It is overdue but I did want to finish this before the NBA draft that discusses the Cleveland Cavaliers surprising yet disappointing 2021-22 that started with low expectations, raised hopes and then disappointed at the end with two disappointing play-in defeats.
I didn't expect much from the Cavaliers this season but some surprises allowed them to easily exceed my hopes.
Foremost was the continuing development of Darius Garland at the point.
Garland's outside shot continues to improve and I liked the late-season push with Garland putting his team on his shoulders when he was the best available scoring option to show that he does have the "alpha dog" mentality.
I am cautious with writing that because too much of that type of play can often be a negative when other scoring threats are on the court but in this case, I think it was not selfishness it was giving his team the best chance to win.
Garland also spent most of the season without a strong option besides him at scoring guard with Collin Sexton missing most of the season with a knee injury, Caris LeVert not fitting well after being acquired from Indiana at the trade deadline, and Isaac Okoro continuing to struggle with his offensive game.
All three could be back next season, although Sexton is a restricted free agent, and one of them is going to have to step forward.
Sexton has struggled in his backcourt pairing with Garland in the past, Okoro is looking more and more like an overdraft by the Cavaliers (picked fifth overall in 2020), and LeVert often looked lost on the floor after being acquired via trade.
I'm not saying that any of the three are beyond hope but each has questions to be answered.
Can Sexton play in the same backcourt with Garland with the defensive deficiencies that come with a small duo and can the Cavaliers afford to try considering the track record?
Can Okoro improve his outside shot and boost his defensive game, which has been decent but for a player drafted as a potential stopper has been a disappointment?
Which LeVert is the real player- the leading scorer for the Pacers or the inconsistent player that arrived in Cleveland after the trade?
Cleveland will also need a point guard to spell Garland and the lack of depth was glaring after the injury to Ricky Rubio.
Rubio's knee injury was a huge loss to the Cavaliers after he played extremely well after being acquired last off-season and his injury allowed Cleveland to place his salary in the deal that landed Caris LeVert.
Rubio is a free agent and even though he isn't expected to return to the lineup until mid-season, Rubio and the Cavaliers have been connected to a possible reunion.
Rajon Rondo will be a free agent and was unlikely to return even before his recent off-court problems.
Cedi Osman was streaky but played well enough that I would keep him around, and Osman can play guard or forward as can Dylan Windler, a former first-rounder that might be looking at a make or break season in 2022-23 after injury problems and going against his college reputation as a three-point shooter as he hit only thirty percent from long-range.
In the frontcourt, the Cavaliers used a three big man lineup when all were healthy and while that wasn't often as the season moved on, it was quite effective against the league's trend to move away from size.
The issue became lack of depth as the Cavaliers were pretty good until they lost one due to injury and as I wrote above that was often.
Evan Mobley had a strong case for rookie of the year and a late-season injury that had a lot to do with the late-season slump that cost the Cavaliers a playoff spot also likely lost Mobley the rookie of the year award after spending most of the year as the favorite.
Mobley's defense was better than expected and he is on his way to becoming along with Darius Garland, the franchise's foundation to build around.
Jarrett Allen also had a big year that saw him miss time late in the season and Cleveland will need more help behind Allen at center.
I liked what I saw from Moses Brown when he filled in when Allen was injured and I'd like to see him have a chance to be the backup in training camp.
Lauri Markkanen played better than I expected after the Cavaliers acquired him from Chicago but I still think the Cavaliers would receive more from Markannen as an offensive gun off the bench than relying on him as a starter.
Kevin Love was the surprise of the season with his acceptance of a new role with the second unit, his fit for the position and he was able to stay healthy for the first time in a while as well.
Love's contract ends at the end of next season and ironically his strong performance could make him viable as a trade piece should the Cavaliers find a return that would be to their liking.
I think Lamar Stevens has a good chance of sticking as a role player if he can continue to improve his shooting and Dean Wade can shoot the ball but needs to improve on the other end.
Good teams count on one player like Stevens and Wade, not two and it's very possible that these two players could be battling for one spot in the rotation,
Cleveland badly needs a wing and backup big man and I think between their first-rounder and free agency they should be able to address those two needs.
Yes, considering the Cavaliers start, the losses in the play-in game were disappointing after a playoff berth seemed so secure earlier in the season.
The lack of depth showed very badly as lineup cornerstones began to fall by the wayside and the lack of offense without the top guns in a lineup that at times didn't have any of their three best players was a glaring weakness.
Still, overall, had you asked me before the season would I take my chances with forty-four wins with the questions on the roster, I would have taken that as a major step forward for a rebuilding franchise.
The season may have ended in a disappointing way but I'm not disappointed with a season that showed promise and raised expectations for the future...