About a month ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the star-studded Brooklyn Nets twice in three nights. The first win was a double overtime victory in which Cleveland guard Collin Sexton scored 42 points, including 20 straight over the two overtimes. The second was a more decisive victory where the Cavs took the lead early in the third quarter and never let go.
Since then, Cleveland is 2-14 and has been the worst team in the NBA over that stretch. What has happened to a Cavs team that had a winning record after those two victories?
Well, in the very next game, forward Larry Nance Jr. injured his wrist in a blowout loss to the Celtics. Nance had been a huge presence for the Cavs on the defensive end, helping to lead them from being one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season to one of the best up to that point this season.
Nance missed only two games, but he clearly was not the same after the injury. He only played two more games before fracturing his hand. With Nance out of the lineup, the Cavs’ defense has tanked, but he was far from the start of the injury problems the Cavs have had this season.
Even before Nance’s injury, Sexton, fellow young guard Darius Garland, rookie forward Isaac Okoro, center Andre Drummond and backup point guard and fan-favorite Matthew Dellavedova had all missed multiple games due to injury.
All that does not even include the most significant injury of the season: all-star forward Kevin Love missing all but two games with a calf injury. In addition, since Nance’s injury, backup power forward Taurean Prince has also missed time.
All of those injuries have left the Cavs without an NBA-level power forward and without a backup point guard, which has increased the workload for their two young guards, Sexton and Garland.
With Cleveland mired in a 10-game losing streak, things look bleak. However, I think the Cavs are still headed in the right direction, and while it may take a few more years, I trust the front office to build this team into a contender.
Many of the moves the team has made since Koby Altman took over as general manager have worked. He has built a solid young core of players through both the draft and making smart trades.
Sexton, Garland and Okoro are the Cavs’ last three No. 1 picks, and all of them look like they will be important pieces for Cleveland’s future. Nance was acquired when the Cavs flipped almost half their roster in an attempt to win a championship in LeBron’s final season with the team, but he has blossomed into one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
But perhaps Altman’s best move came right before those two games against the Nets. As Brooklyn tried to swing a huge trade for superstar guard James Harden, Altman was able to get the Cavs in on the deal by flipping a first-round pick acquired from Milwaukee two years prior for Prince and young center Jarrett Allen.
Allen has been possibly the Cavs’ lone bright spot in this losing streak, as he has been fantastic since joining the team. He is averaging 14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 67% from the floor with Cleveland and has cemented his place as part of the Cavs’ future core.
The bottom line is that I trust the Cavs’ front office to make the right moves to eventually get Cleveland back into contention in the NBA. They have my trust, and I believe they should have earned yours as well.
Will Cunningham is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.