November 30, 2021

Cavaliers Continue to Grow Despite Injuries

The Cavaliers had a nice weekend.  They came from behind in Toronto on Friday night and punched the Knicks in the mouth last night.  The Cavs were led by Ricky Rubio who sliced the Knicks and dropped a career-high 37 with 10 dimes. With the W over the Knicks, they have won four in a row and improved to 7-4. What is unavoidable though is the injury bug and the list is growing.  The latest to join the wounded is Collin Sexton who left Sunday’s game with a knee injury.
Reports today are that his left meniscus is torn.  Sexton’s injury is a huge blow to an already crippled lineup.
Issac Okoro has appeared in only four games this year and we have not seen him since October 25.  He is getting closer, but until he is back it close simply doesn’t count.
Kevin Love and his surprising +5 differential is in the NBA’s health and safety protocol.  It appears he won’t be back until at least Friday vs the Pistons, but there are no guarantees with him.
Laurie Markkanen joined Love in the protocol and we won’t see him for another week at least.
The Cavs started the season essentially on a nine man rotation.  The injuries certainly put that on hold but also have given some other players some time to step up.  Dean Wade has been the biggest benefactor as far as minutes played with Love and Markkanen out. But let’s be real, Wade is at best a 10 minutes a night rotational player, not a consistent starter.
Dylan Windler, a 2019 first-round pick, has also seen an uptick in minutes.  He will certainly see the floor more with Sexton out.  The Cavs may also turn to Denzel Valentine who has not been able to get into the rotation but has averaged 19 min per game in his five-year career.  I like watching these guys play because either one can get hot (as we saw Windler drop four threes vs. Portland), but in reality, they are not starters. They are best served as spark plugs in the 10-15 minute range as well.

Through it all, this Cavs team has shown their grit and toughness winning with key pieces out.  Is it sustainable? I have my doubts.  Of the injuries, Collin Sexton hurts the most.  A lot can be and has been said about who Sexton is.  At the end of the day, he is a guy who can drop 30 any given night.  One cannot simply plug in Ricky Rubio (who has been on fire to start the season) and think we will not lose a beat.  In fact, I would keep Rubio coming off the bench and start Windler.

Give credit to coach Bickerstaff and staff. They have everyone on the floor playing excellent ball.  The week ahead the Cavaliers play the Wizards, Pistons and back-to-back with the Celtics.  If Coach B. and company can gut out a split with these guys out, on deck are the Nets for two, Warriors, and Suns.  A healthy Cavs team can run with these big boys. My hope is they will be full steam ahead when we are in New Jersey on November 17.
Keep watching Cavalier fans, these young men are growing up before our eyes.  They have the opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998 without LBJ in the lineup.  It is early, but first impressions can be lasting and these Cavaliers continue to grow with the reinforcements mending and on the way!

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