Cleveland Cavaliers Rumors: 3 Make or Break Factors for Remainder of the Season

The Cleveland Cavaliers are back in the playoff hunt and these three factors will make or break their season. Tony Pesta breaks it down.
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Cleveland Cavaliers Rumors: 3 Make or Break Factors for Remainder of the Season

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver's seat, fully in control of whether or not they enter the 2023 NBA Playoffs with homecourt advantage. With a 39-25 record, Cleveland is 2.5 games ahead of the fifth-seeded Miami Heat and two games behind Philly for third place.

Securing homecourt would be massive for the Cavaliers, who have struggled on the road this season. The Cavs are 23-12 at home but just 13-18 as visitors. Remaining in the top four would not only serve as the most successful non-LeBron James regular season the franchise has had in decades but would also give Cleveland a genuine shot at reaching the second round and beyond.

Exactly where the Cavaliers end up in the seeding and how far they go in the playoffs will hinge on how these three factors play out.

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3 Make or Break Factors for the Remainder of the Cavaliers' Season

Bench production

Cleveland's Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that the strength of the team is the team.

Championship teams are only as strong as their weakest link. And right now, the Cavaliers are not playing with enough depth to be true contenders. This has been glaring as of late with Cleveland's bench ranking dead last in points per game at 21.1 on just 36% shooting.

This has been glaring as of late with Cleveland's bench ranking dead last in points per game at 21.1 on just 36% shooting.

On nights when the Cavs' core four is struggling, the second unit has rarely been able to provide a jolt on either end of the floor. This puts immense pressure on the starters to begin each game on fire, or else they end up having to climb out of an early double-digit deficit -- such as their two recent losses to Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Rotations tend to thin in the playoffs but the Cavaliers will have to find three guys who can give them a jolt of production in the second unit. Ideally, Ricky Rubio, Caris LeVert, and Dean Wade would be the ones to step up. But at the moment, it feels as though the Cavaliers will have to rely on an unreliable second unit for the rest of the season.

Do they have enough shooting?

Perhaps the biggest concern of all, the Cavaliers have suffered from a staggering lack of shooting all season.

In the modern space-and-pace era of basketball, Cleveland plays with neither. The Cavs are last in pace and 19th in 3-pointers made. While they shoot the 11th-best percentage on their 3-point attempts, this number is boosted by the fact that their non-shooters don't attempt many 3-pointers.

Evan Mobley, Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen, and Lamar Stevens rarely test their range from behind the line. Okoro, who has made the biggest leap of the bunch in terms of shooting, is still attempting just 2.2 threes per game.

Caris LeVert is shooting a career-high 36% from deep but he is far from being enough to make up for the rest of the supporting cast. Ricky Rubio (26%), Cedi Osman (34%) and Dean Wade (38% on low volume) have all left much to be desired as floor spacers this season.

There is hope that Danny Green will be able to provide a spark from deep, shooting an efficient 42% in his brief time on the court. Yet, his mobility appears limited after suffering an ACL injury last year and it's unclear how many minutes Green will be capable of playing.

This lack of spacing has made it easy for opponents to blitz Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Without anyone to relieve pressure, it's hard to see this undersized backcourt overcoming the full attention of an opposing defense during a seven-game series.

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Evan Mobley's continued growth

One factor that can trump all of the rest is Evan Mobely's development. The 22-year-old rising star is already an upper-echelon defender but the strides he has been making on offense could cause nightmares for opponents across the league.

Mobley is a key reason the Cavs rank third in defensive rating but soon, he could be the one who unlocks the entire offense for Cleveland. He's flashed a dazzling array of moves recently, creating his own shot off the dribble and shooting 3-pointers at a career-high rate.

The efficiency is not there yet as Mobley is shooting just 6-19 (33%) from deep over his last eight games but he has never looked more comfortable hunting for his shot. He's expanded his arsenal, drilling fadeaway jumpers and killing teams with his post-hook in the lane.

Mobley is converting 78% of his attempts at the rim, placing him in the NBA's 88th percentile. If he continues to grow as a scorer and serve as a go-to option for Cleveland, the rest of their problems will be mere inconveniences.

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Other Cleveland Cavaliers News

  1. 3 Players Who Need to Step Up for the Cavaliers After the Kevin Love Buyout
  2. Revisiting Kevin Love's Top Three Moments in a Cavaliers Uniform
  3. Ranking the Top 5 Cleveland Cavaliers Individual Performances Since 2000


Tony Pesta graduated from Cleveland State University in 2022 with a degree in journalism. He covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for Fear the Sword and OddsChecker. You can follow him on Twitter at @Tony_Pesta.


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