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JJ Redick explains why the Cleveland Cavaliers are “the franchise to watch in the East”

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have five more wins than losses for the first time since November of 2000 when not having a player called ‘LeBron James’ on the roster. That means Cavaliers fans are witnessing organic team-like success as opposed to the blue mooned leveled luxury obtained from drafting the knockout pick of the millennium.

For 20 years, their only formula for not being a complete joke was being fortunate that one of the best players in history was born in Akron, Ohio. But that perspective deprived the fans of witnessing excellent coaching, elite roster mobilization, free agent signings, and more, all because the fanbase was never exposed to that level of professionalism within their own team. LeBron’s greatness made the formula so simple but so unrepeatable. Now, with the slam dunk that was drafting Evan Mobley, along with the surprisingly balanced roster of bigs and smalls, this team may have a little of both. 

J.J Redick labeled the Cleveland Cavaliers as “the franchise to watch in the East” on an ESPN segment. But I still don’t know what was more surprising. ESPN talent agents recognizing the value of Redick’s takes or ESPN actually covering Cleveland basketball. Either way, hoorah for ESPN. 

Faced with the toughest schedule in the NBA by winning percentage, the 17-12 Cavaliers are more of a 20-9 team adjusted for inflation. But how do you explain this jump from an abysmal 22-50 run the season earlier? If you’ve paid attention to all but four games, you would know the answer lies in Evan Mobley. Out of the four games the rookie has missed, the Cavs lost in three. The only other game he missed, they trampled the Rockets.

Mobley’s defensive versatility and ability to switch onto smaller guards have been the key to solving what many skeptics predicted to be the Cavaliers’ biggest problem. That being matching him alongside Jarrett Allen in a modernized twin tower setup would push the two in the way of each other. But instead, they seem to have solved the Portland Trail Blazer problem in one season. When you build your team around two small, defensively limited guards, you need tall defensive first big men to cancel them out. 

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All signs point to the Cavs shipping Collin Sexton as soon as possible since he was “very available” prior to the season even commencing, according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd. But now that he has been sidelined for the remainder of the season, it’s all but a guarantee he won’t be the fifth member of the 2018 Draft Class to secure that max extension.

Luckily Ricky Rubio has been an excellent replacement in a veteran role that really suits his skill set. Speaking of old heads people forgot existed, Kevin Love went from the guy who stays too long at the party once everyone has left to an amazing figurehead around the locker room. But the Cavs still lack wings, and I’m lower on Isaac Okoro than most. Still, it’s great that Cavaliers fans are experiencing what a typical well-run team feels like. 

This is what other ESPN analysts had to say about Cleveland’s 8-2 streak in their last 10 games:

“Every time LeBron James has left Cleveland when he leaves they always end up in the lottery. Now they’re finally doing something special”, said Kendrick Perkins. 

“J.B Bickerstaff should be one of the leading candidates for Coach Of The Year if this continues”, said Richard Jefferson. 

“Jarrett Allen should be in the All-Star game this year,” said J.J Redick. 

Enjoy it, Cleveland fans. 

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