Billed as the next dynamic, frontcourt combo similar to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the featured storyline of this upcoming Cleveland Cavaliers season will be rookie Darius Garland and sophomore Collin Sexton starting in the same lineup.
As the regular season begins next, will we see Garland starting the opener alongside Sexton? During the Cavaliers four preseason games, Garland started in none of them. While it’s unlikely the Cavaliers start Garland for the season opener against the Orlando Magic, he can certainly earn a starter role as the season continues.
According to Chris Fedor of cleveland.com, head coach John Beilein said the team will experiment with different lineups throughout the season. In Garland’s personal arena, he said the rookie will earn starting minutes if he continues to improve in practice and in games.
“If he’s able to practice enough and earn it, I have no qualms about that at all,” Beilein told cleveland.com when asked if Garland will start. “But there’s a certain process you have to go through to be that starting point guard and whatever it’s going to take. We will get him in when we think it’s best for the team to win.”
While Beilein remains optimistic about the team, the focus should be on developing their young guards to start together, or at least play significant minutes alongside each other.
The Cavaliers shouldn’t start Garland immediately after the regular season commences, but the organization shouldn’t wait too long. It’s likely Beilein will wait until the middle or end of November to start Garland alongside Sexton.
What will the Cavaliers starting lineup look like?
Even if Garland doesn’t start the regular season as the team’s starting point guard, Beilein will likely employ two point guards anyway. While Jordan Clarkson is the team’s best scorer, he thrives off the bench. During the preseason contests, Beilein started veterans Matthew Dellavedova and Brandon Knight with Sexton as the two-guard.
“We have two guys that you call true…that’s all they’ve played is point guard and that would be Delly and Darius,” Beilein told reporters last week. “Collin has a unique ability that he can do both. We will see how it works with everybody. Collin will play a lot of off guard. It’s combo guard, that’s all it is.”
Beilein views Sexton as an integral part of the Cavaliers offense, although based on the comments he made last week, it’s likely Sexton won’t be the primary ball handler. The Cavaliers will likely defer that role to either Knight or Dellavedova to start the season, with Clarkson taking over off the bench.
The remaining starting rotation spots appear guaranteed to Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. While the Cavaliers defense would improve if Tristan Thompson started at center, he doesn’t fit in Beilein’s offense.
The Cavaliers head coach preached spacing during his college years and at training camp this offseason. Thompson simply can’t shoot. Nance Jr. improved his range since he first joined Cleveland.
In 67 games last year, Nance Jr. shot 33.7% from three-point range, a significant upgrade from the previous season. The team could likely start both during the course of the season, although not at the same time. Unlike Garland and Sexton, these two wouldn’t play well alongside each other.
Beilein’s expectations for the early regular season
After a disappointing preseason slate, the Cavaliers need to improve all aspects of their game before the regular season starts next Wednesday in Orlando.
“We’ve got a lot of obstacles right now that we have to somehow use as stepping stones,” Beilein told Chris Fedor of cleveland.com. “We were doing a lot of skill development and we still have to do some of that, but there are so many things in the NBA. To guard defensively. Our timing. We’re trying to change like on the run because we’re realizing some of the things we’re doing, people aren’t adapting to it quick enough, so we have to change a little bit.”
Beilein’s comments about the team’s defense should come as no surprise. The Cavaliers ranked toward the bottom of nearly every statistical category in defense last season. If Garland and Sexton both start in some games throughout the season, the defense might struggle similar to that of their previous season.
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