Are Cleveland Cavaliers Serious Postseason Contenders After Impressive Start?

Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

There is no bigger surprise to this point of the 2021-22 NBA season than the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are currently 18-12 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are 11-6 against other teams in the East and have won nine of their last 11, including five in a row.

This is a team that has not made the postseason since 2017-2018. It is also important to note that the franchise has not been in the postseason without LeBron James on the team since 1997-1998. Could this be the year that Cleveland gets over the hump?

The season is over a quarter of the way through and there is a lot of basketball left to be played but the Cavaliers look like a postseason team. They are doing it using their size, which is not a surprise given their offseason moves.

First, Collin Sexton has played just 11 games this season. He has been out with an injury and the team is thriving. Could this give the front office another reason to trade him? That is yet to be seen. Darius Garland has stepped up in his absence and is leading the team with 19 points and 7.4 assists per game.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Darius Garland Could Receive Max Extension From Cavaliers

In the frontcourt, there are plenty of bigs stepping up. It begins with the $100-million man. Jarrett Allen decided to stick around in Cleveland and it is paying off. He is putting up 16.9 points and 11 rebounds per contest. The Cavaliers re getting an immediate return on their investment. Rookie Evan Mobley is a Rookie of the Year favorite with 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. This includes a team-leading 1.8 blocks per game.

Lauri Markkanen seemed like the forgotten name in Cleveland. The Chicago Bulls decided to move on from their big because of his injury woes. So far for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Markkanen has played in and started 21 games while scoring 14 points per game.

Cleveland has eight players averaging double-digit points per game — seven have played in 20 or more games with the exception of Sexton. Kevin Love is even back on the floor contributing 12 points and 7.1 rebounds a night. The Cavaliers made a deal for Markkanen in the offseason and added Mobley in the draft. The dedication to rebuilding the frontcourt is paying off.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Darius Garland Could Receive Max Extension From Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are not lighting it up offensively, scoring 106.6 points per game which is 18th in the league but they are deep. This is a team that knows its role and players are buying in and making up for it on the defensive end of the floor.

Cleveland is slowing just 101.5 points per game, which is second lowest in the league. During this run, the Cavaliers are getting it done against other Eastern Conference teams. Of their last nine victories, five of them have come against the East, including teams like the Miami Heat twice and Chicago Bulls. 

No one around the league and no fan, including those in Cleveland, are used to the Cavaliers finding success without James. Since he went to Los Angeles, Cleveland has been searching for success and they might befriending it in the form of big men and consistency. J.B. Bickerstaff seems to have his rotation down and is using his players in affective ways.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Darius Garland Could Receive Max Extension From Cavaliers

It is hard not to believe in the Cleveland Cavaliers as postseason contenders at minimum. This is not just a good week or two of basketball. The Cavs are six games over .500 after 30 games. There are still 52 more to see how the team shakes out but right now, they look like they can compete in the East.