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Basketball without the drama: Why the Cavs' brand is worth watching

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley (4) loses control of the ball driving against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) in the first half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 23, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Mary Altaffer
/
AP
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley (4) looses control of the ball driving against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) in the first half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 23, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The NBA is centered on the idea that building a winning team is a process of cycling through coaches and signing superstars, says Ideastream Public Media's sports commentator Terry Pluto. But for most teams, it rarely works out.

Former Cavs star Kyrie Irving, for example, is on his third team since leaving Cleveland in 2017. His only NBA title remains with the Cavs in 2016.

The Cavs, meanwhile, have taken a different approach in the post-LeBron James era. They’ve been building a team of young players through the draft and trades.

“And if you look at what they've done the last few years, they went from 22 victories to 44 victories to, last year, to 51. If that were a stock on the market, you would buy it, especially given the fact that, as they would say, it's a younger team, well run," Pluto said. "But in the NBA narrative, whatever, it's boring because they're not in the middle of all the swirl of firing coaches and chasing superstars."

Starters Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and newly-acquired Max Strus are all under the age of 27.

“And so, I look at that and I like how they play, which is defense first," Pluto said. "And secondly, the NBA loves drama. Who's mad? Who wants to be traded or whatever? But the Cavs are boring. But actually, you know what it is? It's good basketball.

"If you are, I don't even say a purist, just a good basketball fan, you could watch this team. You don't feel like they've just got a bunch of egomaniacs running around," Pluto said. "And it's the kind of team that you say, all right, suppose they make the playoffs this year and they don't go very far. You don't go, ‘Well, that's it. They're done. Everybody's leaving.’ No, a lot of those guys are locked up for at least two years or more in their contracts."

Pluto also reflected back on the 2023 NBA Finals.

“I mean, you kind of have to think for a while, who was in there? Denver and Miami, who are two teams basically built through draft and trades," Pluto said. "Secondly, you know, Jimmy Butler is a really good player for Miami and some of the other guys with Denver, but it's not like they're the marquee names that the NBA sells. And they were patient with their coaches. They're not just firing them all the time.”

Patience, Pluto said, is key.

“And the big thing is fans sometimes say, ‘I don't want to be patient. I'm tired of being patient.’ The question is this: Has the patience been earned? Is enough progress being made to say it's worthy to keep being patient?”

Pluto projects the Cavs will win at least 50 games this season and win a round in the playoffs.

“More importantly, you’ll want to see most of these games. You'll want to see Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland and Evan Mobley and some of their other players because they're good players playing a good brand of basketball.”

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