ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins believes that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ expectation should be to at least make the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2023-24 season.
“Going into their second year with the core group of guys they have in [Darius] Garland, in Donovan Mitchell, you looking at Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, those four alone, they should grow from last season being spanked by the New York Knicks,” Perkins said. “And I believe that they will get better. They improved the depth on their bench. I believe this kid Emoni Bates will come in and actually play some minutes off the bench – not saying he’s going to get 30 – but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ goal should be at least reaching the conference finals.
“They have to get to the conference finals the way that they look on paper. They have too much talent. They have an MVP-caliber player in Donovan Mitchell, who can put up 30 on any given night. They have zero excuses not to reach the conference finals this season.”
It’s hard to argue with Perkins’ sentiment, as Cleveland is certainly hoping to improve upon last season’s finish.
The Cavs earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they ended up losing to the Knicks in just five games in the first round of the playoffs. Despite Mitchell earning All-NBA honors, the Cavs were outclassed by a Knicks team that came into the 2022-23 season with lower expectations than Cleveland.
This offseason, Cleveland has improved its roster in a big way. The team brought in two solid shooters in Max Strus (in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs) and Georges Niang, and it brought back wing Caris LeVert on a new deal.
That should give the Cavs more offense around Mitchell and Garland, and it should allow them to space the floor, something the team struggled with against the Knicks.
The Eastern Conference is loaded, but the Cavs were amongst the best teams in the East in the 2022-23 season with a young roster. Mobley, Mitchell, Allen and Garland are all 26 years old or younger, which means the team should expect them to continue to get better.
Bates, the team’s second-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, looked solid in Summer League, and he could be a diamond in the rough that makes an impact for the team in the 2023-24 season.
Given Cleveland’s decision to trade for Mitchell last offseason, the team has to take another step in competing for a title for the trade to truly be looked at as a win.