Cleveland Cavaliers 2024 NBA offseason preview: There are some questions to address

2023-24 season: 48-34

Highlight of the season: Their 17-1 stretch, starting in the new calendar year, which was achieved mostly without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley in the lineup.

How it ended

With some question marks hovering over the team’s long-term future. While the Cavs have received strong individual performances from both Jarrett Allen (16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds) and Mobley (15.7 points, 9.4 rebounds), the question remains: Can they ever truly compete for a title with a two-big system?

Lineups in which just one of them were on the floor did significantly better than when they were used together, further fueling the theory that the Allen-Mobley tandem needs to be broken up.

Speaking against that is the anticipation that Mobley will develop into a reliable 3-point shooter, which would force defenders to guard him from the outside, thus clearing the necessary space for Allen inside. So far that’s just theoretical and hasn’t been put into practice yet, and time is running out to optimize the duo. Mobley will be entering his fourth year next season, and Donovan Mitchell’s future in Cleveland is very much up in the air.

Mitchell, the team’s primary scoring option and best shot-maker, is entering the final year of his contract before a player option in 2025-26. After two highly productive years in Cleveland, Mitchell could be pivoting into seeking team success over individual glory. If so, it’d behoove the Cavs to quickly sort out their frontcourt in an attempt to streamline the roster, clearing the way for a Mitchell return.

Working in Cleveland’s favor is Max Strus. The franchise badly needed a wing going into this season, and the former Miami Heat shooter, fresh off a Finals run, immediately stepped into a role and connected the starting lineup. Strus even made noteworthy improvements as a playmaker and looked far comfortable with the ball in his hands this season.

As for Garland, the other high-profile member of Cleveland’s backcourt, he should be in line for a bounce-back season. During a stretch late in the year when Mitchell missed time, the former All-Star was expected to step up and lead the charge, but failed to establish himself as the player he’s been in the past. While his line (18 points, 6.5 assists) was certainly solid, his impact appeared to be a notch below what he’s usually capable of.

Biggest offseason need

Lineup symmetry. The Cavs have all the major pieces, including a sixth man in Caris LeVert and multiple shooters off the bench, meaning there isn’t an obvious need. If anything, the Cavs could use a reliable and flexible backup big man who can space the floor. As solid a year as Georges Niang had, he’s not exactly a center or an agile defender.

Draft focus

Cleveland has one first-round pick, and with an established frontcourt of Mobley and Allen, Colorado wing Tristan da Silva could be a good addition. The 6-foot-9 senior really helped his draft stock during the NCAA tournament, playing on the biggest stage in college hoops. He ended his college career averaging 16 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. — Krysten Peek

Draft pick: No. 20

Salary cap breakdown

The Cavs are well above the cap, but not to the point of luxury-tax desperation. That is in large part due to the team-friendly deal of Allen ($20 million annually) and the fact that Mobley is still on his rookie contract.

That doesn’t mean the Cavs can necessarily afford to spend their full non-tax MLE, as Okoro’s deal is in need of a renewal, which likely adds $15 million or more to their books. Don’t expect a drastically altered roster for next season.

Key free agent

Isaac Okoro (RFA)

Next season’s goal

Get even closer to the Finals. This team has the necessary components to make a lot of noise, it just needs to stop getting in its own way first. For a team with this much offensive upside, ranking 18th on that end of the floor is inexcusable, injuries or not.

What can move the fantasy needle

The Cavaliers held it down for fantasy managers this season with standout performances from key players. Mitchell, a first-round value, had one of his best seasons, while Allen and Mobley ranked in the top 50 on a per-game basis. Garland and LeVert also made their marks, securing positions in the top 75 and top 100 players, respectively. However, this lineup could undergo significant changes in the upcoming season.

Despite winning 48 games, injuries mounted, ultimately ending their season in the second round against Boston. That second-round exit likely won't be enough to keep this team together long term because of looming contract and chemistry issues.

Mitchell is eligible for a contract extension but has been noncommittal on his future with Cleveland. Rumors of his potential departure and the impending Mobely extension could significantly impact the team's financial dynamics.

There's also the question of whether it's worth running back the frontcourt duo of Mobley and Allen. There's no space for either to operate in tandem, so seeing one of the two move before next season wouldn't be surprising.

Mitchell's decision is the first and most important domino to fall, and if he leaves, we'll likely see a better version of Darius Garland, who had a down year taking a backseat to Mitchell. The Cavs role players were solid all year, so I'd expect Strus and LeVert to remain late-round options heading into next season.

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