With Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Cleveland Cavaliers maintained their 14 percent chance at winning the NBA draft lottery on May 14. That’s good news for fans in favor of a “Tank for Zion” campaign.
Coach Larry Drew’s guys have been playing with an unbridled energy as of late, however, particularly since the return of star forward Kevin Love in mid-February. That’s bad news for fans in favor of a nosedive-style tank fest to close the season.
So who exactly are these Cavs anyway? Are they the hapless bunch that looked incapable of defeating the Flint Tropics earlier in the season, or are they a promising young group finally turning a corner?
Let’s look at some key metrics that help define the Wine & Gold a bit further.
5 – total wins by the Cavs out of the last seven played with a healthy Love. The last man standing of Cleveland’s Big Three is averaging a robust 21 points and 12 boards during that span.
100.1 – average team possessions per game by Cleveland, which is the second-slowest pace in the NBA ahead of only the Memphis Grizzlies. You’d think a young team sitting kilometers out of playoff contention would fly up and down the court a bit more… Perhaps the return of Love has further slowed things down in a deliberate effort to run a coherent offense?
30 – the Cavs league ranking in opponent field-goal percentage this season (yes, that’s dead last), allowing a repulsive 49 percent. Fun fact: the Cavs were only two spots higher last season at 28th despite marching to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.
49 – percent of 3-pointers drilled by Love since the All-Star break, compared to the paltry 27 percent made beforehand.
11 – number of games where rookie Collin Sexton led all Cavaliers in scoring this season, out of a total of 65 games played.
23 – number of games where Kyrie Irving led all Cavs in scoring during his rookie season through 65 games.
4 – Sexton’s ranking in three-point percentage (38.2 percent) among 18 rookies who have attempted at least 100 treys. Landry Shamet of the Los Angeles Clippers tops the list at 41.6 percent.
487 – approximate number of times I double-checked that last stat to ensure it was accurate.
62 – the “similarity” score comparing Sexton to last year’s version of De’Aaron Fox by statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight. This is the highest of all comps made to Sexton, which also includes Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk.
57 – the “similarity” score comparing Jordan Clarkson to 2006 Ricky Davis.
16 – years since the aforementioned Davis attempted tipping the ball to himself in an effort to record a triple-double. That guy was national treasure.
.553 – the aggregate winning percentage of the Cavs' remaining opponents, good for the fifth-toughest remaining strength of schedule.
11, 15 – remaining strength of schedule rankings for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, respectively, who are likely the Cavs biggest “competition” in the draft lottery.
4 – wins the Cavs have recorded when being favored in seven games this season. Only Atlanta, Phoenix and Chicago have been favored fewer times this season. An April 1 matchup with the Suns in Phoenix is potentially the only remaining game where the Cavs could be Vegas favorites.
11 – Number of “signature calls” listed on the Wikipedia page of legendary Cavaliers color commentator Austin Carr. There are a couple of no-brainers like “he throws the hammer down” and “get that weak stuff outta here," but my personal favorite has to be “he fed him a leather sandwich."
Christopher Kreider | @krydr1