The 2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers in Review

November 12th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The current Cleveland Cavaliers’ logo.
(Photo:
Cleveland Cavaliers/Sports Logo History.)

There weren’t heavy expectations placed upon this 2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers team, in fact, I had projected them to be the worst team in the East this season.   They were indeed the worst team in the Eastern Conference this season, and they only won 19 out of 65 games this season.  With their mishmash of veterans and rookies without having an elite player on their roster, and in having a rookie head coach that was long entrenched in the college game, this team seemed doomed to miss the playoffs.

From the get-go, their team did not mesh well with rookie head coach John Beilein, and Beilein was replaced with longtime assistant J.B. Bickerstaff after 54 games into the season.  The Cavs had better results under Bickerstaff, but by then, it was too little, too late, and when the season resumed, the Cavs were not invited to the Orlando bubble.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward, Kevin Love has made 5 All-Star teams and has won 1 NBA title in 2016 during his NBA career. He’s reportedly been unhappy at the Cavs’ lack of winning, but his large contract has made him difficult to trade in recent years.
(Photo:
John Kuntz/Cleveland.com)

PF Kevin Love – 2020 season grade, B

2020 (CLE): 56 GP, 17.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 45 FG%, 37.4 3PT%, 85 FT%, 31.8 MPG, 17.9 PER, 3.8 WS

Kevin Love has perennially been a solid player for Cleveland, and though LeBron and Kyrie have already left the Cavaliers, he has stayed behind to provide the Cavs some help in basketball games.  He is a very good shooter and scorer that can make shots, and he is a very good rebounder and passer.  He’s not a great interior defender, nor the most athletic big man, but he makes up for with his high skill level and basketball savvy.  Expect him to have another solid season with the Cavs in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Power Forward with Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars

After the 2019 season, it seemed as if Andre Drummond was going to stay with the Detroit Pistons to be a cornerstone of their franchise, and they seemed to convince people that Detroit’s experiment with him and Blake Griffin was working. Half a season later in 2020, Drummond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, another team with a losing record, and he was dealt for just John Henson, Brandon Knight, and a 2023 2nd round pick. On the bright side, Cavs’ fans have to be thrilled about their receiving end of the trade.
(Photo:
John Kuntz/Cleveland.com)

C Andre Drummond – B

2020 (TOT): 57 GP, 17.7 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 53.3 FG%, 33 MPG, 22.0 PER, 4.2 WS
2020 (w/DET): 49 GP, 17.8 PPG, 15.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 53 FG%, 33.8 MPG, 22.1 PER, 4 WS
2020 (w/CLE): 8 GP, 17.5 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 55.2 FG%, 28.1 MPG, 21.1 PER, 0.3 WS

One of the few bright spots of the 2020 Cleveland Cavaliers’ season was managing to finagle a trade for Andre Drummond without having to give up very much.  They parted ways with spare parts, role players in backup big man John Henson, and the oft-injured, backup point guard Brandon Knight, and they gave up only one second round pick in 2023.  The Cavs’ management team did not even have to give up a first round pick to get a 2-time All-Star center who was once considered to be one of the cornerstones of the Detroit Pistons’ franchise.  In a mostly forgettable season, that might have been Cleveland’s most valuable move of the year.

When Drummond was in the lineup, the Cavaliers were noticeably better, as they were 4-4 with him on the floor, and 15-42 in all of the other games this season.  Drummond is a tremendous rebounder who brings solid inside scoring and interior defense skills.  There may be some concerns about his lack of perimeter skills, but right now, he provides Cleveland with a solid player that can anchor their defense at least in the short term.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Center with Cleveland or another team in the NBA
Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars

Side note: Drummond has a player option, can opt out of his contract if he wants to

Cleveland Cavaliers’ second-year guard, Collin Sexton is a scorer that can put the ball in the hoop, but he will need to improve in the non-shooting or scoring related areas of the game.
(Photo:
Nick Wass/AP, via al.com)

G Collin Sexton – C+

2020 (CLE): 65 GP, 20.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 47 FG%, 38 3PT%, 85 FT%, 33 MPG, 16.3 PER, 2.5 WS

Collin Sexton is a very athletic combo guard that can quickly get buckets, and he has excelled as a shooter and scorer for his team.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the only areas he currently excels in.  For a 6-1 guard, he doesn’t get many assists, and he is not a very good rebounder or defender either, at this stage.  There was a lot of concern about Cleveland’s defensive issues when they announced they would have a small backcourt featuring him and Darius Garland, none of whom were standout defenders in college.  Sexton will need to improve his playmaking and defensive skills, but his ability to shoot and score will likely allow him to have a long career in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Shooting Guard with Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (3 star potential)

