For the first time since the late 1990s, the Cavaliers are about to make the playoffs without LeBron James.
Once they get there, they will try to win a playoff series without James for the first time in 30 years.
Yes, it’s true. The Cavs haven’t one a playoff series without James since the days of Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance (the first version), Hot Rod Williams, Craig Ehlo and coach Lenny Wilkens. To be exact, that was 1993.
That was also an experienced group. Back then, only Michael Jordan‘s Bulls stood in their way. (And that’s precisely who eliminated those Cavs in the second round.)
This year, the only thing standing in the Cavs’ way may be a lack of playoff experience. Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Isaac Okoro have never been. That’s three of the five starters. Jarrett Allen has been once — with the Nets. J.B. Bickerstaff has also only been once — as interim coach of the Rockets.
But the man who has been there regularly, at least with the Jazz, is none other than star Donovan Mitchell. He has never been there with the Cavs, of course, but he likes what he sees from the current cast.
“I think we have a group of guys that are ready for it,” Mitchell told Jamal Collier of ESPN. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to go through those things and learn those things. It’s just a matter of how quick we learn, and that’s what’s going to be the predictor of our success — how quick we figure things out. Because some of us have been there, some of us haven’t.”
In the playoffs, it’s not always about experience. Talent counts, too. So does defense, and the Cavs have done that very well for the majority of the season.
So despite most saying the Cavs shouldn’t have high hopes entering the season … well, they aren’t about to listen. They’ll just let the games determine that.
The addition of Mitchell should help in that area, too.
“It’s like when you’re growing up and you’re at the school yard and you’re playing basketball and there’s bullies on the court. And you know you’ve got your big brother with you,” Bickerstaff said earlier this year about Mitchell, via Collier. “You know he’s got your back and he’s there to support you. That gives you confidence to play better. That’s what Donovan provides our group, is a guy who’s gotten it done at the highest levels.”
The top of the Eastern Conference is made up of three of the most experienced teams in the NBA.
Trying to crash the party in fourth place are the Cavs, who will enter the playoffs with one of the youngest teams in the field https://t.co/JaTFzvwf0G
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) March 23, 2023