Did anyone see this coming from the Cleveland Cavaliers?
The very-much rebuiding Cavaliers have fast-tracked their development and through the first few weeks of the season and it appears to be no fluke.
Led by youngsters Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, alongside veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, the Cavaliers have propelled themselves into the top four of the Eastern Conference at 9-5 on the season after winning six of their past seven games, including signature victories over the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.
Against the Celtics, they rallied back back from a 19-point fourth quarter deficit to steal a 91-89 win and according to Garland, they’re here to let the rest of the league know they’re on their way.
“We’re here,” Garland said after the win. “We’re not in a slouch anymore, we just came back from 15 down, that’s the dog that we’ve always been talking about, that’s the fight, that’s the tenacity we’re always talking about.”
Last season, they were 9-11 after 20 games before finishing 22-50, but something feels different this year, with the swagger of youth and the experienced savvy combining to make them one of the most exciting teams in the league, more than capable of hanging with any team, More impressivley they’re currently doing it without their No. 1 scoring otion Collin Sexton, who is sidelined for four weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
“LET ‘EM KNOW!”
— NBA (@NBA) November 14, 2021
“We’re some dogs,” Darius Garland said. “You’re not just about to come to Cleveland and roll over us anymore. We’re going to show some fight, show some grit, show some competitiveness, and that’s what we’re trying to do every night.”
Central to their new-found defensive identity has been 20-year-old Evan Mobley, who is putting together a strong Rookie of the Year case, emerging as one of the best defenders — not just in his rookie class — but in the league.
According to Basketball Reference, the Cavaliers starting frontcourt in Mobley (10th) and Jarrett Allen (6th) currently both rank in the top 10 for Defensive Win Shares, with the dynamic 7-foot duo leaving opponents with few options when attacking the paint.
While Allen remains one of the best shot blockers in the league, he is averaging a career-low 1.0 blocks per game, largely due to the fact that Mobley covers so much ground, he’s breaking up plays before they even get that far.
His unique ability to recover, anticipate offensive moves and switch out on to the perimeter and defend guards, with his combination of length and athleticism is simply frightening for a player not old enough to buy a beer.
Just 14 games into his NBA career, he is already the fastest player in Cavs franchise history to reach 200 points and 100 rebounds and he currently leads all rookies in blocks (1.5) and is second in points (15.6) and rebounds (7.9).
With a rookie coming in and producing at such a high level right away, the Cavs appear to be ahead of schedule, but according to Garland, they’re right on time.