SF Cedi Osman – C+

2020 (CLE): 65 GP, 11.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 44 FG%, 38 3PT%, 67 FT%, 29.4 MPG, 10.7 PER, 1.6 WS

Cedi Osman is a skilled swingman that can shoot and pass the basketball.  He will need to improve his rebounding, defense, and free throw shooting, but his ability to excel as a 3 and D type of player in the NBA could allow him to both be an effective rotation player, and to see a lot of minutes on the Cavs next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Small Forward with Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

G Darius Garland – C-

2020 (CLE): 59 GP, 12.3 PPG, 3.9 APG, 1.9 RPG, 40 FG%, 35.5 3PT%, 88 FT%, 30.9 MPG, 8.5 PER, -1.3 WS

Garland had an up and down season as a rookie for Cleveland.  He was drafted fifth overall despite playing in just five games at Vanderbilt after having missed most of the season due to a knee injury, and so he was a fairly risky pick when selected that high.  

This year, he showed that he can knock down threes and distribute the basketball, but he struggled to consistently make shots and was turnover prone, and he also really had trouble rebounding or defending in games.  Right now, Garland is a talented prospect, but will need to make more shots efficiently and play better overall, and it doesn’t look like the Garland-Sexton backcourt experiment is working, as it hasn’t translated to many wins.  Cleveland will probably give it at least another season, but if Garland doesn’t show much improvement on either end, that could mean another year with a lot of losses for their team.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Point Guard with Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (3 star potential)

F Larry Nance Jr. – B

2020 (CLE): 10.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 53 FG%, 35 3PT%, 68 FT%, 26.3 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 3.9 WS

Larry Nance Jr. quietly had a solid season for Cleveland, as he made shots efficiently and showed off an improved outside shot, and he also excelled as a rebounder and defender for his team.  His steals and blocks numbers were down, and he could look to continue to improve his shooting and be more assertive on offense.  That said, Nance has been a solid role player for Cleveland, and he will likely be a key rotation player for them next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Backup Power Forward on Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

G-F Kevin Porter Jr. – C+

2020 (CLE): 50 GP, 10.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 44 FG%, 34 3PT%, 72 FT%, 23.2 MPG, 10.8 PER, 0.3 WS

Coming out of college at USC, Porter was considered to be a talented, but inconsistent rookie that had plenty of upside.  However, likely stemming from conduct issues as well as inconsistent play, his coach refused to play him heavy minutes on a consistent basis, as he averaged just 9.5 points per game as a freshman, despite having shot the ball well in general.

Porter surpassed expectations by averaging 10 points per game for Cleveland, albeit he was also on one of the worst teams in the NBA.  He’s an athletic, skilled scorer that can get any shot he wants, and he also significantly improved his free throw shooting.  Porter will need to continue to improve his shooting and defense, but he looks to be a promising player that could be integral to Cleveland’s future.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Backup Small Forward on Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (2.5 star potential)

F-C Tristan Thompson – C+

2020 (CLE): 57 GP, 12.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 BPG, 51 FG%, 39 3PT%, 61.5 FT%, 30.2 MPG, 16.8 PER, 3.1 WS

In a year where Cleveland won only 19 games, Tristan Thompson put forth a solid statistical year, as he averaged a double-double per game, had his personal best in assists per game, and he actually did a good job of making three-point shots when he took them, which was not often.  On the downside, he hasn’t been quite as effective on the defensive end as he had been in years past, and he will likely come off the bench next season for Cleveland if Drummond opts in.  Still, that will give Cleveland a chance to possibly make the playoffs, and Tristan Thompson will give them some solid depth on their team.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Potential Starter or Backup Center on Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Thompson will be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season

G Dante Exum – C- (D- with Utah, C with Cleveland)

2020 (TOT): 35 GP, 4.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 47 FG%, 35 3PT%, 74.4 FT%, 13.9 MPG, 10.3 PER, 0.4 WS
2020 (UTA): 11 GP, 2.2 MPG, 1.1 RPG, 43.5 FG%, 33 3PT%, 100 FT%, 7.5 MPG, 4.8 PER, -0.1 WS
2020 (CLE): 24 GP, 5.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 48 FG%, 35 3PT%, 73 FT%, 16.8 MPG, 11.5 PER, 0.5 WS

