NBA Restart: 2019-20
NBA Restart: 2019-20

2019-20 Season Recap: Cleveland Cavaliers

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner NBA.com

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Jun 5, 2020 2:27 PM ET

Breakout player Collin Sexton took a big step forward as a scorer in 2019-20.

The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of  the coronavirus pandemic. The season will return on July 30 and NBA.com's writers are taking an updated look at each of the league's 30 teams.

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Record: 19-46, No. 15 in Eastern Conference

Season summary: The Cavaliers got to 19 victories, just like last season -- but in 17 fewer games. So that qualifies as … no, not really. This season was headed toward a record similar to 2018-19’s post-LeBron II finish (19-63), based on Cleveland’s performance under coach John Beilein. The Cavs were 14-40 and splintering from within over unhappiness, even insubordination, when Beilein -- the supposed veteran teacher -- got dumped. His replacement, J.B. Bickerstaff, had them at 5-6 playing as the season hiatus began, sharing the ball (24 assists or more in 10 of 11) and enjoying themselves more.

Breakout player: Second-year guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 pick in 2018, stepped up despite only slight increases in minutes or usage. His scoring average (20.8) is up from his rookie season (16.7), as is his field-goal percentage (47.2% from 43%). Sexton was especially unleashed since the All-Star break, scoring at least 25 points in seven of his last eight games (the longest such Cavs streak since LeBron James left). It remains to be seen if Sexton and Darius Garland are the backcourt of the future, but they’re the only two rookies in franchise history it make 100 or more 3-pointers.

 
Collin Sexton went for a career-high 41 points in a loss to the Celtics.

Statement win: In their third game under Bickerstaff and second in a row against Miami, the Cavaliers dug themselves out of a 22-point hole late in the third quarter to win in overtime, 125-119, on Feb. 24. The 19-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter tied for the biggest such comeback in franchise history. Seven scorers reached double figures, and the victory helped the Cavs to an unlikely 4-1 in OT games.

Most exciting game: Andre Drummond had 28 points and 17 rebounds, Kevin Love added 17 boards and a key 3-pointer as Cleveland beat San Antonio in overtime on March 8, 132-129. It came 24 hours after the Cavs beat Denver 104-102, a possible glimpse of better days ahead.  

 
The Cavs got one of their best wins of the season on Jan. 11 in Denver.

Memorable moments: Larry Nance, in addition to boosting his 3-point range, became only the fourth player in Cavs history to post at least 19 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and four steals in a game against the Celtics on March 4. Love, in the season’s first five games, totaled 86 points, 84 rebounds and 24 assists. Only Wilt Chamberlain in 1966 hit all those marks in his team’s first five games.

Team MVP: Love looked and sounded a little frayed in January when the Cavs were booked to play Oklahoma City. He vented at GM Koby Altman that day, then looked completely frustrated in body language and play that night. Still, Love had been consistent, averaging 17.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 3.2 apg, hitting 37.4% of his 3-pointers, all in 31.8 mpg. He has to be happier with Bickerstaff in charge; he was an assistant in Minnesota in Love’s first three NBA seasons. And the veteran forward might be inclined to stick around rather than pushing for a trade with Drummond likely exercising his player option and young pieces around them.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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