cavaliers nation

Paul Pierce bumps Cavs down by whole tier after calling them title contenders last month: ‘They slowing down’

Donovan Mitchell

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been winning games at a very consistent pace recently, but that hasn’t stopped former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce from moving them down a peg in his personal rankings.

Around the middle of November, Pierce declared that the Cavs were among the few teams that he believed were capable of winning the NBA title this season.

“This has nothing to do with your record,” Pierce said before listing his top five teams. “This has everything to do with — these are the only teams I believe that can win a championship. No order: Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and then for that last one, I’ma say the Cleveland Cavaliers. … Them the only teams I feel like are contenders.”

Now, it sounds like he has moved the Cavs out of that list.

“They slowing down,” he said. “Cleveland slowing down. … They were looking like they were in the same tier as Boston and Milwaukee for the first few weeks. But I’m thinking they starting to fall to the pack. They starting to look as the same tier as Atlanta, these other little — Indiana, Atlanta, Cleveland. They all in the same tier.”

Pierce has often been criticized by his detractors for his basketball takes, and it seems like there’s a real argument to be made that he’s off the mark with his latest assessment of the Cavs.

Pierce initially placed Cleveland in his elite tier of the NBA during a Nov. 18 episode of his show with Kevin Garnett (though it’s worth noting that the episode may have been recorded at an earlier date). Since that Nov. 18 date, the Cavs have gone 7-2 in their last nine games.

To claim that the Cavs have been “slowing down” doesn’t make much sense. Pierce made that claim in the latest episode of his show with Garnett, which was just released on Dec. 2. But again, it’s unclear exactly when it was recorded.

While the Cavs have lost both of their games against the Bucks so far this season, they have also won both of their games against the Celtics.

That alone should prove to Pierce, and any other doubters out there, that the Cavs deserve to be considered amongst the best in the NBA.

Beyond that, the Cavs have been led by a group of elite youngsters so far this season. A real argument can be made that the Cavs have the most exciting young core in the entire NBA. Of course, Donovan Mitchell has led the way for the Cavs and has, at times, looked like an MVP candidate.

Jarrett Allen has been great on both ends, and Darius Garland is once again looking like one of the better point guards in the league.

For the Cavs, the real X factor may be second-year forward Evan Mobley. There is a general consensus around the NBA that Mobley has the potential to be a true superstar in the league. His teammates certainly agree with that assessment.

Though he is putting up just 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season, he has shown flashes of being capable of so much more.

At the moment, the Cavs are 15-8 on the season, just three games back of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and one game back of the No. 2 seed.

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