The oft-injured combo guard did not play very much prior to being dealt by Utah along with others for Jordan Clarkson, but Exum was able to get extensive playing time late in the year with Cleveland.  He didn’t play very well in limited minutes with Utah, but he showed some solid offensive skills with the Cavs.  Exum will need to continue to improve his jump shot and defense, but his versatility and ability to play multiple positions could allow him to be a regular in Cleveland’s rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Backup Shooting Guard on Cleveland
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

F Dylan Windler – 2020 season grade: Incomplete

2020 (CLE): DNP, was out with a foot injury

Dylan Windler was a standout performer in college at Belmont, and he is a skilled offensive player that can shoot and pass the basketball.  He’s known for scoring 35 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against Maryland in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.  He missed all of the 2019-20 season due to a leg injury, but next season, he’s expected to provide some solid minutes as a shooter and playmaker off the bench.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe Rotation Player, Backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 star potential)

G Matthew Dellavedova – 2020 season grade, D-

2020 (CLE): 57 GP, 3.1 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.3 RPG, 35.4 FG%, 23.1 3PT%, 86.5 FT%, 14.4 MPG, 8.2 PER, 0.2 WS

Once a solid backup point guard, Matthew Dellavedova has not seen a thousand minutes in a season since the 2016-17 season with Milwaukee, and he has seen his shooting percentages tumble ever since.  He will need to improve his jump shot to get it back to where it was, and his defense has suffered over the years.  His reputation alone may allow him to be Cleveland’s backup point guard, but he needs to have a much better season than how he fared last year.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Backup Point Guard on Cleveland, or 3rd String Point Guard on Another Team in the NBA
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Dellavedova will be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season

F Alfonzo McKinnie – 2020 season grade, D-

2020 (CLE): 40 GP, 4.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 43 FG%, 22 3PT%, 71 FT%, 14.8 MPG, 8.7 PER, 0.2 WS

Alfonzo McKinnie was a useful role player on Golden State as a 3 and D player at the end of their rotation in 2019, but he is coming off a very bad 2020 season in which he made only 22% of his threes, and had a single-digit PER this past year.  He’ll compete to be in Cleveland’s rotation in 2021, but there are no guarantees.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, end of the roster player in the NBA
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: His 2021 contract is not guaranteed, but he can still be put in trades

F-C Dean Wade – B

2020 (CLE): 12 GP, 1.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 69 FG%, 50 3PT%, 77 FT%, 5.9 MPG, 13.9 PER, 0.2 WS

The 6-9 rookie forward was a mop-up duty warrior for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, as he played his way into earning a standard contract.  It’s unknown what he would do if given extensive playing time, but with the way he dominated in mop-up minutes, it might be worth finding out to see if he can be a full-time rotation player in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe Rotation Player, Backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

F-C Jordan Bell – D  (D with Minnesota, D- with Memphis)

2020 (TOT): 29 GP, 3.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 52 FG%, 8.8 MPG,, 13.9 PER, 0.4 WS
2020 (MIN): 27 GP, 3.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 53 FG%, 8.7 MPG, 14.1 PER, 0.4 WS
2020 (MEM): 2 GP, 5.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0 BPG, 43 FG%, 10.5 MPG, 12.6 PER, 0 WS

After having a fairly good rookie season with Golden State, Bell’s development has stalled, as he has not expanded upon his offensive skills, and he actually did not defend well nor block many shots.  The analysis on his career is that he seems to have been a peak early type of player, and Bell has seen his minutes free fall ever since.  It seems as if he has lost the mojo that made him so great at Oregon, and he needs to find that lost swagger back.  Right now, he projects to be a fringe roster player that will be fighting to stay in the NBA next year.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth big man, end of the roster player in the NBA
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

G Matt Mooney (Two-Way) – D

2020 (CLE): 0.5 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.3 SPG
2020 (NBA G-League): 42 GP, 13.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 46 FG%, 37 3PT%, 90 FT%, 31.2 MPG, 14.8 PER, 2.6 WS

Matt Mooney didn’t play very much for Cleveland this season, and he was a surprise call-up to the NBA, but in college and in the G-League, he’s shown that he is a crafty scorer that can effectively run a team and will compete defensively.  He doesn’t possess elite physical tools, but he is a tough, gritty performer that definitely has the skills to make an NBA team’s roster.

