CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers are officially on the NBA radar.
The annual NBA GM Survey — a compilation of 50 questions about the best teams, players, coaches and offseason moves — was released Tuesday morning, and the Cavs received plenty of acclaim.
Cleveland not only topped the list for best offseason and best young core, getting 41% of the total vote in both, but also had individual players getting various honors.
On the heels of a surprising 44-win season that saw the Cavs advance to the play-in tournament, the upstart organization acquired three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell in a blockbuster deal with the Utah Jazz.
That move, which raised expectations and transformed them a legitimate Eastern Conference threat (picked to finish 6th in this survey) was the signature maneuver that led to the “best offseason.” But there were others. The Cavs signed reliable veterans Ricky Rubio, Raul Neto and Robin Lopez. They locked up franchise pillar Darius Garland with a maximum contract extension. Gave Dean Wade — one of six players in the mix to start at small forward this coming season — a multi-year deal. Drafted — and traded — sharpshooter Ochai Agbaji. Added former NBA head coach Luke Walton to the staff.
With first-time All-Stars Garland and Jarrett Allen already on the roster, Mitchell’s early-September arrival pushed that number to three. The Cavs, who believe Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley could make it four as soon as this year, and reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors are the only teams with that many — a status that helps explain why Cleveland edged out 56-win Memphis for “best young core.” The Grizzlies were second in that category with 38% of the vote while the Detroit Pistons finished third.
All four of Cleveland’s foundational building blocks — Allen, Garland, Mitchell and Mobley — are 26 years old or younger and under contract for at least the next three seasons. The Cavs also have some young rotational players — third-year swingman Isaac Okoro (21), Wade (25), Lamar Stevens (25), Dylan Windler (26) Cedi Osman (27) and Caris LeVert (28).
As for Mitchell, he was chosen by GMs as the acquisition to make the biggest impact for his new team. Mitchell got 59% of the vote, taking the honor from former teammate Rudy Gobert — who was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal that helped start the Jazz rebuild — and New York’s offseason prize Jalen Brunson. The Cleveland-Utah trade was also considered the second-most surprising move of the summer, topped only by Gobert joining Minnesota.
While countless guys received votes for most likely to have a breakout season, Cavs wunderkind Mobley was the winner. Mobley earned 21% of the vote, beating out, among others, Cade Cunningham, Anthony Edwards and Zion Williamson — the last three No. 1 picks.
“He has the ability to be a superstar without being the leading scorer on your team,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said at media day. “He has an opportunity to be the best player on the floor without having to take the most shots. That’s hard to find. He can stuff the stat sheet in every category, that’s our expectation for him. We want him eventually — and hopefully it’s this year — to be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. We believe he has that type of ability and can have that type of impact on the floor.”
All of the acclaim led to Cleveland being tabbed as the second-most improved team, tied with the New Orleans Pelicans and only bested by the Los Angeles Clippers.
In other categories, league executives picked the Milwaukee Bucks to win the NBA championship, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic as the MVP, Orlando’s Paolo Banchero to get Rookie of the Year and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra as the best coach.
As is the case every offseason, general managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel and percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular questions as opposed to all 30 GMs.