The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Up next is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2020-21 season record
22-50, 13th in the Eastern Conference
Lauri Markkanen, trade
Ricky Rubio, trade
Evan Mobley, No. 3 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Larry Nance Jr., trade
Taurean Prince, trade
Matthew Dellavedova, free agency
|PG||Darius Garland||Ricky Rubio||Kevin Pangos||Kyle Guy|
|SG||Collin Sexton||Denzel Valentine||Dylan Windler|
|SF||Isaac Okoro||Cedi Osman||Lamar Stevens|
|PF||Evan Mobley||Lauri Markkanen||Dean Wade|
|C||Jarrett Allen||Kevin Love|
3 key storylines
Can Collin Sexton elevate to All-Star contention?
If you didn't watch much of the Cavaliers last season, you missed an impressive campaign from Sexton.
Sexton poured in 24.3 points per game in his third season in the league, connecting on 37.1 percent of his long range attempts while also working his way to the free-throw line 6.4 times per outing.
Cleveland is several years into a rebuild and it's still unclear whether it has a genuine star on the roster. Sexton is heading for restricted free agency after this season, with the Cavs potentially set up to make an extremely difficult decision.
If Sexton elevates his play to the next level, you'd imagine they'll be more than happy to give him a near-max level deal. If he doesn't, things get interesting.
Integrating Evan Mobley
Taken with the third pick in the draft, Mobley will slot directly into the starting lineup.
Mobley projects to be a difference-maker on the defensive end, with his first two preseason appearances producing multi-block games. An athletic seven-footer, Mobley will make for a fearsome rim-protecting duo with Allen.
Offensively, he is yet to produce a consistent jump shot, which is clearly a limitation in the modern game, but if Mobley and the above-mentioned Sexton can form an All-Star duo in the next few seasons, Cleveland will be cooking with gas.
Can Lauri Markkanen's career be revived?
You don't have to go too far into the distant past to remember the optimism from Bulls fans around the development of Markkanen.
Much like the Bulls rebuild, Markkanen stagnated, and he now finds himself on a Cleveland roster where he is fighting for rotation minutes.
If he's not going to start, is he willing to become a reliable role player with the ability to run the floor and shoot the outside three?
Still only 24 years old, the Cavs signed Markkanen to a four-year, $67 million deal. Let's see if it pays off.
5 games to watch
Oct. 20 at Memphis Grizzlies
The season-opener will be a logical game to watch for Cleveland fans, but it also provides an enthralling matchup between Sexton and Ja Morant. The Cavs guard has been in the league for one season longer yet Morant has flown by Sexton in the general consensus player rankings.
This would be an impressive early-season statement if Sexton could guide the Cavs to a win on the road.
Dec. 8 vs. Chicago Bulls
Is a Markkanen revenge game a possibility?
The Bulls loaded up over the offseason with the hope of returning to the postseason. The young Cavs would believe they are in the mix for the Play-In Tournament. Perhaps Markkanen can make a statement against the franchise that used a top-10 draft selection on him just a few years ago.
Dec. 28 at New Orleans Pelicans
Fingers crossed Zion Williamson is back fully healthy by this stage of the regular season. Williamson's relentless attack on the basket against Mobley and Allen sounds like an entertaining battle.
Jan. 9 at Golden State Warriors
Last year's No. 2 pick vs. this year's No. 3 pick: James Wiseman vs. Evan Mobley.
There are also a few other stars on the floor that will be worth watching...
March 21 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
We have to wait all the way until March before LeBron James returns to Cleveland. No matter where the Cavs are in the standings, this is always a worthwhile event to watch.
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