Cavs Look to Turn the Tide in 2021


Every new year brings a time of self-reflection. There are things we’ve done this past year we’re proud of and some we wish we could change. In 2020, the Cavs didn’t have a lot to play for, or games to play in for that matter. As the calendar flips to 2021, the organization has a number of big-picture items on their checklist. Here are the benchmarks the Cavaliers must reach if they are to become a successful and exciting franchise in the year to come.

Establish a new culture

Miami’s recent run to the Finals has put a newfound emphasis on creating a winning culture. So much so in fact that they’re selling “Culture” masks on their team website. Establishing a winning environment in Cleveland starts by keeping a head coach long enough to create one. The Cavs haven’t kept a coach around for three full seasons since Byron Scott from 2010-2013. Since then, Cleveland has had six different head coaches including three mid-season coaching changes; most recently last year when J.B. Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein.

Bickerstaff has had an impact early in his tenure with the Cavs. It’s clear just by watching games they have improved their defense, effort and ball movement from last season. A longtime assistant and former interim head coach with Houston and Memphis, Bickerstaff has a wealth of experience coaching in the pros to connect with his players. He has earned the trust of the veterans and buy-in from the young core. That’s already a major improvement from the team’s previous leadership.

Successful organizations such as Boston, Toronto, San Antonio and Miami have an established leadership hierarchy from the front office to the coaching staff. In the last two decades, Cleveland’s most successful stretches started and ended with LeBron James. Bickerstaff and GM Koby Altman have the opportunity to create a strong foundation that doesn’t rely on one player to set the tone for success.

Become a more prominent community presence

Cleveland sports fans have a lot going on right now. Their football team is poised to be an annual playoff contender only three years removed from 1-31. Their baseball team will be undergoing a well-publicized name change and likely trading their franchise star. Since LeBron left, the Cavs have been the third most interesting sports team in Cleveland. The Cavs can’t be of national relevance if they aren’t even relevant in their own local community.

The Cavs changed their primary logo and jerseys in the 2017-18 season. In 2019, the team renamed their home court from Quicken Loans Arena to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and renovated the building to improve the fan gameday experience. Almost every player and coach from the team’s four consecutive Finals runs is gone. There’s also the unexpected death of beloved television play-by-play commentator Fred McLeod in September 2019. John Michael has filled in for McLeod on television after calling Cavs games on the radio, leading to Tim Alcorn filling Michael’s previous role.

There’s a lot that is new and unfamiliar to fans regarding the presentation of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball both in-person and at home. It will take time for these changes to be the new normal in the eyes of the community, but many big things have small beginnings.

Figure out who is the future

With their recent haul of first-round draft picks over the last three years, the Cavs must determine who will be around long-term. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr. and Isaac Okoro are arguably the most important players on the team. While recent additions have improved the team’s outlook for this season, these players will determine the Cavs’ outlook for the foreseeable future.

Cavs’ Minor Offseason Moves Solidify Long-Term Goals

Sexton has developed into a dynamite scorer. In year three, he has shown patience and court awareness he lacked in his first two seasons. Many saw Cleveland’s selection of Garland the next draft as an indictment of Sexton’s ability to run an NBA offense. The Cavs never saw it that way. Garland has the shooting, passing and playmaking abilities that fit well alongside a scorer like Sexton. Garland looks like a vastly improved player after struggling for most of his rookie season.

Sexland is officially a thing now.

Windler missed his entire rookie season due to a leg injury before going down with a broken hand in the first game of this season. He has potential as a shooter, but his development has been drastically altered. Kevin Porter Jr. looked like a draft steal last season after an exciting rookie year in which he averaged 10 points per game. However, Porter was arrested this offseason on gun and traffic charges after crashing his car on a highway.

While those charges have since been dropped, Porter has yet to join the team this season due to personal reasons. It’s unclear what the team’s discipline of him will be. Okoro won the starting small forward job to begin the season and has earned minutes with his defense. While it’s early, the Cavs have to feel good about their latest draft pick.

Cleveland needs a new face of the franchise to be a consistent face on the national stage at All-Star weekends and beyond. The Cavs are starting to see some of the fruits of their labor with the development of their starting backcourt. As long as the team continues their patience with their young players, an All-Star (and maybe more?) will emerge sooner rather than later.

Win more games

This one is pretty self explanatory. A rising tide lifts all boats. Win more, and the fans will watch games, buy team apparel, and come to the arena when the pandemic is over. Winning solves a lot of problems and generates interest. The Cavs are eager to make the playoffs this year after consecutive 19-win seasons. They made that clear by retaining a number of quality veterans in the front court. Cleveland is off to a promising start already winning games they would not have won last season.

The Cavaliers are just like everyone else when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: trying to improve from last year. The start of this season is promising for the Cavs as we enter 2021. Is it too early for a playoff prediction? Maybe. With progress towards achieving these goals, however, the new year looks to be a better one for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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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