Key tidbits:

Matt Mooney was the starting point guard on the 2019 Texas Tech team that lost to Virginia in the National Championship game.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth guard, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star (2 star potential)

Head Coach:
J.B. Bickerstaff, 5-6, (2020 Cavs: 19-46), grade: B-
Head Coaching Career: 90-137. 1-4 in the playoffs

J.B. Bickerstaff is a long-time assistant that has bounced around many teams, and he also has taken over for one-time Head Coach of the Year, Kevin McHale as the interim head coach in Houston after McHale was surprisingly fired during the 2015-16 season.

Bickerstaff had taken over after Cleveland got off to a disastrous 14-40 start, but he was able to get them to win 5 of 11 games the rest of the way, as he showed some coaching chops late in the season.  It’s uncertain if he can get Cleveland back to the playoffs, but Cleveland’s late season surge showed that there is hope, even if it is a faint one that maybe they could reach the postseason in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role: Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Former Head Coach:
John Beilein, 2020 season grade: F
2020 (CLE): 14-40
Head Coaching Career: 14-40, has never made the playoffs as an NBA head coach

It was clear from the get-go that John Beilein and the Cleveland Cavaliers, or just any NBA team would be a bad fit. Beilein’s strict disciplinarian, methodical approach that served him well at Michigan as a college coach certainly would clash with today’s modern NBA, where head coaches need to be able to work with and not against players. Also, Beilein’s cantankerous attitude and a gaffe quickly had him fall out of favor with his players fast. He later resigned during the middle of the season, with J.B. Bickerstaff replacing him to be the interim head coach.

Beilein’s Projected 2021 Role: Head Coach in college basketball somewhere
Beilein’s Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

John Beilein had a gaffe when talking with his players, and it became the talk of the NBA. NBA Desktop covered the Cavaliers around the 5:55 mark, and the John Beilein segment starts around the 6:08 mark with a fun song about Beilein’s gaffe when addressing his players was included in there.
(Source: YouTube/NBA Desktop)

2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers, season grade: D+

2020 was just not a good season for Cleveland.  They didn’t rate well in many statistics.  They didn’t shoot nor pass the ball well, and they didn’t take good care of the basketball, either.  They also didn’t rebound nor defend well, which is why they swung a trade for Andre Drummond around the trade deadline. 

The Cavs will be getting the 5th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and they will likely be waiting for Drummond to decide if he wants opt in or out of his contract.  Cleveland is still too small in the backcourt and will struggle to defend out on the perimeter, and they will need to significantly improve their offense.  They’ll need to add shooters and get more ball movement, but they do have the talent to try for an eight seed in the East for next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Andre Drummond
F Kevin Love
F Cedi Osman
G Collin Sexton
G Darius Garland

Key Reserves:
Larry Nance Jr.
Kevin Porter Jr.
Tristan Thompson* (UFA)
The 5th Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
Dante Exum
Alfonzo McKinnie

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
Dylan Windler
Dean Wade
Jordan Bell
Matt Mooney (Two-Way Contract)

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
Tristan Thompson
Matthew Dellavedova

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
#5

Projected Offseason Plan for the Cavaliers:

The Cavaliers are sort of a weird team to figure out.  They don’t really have an elite group of young players, but they also have veterans that have won before that seem like they would belong on contending teams.  It seems that their future core, if it is one, consists of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, their 5th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, and maybe others such as Cedi Osman and Kevin Porter Jr.  Or, maybe their core consists of Andre Drummond and Kevin Love.  It’s not entirely clear.  Though Love and Drummond are on massive contracts, certainly there would be some teams that would be willing to trade for them if Cleveland retains them, as both could help NBA teams in the playoffs next season.

It seems that the Cavaliers are not likely to win any time soon, and they are not expected to be one of the better teams in the East next year.  Therefore, they need to pick a direction and decide which players to build around. 

From a talent perspective, it seems that they could use more wing players, and they could use more size and shooting to defend players out on the perimeter.  In the short term, Drummond and Kevin Love are two of their best players, but Sexton and Garland may be the young, combo guards that they are building around for the long haul.  As they project to be over the cap, it’s likely that the Cavaliers will need to scour the free agent to find bargain bins by looking to sign players on minimum contracts.  In order to sign players at higher prices, they would have to find a way to make trades to somehow free up more cap space.

Expected Regular-Season Win-Loss Record in 2021*: 27-45, 12th in the East

Expected 2021 Season Outcome: Will Try For The 8 Seed in the East, Likely Will Miss The Playoffs

(* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72-game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Cavaliers was for them to win 31 games in an 82-game season.  Also, the projected 2021 record for the Cavaliers does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Thank you for reading my grades of the 2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers’ team, and it also was an early forecast for what to expect for the upcoming season.

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