With teams like the Clippers, the Celtics and the Knicks playing extremely well recently, there’s been a lot of talk about who’s the hottest team in the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t seem to be mentioned as much, despite them playing just as well, if not better. Going over their standout players, their wins, their defense and their bench, here’s an argument for why Cleveland is the hottest team in the NBA. Very important to note, all stats used in this article are referring to each teams’ performance over the last 20 games, not the entire season.
The two best players for Cleveland over this 20 game stretch have been Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen. Mitchell has averaged 29.8 points, 7.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game with a 50.4 field goal percentage. Allen has averaged 18.2 points, 13 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 blocks.
Over the last 20 games, the Cavaliers have won more than any other team. They’ve racked up 17 wins. The Knicks and the Clippers have won 16 each, and the Suns, Celtics and Nuggets have claimed 14 victories a piece.
When looking at each teams’ wins over this period, there are solid performances across the board. The most notable teams the Knicks have beaten are the Heat, the Nuggets and The 76rs, while the most notable teams the Clippers have beaten are the Suns, the Celtics and the Thunder. The most notable teams the Cavs have beaten are the Mavericks, the Kings, the Bucks and the Clippers.
The Cavs have been solid offensively, 11th in average points and assists per game in the previous 20 outings. They are averaging the thirteenth highest three point percentage per game (37.5), but they’re taking the third most three point attempts. In this case, quantity is resulting in quality. They’re sound offensively (certain players are scoring in abundance), but defense is where they’re leading the pack.
Cleveland has had the lowest defensive rating over the last 20 games at 107.3. Trailing the Cavs are the Knicks (108.6) and the Timberwolves (110.6). Although the Knicks have a lower defensive rating off the bench with 108.2 (current league leader), the Cavs are close behind with 108.4. Cleveland’s bench, though, is another story.
Because of injury, the Cavs have been forced to dig deep into their roster to both fill their swiss cheese starting lineup and fill out their bench. They currently have the fourth highest bench usage rate. This has turned out surprisingly well, however, as Cleveland’s bench has been tremendous. Along with having the fourth highest usage rate off the bench (18.9), they’re also fourth in scoring off the bench (43.8 points per game) and have the fourth highest three point percentage off the bench (38.8). Though the Clippers have a higher three point percentage off the bench, neither the Clippers nor the Knicks lead the Cavaliers in usage rate or scoring.
The Cavs have a plethora of tools off the bench. There’s Caris LeVert who continues to make his case for sixth man of the year and Isaac Okoro who can lock up just about anyone. Surprise standouts Sam Merrill, who has maybe the quickest jump shot in the league, and Craig Porter Jr, the undrafted guard who helped lead Cleveland to a Summer League championship. Georges Niang also continues to keep play dynamic with his ability to both rebound and stretch the floor.
Although “hottest team” is a subjective phrase, the Cavaliers are playing just as well, if not better than the rest of the league over the last 20 games.
Cleveland looks to expand their eight game winning streak this Saturday (February 10) at 7:30 in Toronto.
Featured photo courtesy of NBA.com
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