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The Cavaliers Offense At The Quarter Mark

Darius Garland Shoots for the Celeveland Cavaliers
(David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 20 games into the 2023-2024 season and have been majorly up and down. They are struggling to consistently perform across the board and, as a result, sit eighth in the Eastern Conference at 11-9. They’ve been one of the most injury-ravaged teams so far, but that excuse can only go so far. At least they seem to be rounding into health now. The big talking point for this season was a revamped offense. They had one of the best defenses in the league last year, but the offense really let them down in the playoffs. Another offseason with Donovan Mitchell and the extra shooting was supposed to unlock the offense, and hopefully, Evan Mobley would take another step. Has anything changed?



Nov 15, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley (4) drives to the basket during the second half against Portland Trail Blazers guard <a rel=

Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the team numbers, not much. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff wanted to play with more pace and space this season, and to his credit, their pace has increased from dead last the previous season to 20th this time around. Unfortunately, though, the pace has not helped to score at all, in efficiency or in raw points. They are scoring 110.8 PPG (25th out of 30th) this year, and they scored 112.3 last year, which was also 25th in the league. In terms of rating, they’ve plummeted from 116.1 (9th) to 111.8 (22nd). 

Bickerstaff specifically called out transition opportunities as a point of emphasis, and that has increased appreciably. They went from 25th in opportunities to 12th and increased from 24th in transition points to 12th as well. As for Evan Mobley leading those increased transitions… that hasn’t really happened, as his numbers have stayed the same. 



Even with the additions of Georges Niang and Max Strus, they are taking and making essentially the exact same amount of threes as last year and, in fact are shooting a worse percentage as a team. Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Caris LeVert are far below last year’s marks. Niang is 5% worse than his career average. Only Max Strus is shooting his normal splits, and even then, it’s not an incredible number at 38%. Those percentages correcting upwards should help the overall offense, but last year’s LeVert and Garland might have been outliers themselves. 

Still, it was expected that that amount would and should increase with the extra shooting brought on, and the fact that it hasn’t is concerning.



Craig Porter Jr has been a bright spot in the offense

David Richard/USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers are a young team, and continued growth was supposed to get them over the hump, along with offseason additions. So far, though, that hasn’t really occurred. The Garland-Mobley duo, who should have the most room to get better, have stagnated so far this year. They are posting identical or worse numbers from last season. Garland has fewer points and assists with more turnovers on worse three-point shooting. Meanwhile, Mobley’s offense has remained the same, but he is slightly more efficient and has an extra board. Profile-wise, though, even more of his shots are coming at the rim than before, when many were hoping he would be able to expand his range. 

Isaac Okoro and LeVert have both had strong spurts this season, but again injuries have made it impossible to see if they are flashes in the pan or legit improvement. One young bright spot has been Craig Porter Jr., who has some fantastic games filling in with all the injuries. He’s had his minutes cut recently despite Bickerstaff’s comments, but between this season and the Summer League, Porter looks like a gem.



Bickerstaff’s play calling has been questionable to say the least, and if he’s not getting growth out of the young guys, it’s reasonable for his seat to be quite hot right now. The lack of improvement on offense despite the offseason emphasis is worrying. On the other hand, it’s still early. They are playing with two new guys that are taking a lot of minutes. Trying to install a new offensive philosophy that takes time. The three-point shooting might also be due for a correction. Combined with the fact that they’ve had injuries to everyone besides Strus so far, it’s not unreasonable to wait and see if things turn around.

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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