Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the NBA's most surprising team. After several fairly mediocre seasons in the wake of LeBron James's latest exodus, the Cavaliers caught lightning in a bottle. A lot of that can be attributed to the arrival of rookie phenom Evan Mobley and his superb defensive acumen, forming a monstrous tandem on the interior alongside Jarrett Allen. It also helps that Darius Garland, who Cleveland made the franchise guard of both now and the future, had a nuclear-level leap, taking his team to greater heights than before.
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With that said, unlike last year, there are now expectations heading into the 2022-23 campaign for the Cavaliers. While the organization won't publicly put the pressure on their young up-and-comers, the public expectation is playoffs or bust from fans. Cleveland will learn if they're worth their mettle early into the year, with the upcoming season tipping off on Wednesday, October 19 on the road against Toronto, followed by a matchup in Chicago on Saturday, October 22. Cleveland will play their home opener on Sunday, October 23 against the Washington Wizards, on the second game of a back-to-back.
Expectations might have changed, but, it might be time for the Cavaliers to take the next step this season. Similar to last year, today we will be breaking down the good, and the bad from the 2022-23 schedule for the Cavaliers.
With the winds of change blowing off the shores of Lake Erie and onto the hardwood of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, it appears the NBA is taking notice. Cleveland will make nine national television appearances this upcoming season. Two of their national appearances will come on TNT, with the Cavaliers playing host to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, December 6. The other Turner game featuring Cleveland will come on Thursday, February 2 (one week before this writer turns 30…) when Garland and his Cavaliers go toe to toe with Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.
On ESPN, meanwhile, things go up a little bit compared to TNT with the Cavaliers getting three appearances on the worldwide leader in sports. The first appearance will come on February 10 when Cleveland heads into the Big Easy to play Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. After that, the Cavaliers will stay on the road while on ESPN, heading to Boston to take on the defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics on March 1. Two weeks later, Cleveland then plays host to Joel Embiid, James Harden and the free throw-reliant Philadelphia 76ers in their final appearance on ESPN for the 2022-23 season.
Finally, the Cavaliers make four cameos on NBA TV this season to round out their huge bump in national tv appearances. Their first contest on NBA TV is on November 7 when Cleveland is in Los Angeles to play the Clippers on the second game of a back-to-back. Soon after, the Cavaliers appear on NBA TV again to host the Brooklyn Nets on December 26. A few months later, Cleveland's final two appearances on NBA TV happen when in Miami to play the Heat on March 10 and then on March 21 when they play the Nets at home.
Again, when things turned around for the Cavaliers, they were naturally going to be rewarded. Having so many big-time opponents like the Celtics, 76ers and Clippers are going to put into perspective where Cleveland stands in the grand scheme of things. Not only that, but, having games against teams like the Grizzlies and Pelicans, who are both young, up-and-coming rosters, on the national stage will also further put into perspective how good of a place the league is at going forward.
Other than the national recognition the Cavaliers are getting, Cleveland only has 12 sets of back-to-back games, including four road-road sets this upcoming season. That's down from the 15 they had the year prior, which is a blessing in disguise during the 82-game grind that is the NBA season. Speaking of rest, the Cavaliers have the third-most games next season where they'll be more rested than their opponents, only behind the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. Again, getting through the grind matters and having more rest will certainly help their chances at the season's end.
The Cavaliers will have a tough test early into the season, including two contests against the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. Photo credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images
In November, the Cavaliers will play 16 games – which is the most they'll play in a month other than in January. Couple that with the later start in October, which features six games in total, and Cleveland will have a lot of action early into the season. For a team that's young and spry like the Cavaliers, the volume of games played early into the season shouldn't have a huge impact on things. But, who Cleveland plays to kick off the season will likely play a huge part in how the remainder of their 2022-23 campaign will go.
As it was mentioned at the top, the Cavaliers open the season in Toronto and play on the road in Chicago. Both the Raptors and Bulls are playoff teams and could provide an earlier test for Cleveland. The Cavaliers then round out October with three non-playoff opponents in the Wizards, Magic and Knicks. But, they also have to play the Celtics in October as well, which is another serious test for Cleveland.
Once things switch over to November, that's where things get really hard for the Cavaliers and it keeps coming in waves. Here's a quick breakdown of it all:
- Nov. 2 – v. Boston Celtics
- