Now, we are about to find out what the Cavaliers are really made of. I mean, what they are really, really made of.
At the very least, we are about to learn a lot about the Cavs’ depth, and none of it is something they were hoping to learn so soon.
By all accounts, the Cavs will be down four starters for Wednesday’s road game against the mighty Nets — center Jarrett Allen, forward Lauri Markkanen, guard Collin Sexton, and now rookie forward Evan Mobley.
The best the Cavs can do is light holy candles and pray that it’s only two weeks, because Mobley has been a major difference-maker in their surprising start.
Meanwhile, Allen missed Monday’s game with an undisclosed illness, and while he’s not expected to miss much time, he won’t make the trip to Brooklyn. Allen’s illness is reportedly not related to COVID-19, and he hasn’t been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.
So hey, a little bit of good news. Or something.
The health and safety protocols are precisely where Markkanen has been, though, and while he could be back soon, it isn’t expected to be Wednesday. He did join his Cavs teammates on the bench Monday, so maybe there is a ray of sunshine. But just a ray.
And we all already know about Sexton and his torn MCL. What we don’t know is when Sexton will be back. Word is, he will miss an “extended” period of time. If he needs surgery, well, that may be at the end of the season, or perhaps next one.
That’s an interesting story either way, because Sexton will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year. His scoring average is down considerably this season, from 24.3 points to 16.0 this year.
Part of that is because the Cavs haven’t needed Sexton to score as much and he’s willingly taken a step back to be a better fit. But man, they sure miss him.
Of course, that’s not all.
Power forward Kevin Love has also been in the league’s health and safety protocols, entering a week before Markkanen. Love is expected to return this week — perhaps even Wednesday.
Still, it’s hard to know how many minutes Love can play if he does return. He has been coming off the bench all season, averaging 9.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. If he’s able to play, he is highly likely to start, given the state of the rest of the roster.
Love showed he is still capable of big nights, as could be seen by his 22-point effort in the win at Denver on Oct. 25. But he’s also had a couple of four-point clunkers in there.
The Cavs (9-6) will need him to be something closer to the Love of old, as opposed to just an old Love, without Mobley.
So where will coach J.B. Bickerstaff turn? That is truly the question. He has been wise in his rotations and use of the bench in warranting early Coach of the Year consideration. Now, he’ll have to get really creative.
Forward Dean Wade has been starting in place of Markkanen, and Wade has been a non-factor on most nights (though he did grab eight rebounds vs. the Celtics).
That’s a wild exaggeration to make a point, but truth is, a surprising and rewarding early season has the potential to head south real quick. Cedi Osman could end up starting in there, and that may not be so bad. He scored 26 and the loss to Boston.
These are desperate times. The Cavs have made most of the right moves when relatively healthy. But that is no longer the case when it comes to health.
Somehow, someway, they have to keep this good thing going in the face of some adversity.