to stay on the floor for extended minutes come playoff time. He shot well in the second half of the season, well over 40% from January on, but it’s on predictably low volume.

Not only that but against the Knicks, he regressed to his usual 30% shooting self. Even a smaller volume plays into that, but it shows he really cannot be trusted still. Okoro’s overall offensive game is lacking, but becoming a consistent corner three is his obvious pathway to staying in the NBA. 


Evan Mobley

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David Richard/USA TODAY Sports


Mobley is young and bursting with potential, so there are a lot of things that could go here. His overall offensive game, post moves, shooting, and ball handling all can fit. One thing that is much easier to develop, though, would be strength. Building muscle here will make him even more of an offensive force, less liable to get bullied inside by the more traditional big men still left in today’s NBA, who often have 30 or more pounds on him.

Part of the reason Jarrett Allen still seems necessary is that Mobley playing the five really raises concerns in the heavy-weight matchups. A stronger Mobley will also help his post game, as it will be harder to move him off his spots. Finally, the rebounding against the Knicks was famously terrible. While Mobley wasn’t the biggest culprit of Cleveland’s woes, a bigger, stronger Mobley will only help in that department.


Jarrett Allen

Jarrett Allen

Matt Slocum/AP


Allen has always leaned more into the softer-spoken, nerdier facets of his personality. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and not everyone needs the Kobe Bryant killer mentality, but Allen was far too soft in the playoffs. Despite being 30 pounds heavier than his frontcourt mate, Mobley was the one competing on the boards.

For a center operating mostly in the paint and averaging 38 minutes a game to pull down just 4.4 defensive boards a game is untenable. Allen admitted the bright lights got to him, and the Knicks physicality clearly overwhelmed him. Allen isn’t a stick like Mobley, so it’s more likely a mental issue than a physical one for Allen. He doesn’t need to kill his softer side, but when the games get serious, he needs to come out fearless.


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 the 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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