The NBA just announced the 2021-22 regular season schedule for every NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers included. On Wednesday, October 20 Cleveland opens up their 2021-22 campaign on the road against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavaliers then make their home debut two days later on Friday, October 22 against LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets and then host Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks immediately after on the second night of a back-to-back.
Cleveland is slated to play 82 regular season games, including 41 home contests. Cleveland will host 19 weekend dates comprised of four Friday games, eight Saturday games and seven Sunday games. The Cavaliers will also make four national television appearances on NBA TV but none on ESPN or TNT. So, for now, the world will just have to wait just a bit longer to witness Collin Sexton and the other members of the top young cores in the league. Today, we’ll break down the good, and the bad, from the Cavaliers’ schedule and share what everyone else might be missing out on.
Other than the fact that Cleveland will host All-Star festivities this season, the Cavaliers will have quite a highlight matchups at home throughout the season. Highlights for the home schedule include a pair of visits from the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on January 26 and April 10 and the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns on November 24. Cleveland hosts Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets twice, including a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee game against the Nets on January 17. The Cavaliers will also play on New Year’s Eve at home for the first time since 2014 when they take on Young and the Hawks. Opponents coming to Cleveland only once this season include their former rival in the Golden State Warriors on November 18, the Utah Jazz on December 5, the new-look Los Angeles Lakers on March 21 and Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on March 30.
But, despite the star power throughout their schedule, Cleveland also has plenty of tests early. To start things off, they open up against LaMelo Ball, arguably one of the top young guards in the league, and then immediately follow against Trae Young and last year's Eastern Conference Finalist Hawks. Immediately after that, Cleveland hits the road for the next five games where they will take on reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers, the Suns and finally Ball and the Charlotte Hornets again. The Cavaliers are then back home for a quick cup of coffee against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 3 before hitting the road again against the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks.
Now, this seems like it should go in the bad section and not the good, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, there's a very good chance Cleveland opens up their schedule and the month of October winless. But, this brutal stretch to open things is a great test for their young core as well. There's a good chance next season that the Cavaliers will have a starting lineup that possesses an average age of 21.2 years old. Throughout next season, there are going to be plenty of moments where this combination of youth and inexperience comes back to bite Cleveland.
Ideally, teams like the Cavaliers would want to iron these issues sooner instead of later so that they don't fester. That's why this brutal stretch to start the season can be a teaching opportunity for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and allow him to teach some of his young players, especially Evan Mobley, what it takes to win at the next level. Like former Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue once said, "It's not about wins and losses, it's about wins and lessons."
It seems the Cavaliers will learn plenty of lessons early into the season and if the team is serious about their playoff ambitions, will set the tone for things as well.
Other than the obviously brutal stretch to start their season, and the fact that fans not in Cleveland or subscribed to NBA League Pass will only be able to see the Cavaliers on national tv four times, there's plenty to not like about their schedule as well. To start, the Cavaliers play 15 sets of back-to-back games, including six road-road sets, five road-home sets, three home-home sets and one home-road set.
For a team that has oft-injured players on their roster in Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr. and Dylan Windler in their rotation, this is suboptimal for Cleveland. Bickerstaff will likely have to shuffle his rotation more often than not and that likely means leaning on the team's young core more than ever. That likely in all honesty means more losing for the Cavaliers as well and that probably sinks their play-in hopes even further.
Other than that, the fact that the buzzsaw road trip to start the season for Cleveland isn't their longest is hard to believe. That trip starts when the Cavaliers take on the Trail Blazers in Portland. They then travel to play the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings, the Utah Jazz, the San Antonio Spurs and then wrap things up against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During that trip, Cleveland will play six games in nine nights with the majority of them being back-to-back scenarios (Warriors-Kings, Spurs-Thunder). That goes hand in hand with the pre-existing issue of the Cavaliers already having so many back-to-back sets to begin with and forcing Bickerstaff to continue to be creative with his rotations and minutes for certain players. It's also during the pre-All-Star Break dog days stretch so that could play a factor in how things pan out for the Cavaliers as well.
Cleveland got better this offseason with the additions of Evan Mobley and Ricky Rubio. But, the rest of the Eastern Conference also got better as well and that already made it tough footing as the Cavaliers try to climb into the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, a mix of their youth, some very tough stretches throughout the schedule and a proper lack of wing depth could have Cleveland on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin next year. Granted, a lot can change between now and when training camp gets started this fall but it feels like a safe bet that the Cavaliers will have a similar record this season as they did last season.