After improving their record from a dismal 22-50 in 2020-21 to a respectable 44-38 last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are clearly a team on the rise.
At 22-11, the team is currently in third place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, just 1 game back of the first-place Milwaukee Bucks.
With sports betting in Ohio set to kick off on Jan. 1, Ohio bettors will be able to bet on the resurgent Cavs for the majority of the NBA season.
For now, let’s take a look at some of the storylines for the 2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Big 3 making it happen for Cleveland
Placing a bet on the Cleveland Cavaliers is almost a reality in Ohio. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Ohioans will be able to bet on their favorite teams legally. Betting on this season’s Cleveland basketball team should be a popular move in Ohio.
The Cavs are winning games behind silky-smooth point guard Darius Garland, young superstar-in-the-making Evan Mobley, and newly acquired All-Star-caliber shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. Beyond their emerging Big 3, Cleveland has a swath of productive role players to round out the rest of their underrated roster.
Cavs have finally moved on from LeBron
No longer are the Cavs existing in the shadow of LeBron James. He took his talents to L.A. after leaving his hometown team for the second time four years ago. This Cavs roster has been transformed by general manager Koby Altman and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff . The team is no longer perched on the shoulders of one of the greatest players to ever step onto a basketball court.
The Cavaliers — for most of this season thus far — have been top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Those are commonly used indicators of a true contender in the NBA.
Big-man Mobley becoming a force in league
Let’s start with the anchor on defense for Cleveland. Despite being in only his second NBA season, Mobley is becoming one of the best two-way big men in the NBA. Mobley stands 7 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds. He is averaging 14.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game at just 21 years old. He’s shooting a blistering 56.3% from the field.
Mobley also leads the Cavs in blocked shots at 1.5 per game and is the backbone of the best defense in the league. He possesses every defensive skill imaginable for a big man who protects the rim and has the coordination to switch onto smaller players on the perimeter and contain. He also has the basketball intelligence to help make up for any errors his teammates commit.
Mobley currently has the third-best odds to win the prestigious Defensive Player of the Year award at +1,000, according to DraftKings. If he manages to win the award, he would become the youngest to ever win it, outpacing Kawhi Leonard, Dwight Howard and Alvin Robertson, who all earned the honor at age 23.
Mitchell has found new life in Cleveland
Now for the newcomer to the Cavaliers who has helped connect this team. Yes, Mitchell had his fair share of struggles during his time in Utah. But he has been resurrected in Cleveland. He is no longer just looking to score — but that doesn’t mean he can’t seemingly score at will.
Mitchell’s defense is much improved, but he really shines on offense. His shooting percentages from the floor (50.3%) and from three-point range (42.8%) are career highs. Clearly, Mitchell is enjoying himself as a Cavalier in a way he was not in Utah. It has led to the best production of his career.
His 29.5 points per game is also a career high, All of that has combined to give Mitchell an interesting case for Most Valuable Player. Currently, he has the 10th-best odds to win MVP at +2800, according to DraftKings.
It’s absurd to average nearly 30 points on nearly 50% from the field, 40% from three and 90% from the free throw line. That is the rarified air Mitchell currently exists in. He has simply been incredible.
Garland has made room for Mitchell while upping his game
Alongside Mitchell in the Cavs backcourt is another All-Star-caliber guard in Garland. He burst onto the scene over the last couple seasons. Despite making room for Mitchell to get his shots up, Garland is still averaging around the same number of shots he took per game last season. He’s also posting a career high in points and three-point percentage.
Garland is averaging 20.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and a team-leading 7.8 assists per game while shooting 38.2% from three-point range. While Mitchell has been the ideal offensive floor-raiser, the engine is still Garland. He is setting the table for his teammates, spacing the floor and initiating sets at the point of attack.
Strong roster provides foundation for Cavaliers
Beyond their Big 3, the Cavaliers have a host of players who help them on a nightly basis. Starting center Jarrett Allen turns away seemingly every shot at the rim within his reach. He also dunks every time he is within six feet of the offensive basket.
Caris LeVert, who has one of the more versatile offensive skill-sets for someone his size, has been the perfect plug-and-play wing for Cleveland. Off the bench, Dean Wade seemingly cannot miss a 3-pointer. He is steady in everything else asked of him.
Kevin Love, who seems to enjoy his role off the bench, is having a renaissance of sorts. Lastly, Cedi Osman continues to do a little bit of everything at either forward position despite his shortcomings as a scorer.
Overall, the Cavaliers have five players averaging double-digits per night, plus two more at 9.0 or better. Even with a Big 3, Cleveland is winning games by playing team basketball.
Cavs are +2,000 to win the NBA Finals
Cleveland currently has the 10th-best odds to win the NBA title at +2,000. They own the fourth-best odds to win the Eastern Conference at +900, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Those odds should only continue to get better as the season goes on.
Bickerstaff is enjoying the fifth-best odds to win Coach of the Year. He has +700 odds to win the award.
While it might be too soon to consider this team true contenders to win the title, they are not far from that status. With such a young superstar in Mobley, two established All-Star players in Garland and Mitchell to go along with so many solid role players, Cleveland can set its sights high.
Heck, they probably wouldn’t even entertain the idea of bringing in James again if he decided he wanted to return to his hometown team to end his career. Then again …