Dribbles: Cavs Work Out Some Kinks as Real Thing Looms

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 105-99 preseason home win over the Hawks on Wednesday.Isaac Okoro Trae Young

1. It’s safe to say the second quarter was the Cavs’ best of the preseason. Granted, these meaningless games are one step above the guys just playing shirts-and-skins, but the Cavs are using them to actually figure out some things.

2. Mostly, coach J.B. Bickerstaff really wants to give guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland reps together in game action. Both players have said they are starting to mesh nicely — and on this night, that was pretty obvious.

3. Mitchell shot the ball poorly (8-of-26) but he was aggressive and the looks were there. He doesn’t seem to be in full rhythm quite yet. And guess what? He doesn’t need to be. As Bickerstaff has said repeatedly, the purpose of these games is to work out the kinks.

4. And if a guy who is still working out the kinks manages to score a team-high 24 points, as Mitchell did, the Cavs will take it. But truth is, every game is probably like a road game for Mitchell right now. Cleveland is still new to him and he is still figuring things out.

5. Meanwhile, Garland was Garland, and he seems to have picked up right where he left off last season. He went for 23 points and 12 assists, and you can just tell he’s extremely determined to make his pairing with Mitchell succeed. He really is mature beyond his years on the court these days.

6. Yes, Garland struggled shooting as well (8-of-21), but that was theme for a lot of players. Garland and Mitchell should have some serious battles in the regular season with the Hawks’ new backcourt of Dejounte Murray (17 points) and Trae Young (14). 

7. And Young was a miserable 3-of-17 from the field. So again, the Cavs’ guards weren’t the only ones who couldn’t knock ’em down.

8. Anyway, Caris LeVert was a healthy scratch, opening the door for Isaac Okoro to start at small forward. Okoro is clearly in the running to earn the spot — and he made a strong case, with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

9. Everything I’m hearing says LeVert remains the favorite. He proved last game that he has really worked on locating the open man and keeping things moving for easier baskets. LeVert wants the job, and by all accounts, it’s his to lose. But this was a good opportunity for Okoro to show what he could do, and he made the most of it.

10. Along with that, Cedi Osman had one of those games where he looked like he may be worthy of a starting role, scoring 12 points in the first half on his way to 16 overall. That said, Osman has yet to do anything consistently, and until he has nights like Wednesday more regularly, he is indeed best suited to come off the bench.

11. You also can’t help but be impressed with hustling Cavs forward Mamadi Diakite. No one really expected him to make the team, but his athleticism and productivity may make a natural backup for Kevin Love (healthy scratch) and Dean Wade (ditto).

12. Diakite doesn’t have near the range of those two, but man, does he attack the glass. The Cavs also like how he plays with energy and doesn’t miss rotations defensively. On this night, he went for 13 points, 11 rebounds, a couple of steals and a swat.

13. Well, that’s it for preseason home games. It’s hard to say what’s in store for the finale Friday at Orlando. We may see a lot of the guys who are most likely headed for the G League. We may or may not see the likes of Garland, Mitchell or Jarrett Allen at all.

14. Finally, forward Evan Mobley has been working out and looks closer to a return from a sprained ankle. Many suspect he will indeed be a go for the season-opener (Oct. 19 at Toronto).

15. Mobley told Tim Alcorn and Jim Chones of Cavs radio he is not only working on extending the range on his jumper, but “I’m working on my playmaking as well.” He added that the Cavs “are going to trust me with the ball and I want to make the most of that.”

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