Cavs Hope to Consume Tastier Second-Half Sandwich


Imagine the first half of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2020-21 season like a long, oddly constructed sub sandwich.

You’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy it, but about halfway through it’s pretty good. Some parts include sliced turkey lathered in mayo and meatballs coated with tomato sauce.

But just when you think this sandwich will be better than expected, you encounter a series of disgusting bites. The taste resembles moldy cheese doused in expired milk and decaying bananas dipped in horseradish. At one point, you take ten atrocious bites in a row and question if you’ll ever eat another sandwich again.

Suddenly, a series of four-straight delicious bites return, before you finish the sandwich with one final revolting munch.

Halfway through the 2020-21 NBA season, the Cavs have served their fans quite an intriguing sub to say the least.

First-Half Overview

After a promising start — especially on defense — Cleveland came crashing back down to earth losing ten games in a row during a rough February. The losing streak lowered the team’s short-term expectations and tanked Collin Sexton‘s flimsy All-Star chances.

Through the various ups and downs, however, a sturdy foundation appears to be forming. Sexton, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro have established themselves as primary building blocks for the long term. All four players are firmly set as pieces of Cleveland’s future. Other young prospects on the roster have flashed potential of joining that group.

While this season’s primary goal has been to further develop their young core, veterans have played an important role for the Cavs this season. Larry Nance Jr. is an impactful presence on defense and does a little bit of everything well on offense. Andre Drummond was the team’s leading rebounder before Cleveland decided to sit him. Cedi Osman has been the only player that hasn’t missed multiple games. JaVale McGee brings consistent energy and rim protection off the bench.

The following are some of the most impactful trends and factors that contributed to the Cavs’ 14-22 first-half record.


Perhaps no game better exemplified Cleveland’s struggles taking care of the ball than their last game against the Pacers. The Cavs coughed up the rock 26 times resulting in an astounding 35 points off turnovers during the three-point loss. This was further highlighted by Indiana’s T.J. McConnell finishing the game with a franchise-record 10 steals.

Cleveland has moved the ball well this season, but they don’t always make the correct read, and the turnovers pile up. The Wine and Golders average 15.1 turnovers per game surpassed only by Chicago. Garland and Sexton each average 2.9 giveaways per game. The Cavs have the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the league and allow the third-most points off turnovers with 19.1 per game. The majority of the rotation averages at least one turnover per contest.

Three-point shooting

The Cavs make and take the least amount of threes in the league. They rank 27th in the league shooting 34.6 percent from three and 29th in point differential. Defending the three hasn’t much been better as they rank 29th in three-point defense. Losing some of their better shooters to injury hasn’t helped, but they still don’t take many threes when they’re active. Osman, Sexton and Garland are the only players averaging at least four three-point attempts per game.


Kevin Love injured his calf during the second game of the season and hasn’t played since. Nance missed 17 games with various hand and wrist injuries. Matthew Dellavedova has yet to play this season due to a concussion. When Sexton and Garland were out leaving Cleveland without a true point guard, Delly’s presence was especially missed. Dylan Windler missed 14 games during the first half and the Cavs sorely missed his shooting.


Trades have already been an integral part of the Cavaliers’ season with more potentially occurring before the March 25 trade deadline. They acquired their center of the future in Allen. Taurean Prince has proved to be a solid addition on the wing. Due to a variety of off-the-court issues, Kevin Porter Jr., once viewed as potential franchise cornerstone, was given away to Houston for a late second-round pick unlikely to convey. Dante Exum and his expiring contract went to the Rockets in the trade that netted Allen and Prince.

The trade deadline could be a busy one for the Cavs, who have already expressed their desire to move Drummond. His $28.7 million contract makes him potentially difficult to move depending on interest. If they can’t get a deal done, the Cavs could be forced to buy him out. McGee will likely be shopped too as quality veteran big on a relatively cheap expiring contract. Prince and Osman are also reportedly available to be traded in the right deal.

Contributions From Young Role Players

In addition to their young nucleus, Cleveland also has other emerging prospects to be excited about. Nobody projects any of them to be future All-Stars, but their continued development could dramatically improve the Cavs. Each of the following players has tangible progress to hang their hat on through the first half of the season.

Dean Wade went undrafted in 2019 before signing a two-way contract with the Cavs. After playing in the G-League and sparingly with Cleveland, Wade has carved out a consistent role in J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation. After looking hesitant and indecisive early, he has been noticeably more comfortable than when he first played regular minutes. He started in Cleveland’s last five games and the Cavs are 4-1 with Wade in the starting lineup.

Lamar Stevens followed the same path to the NBA as Wade, also going undrafted in 2020 before signing a two-way deal. Bickerstaff took a liking to Stevens early, plus the Cavs needed bodies with so much of the roster missing time with injury. He moves well on defense and can improvise when offensive possessions go awry. His game-winning dunk against the Hawks helped snap the team’s ten-game losing streak.

After missing last season with various leg injuries, Dylan Windler had to show this year why the Cavs drafted him in the first round in 2019. While he had to miss time after going down in the first game of the season, Windler has bounced back nicely. It didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the team’s best shooters. At one point, he made nine-consecutive threes across two games.

Second-Half Preview

The Cavaliers have the 16th toughest schedule remaining putting them in the middle of the pack. Love and Nance should be returning from injury soon, and Delly is now traveling with the team. The roster will undoubtedly change as general manager Koby Altman navigates the trade deadline. Putting the awkward Drummond situation behind them is the top priority.

A young team like Cleveland will have their highs and lows. Some games they’ll beat the best teams in the league. Other nights, the game could be lost by halftime.

Whatever the Cavs serve their fans, they’re hoping their second-half sandwich will have many more enjoyable bites than the first.

Follow us on Twitter @CavsLead for the latest Cavs news and insight. 

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About Avi Carr-Gloth

Avi is an Emerson College graduate with a B.S. in Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @avicarrgloth to stay up to date on the latest Cavs content.

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