The NBA has moved towards small-ball lineups in recent years, but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big lineup is going against the grain. Basketball has moved towards a positionless style with highly-versatile players. Cleveland has managed to build a positionless lineup with substantial size in the lineup.
The Cavaliers’ big lineup consists of three players at 6-foot-11 or taller: Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen. At both forward spots and center, the Cavs have three players with center-like size and tremendous versatility. All three players are capable of guarding along the perimeter, and both Mobley and Markkanen can step outside to knock down threes. This big lineup from Cleveland has terrorized the NBA this season.
Cleveland’s Big Lineup is Extremely Unusual
Opposing teams have yet to find a consistent answer for the Cavaliers’ big lineup due to its unorthodox nature. Not many NBA lineups in the last 10 years can compare to their starting five. It is a unique combination of players that very few have seen and stopping it is easier said than done.
As mentioned, the lineup’s defensive versatility is what makes it so unordinary. Not many 7-footers are capable of staying with the talented perimeter scorers in the NBA. However, the Wine and Gold have found two capable of doing so with Allen and Mobley. In addition, Markkanen was never known for his defense but he has done very well at small forward. Against what most thought, Markkanen has held up well on the defensive end and has even had several excellent defensive games.
NBA rosters have gotten smaller in the last handful of years as the tempo of play has increased. Teams want to push the ball and play at a high pace, which bigger players usually can’t keep up with. What the Cavs have done with their roster is a solution to keeping size on the floor while keeping up with a high pace of play. Due to teams having less size, this has made Cleveland’s big lineup even more lethal.
Smaller Opposing Rosters has Made the Big Lineup more Effective
The availability of players around the league has been all over the place this season. Similar to the last two years, COVID-19 has continued to spread around the NBA. With the combination of the pandemic and NBA teams decreasing their size, this is causing even more problems for opposing rosters vs. the big lineup.
For example, Wednesday evening the Cavaliers easily beat the Utah Jazz on the road. While Cleveland nearly had their full starting lineup, the Jazz was missing a lot of size. Utah did not have substantial size coming off the bench and had to roll with a small lineup. Of course, this small lineup could not defeat Cleveland’s giant starting five.
The large lineup from the Cavaliers is already presenting enough problems. With many players unavailable around the association, this is further amplifying the tricky task to match up with Cleveland’s starting lineup. If the Cavs add another perimeter scorer before the trade deadline, this will be a dark horse team to watch during the playoffs. With advantageous matchups, Cleveland could fight for a deep playoff run.
Featured image courtesy of Jason Miller/Getty Images
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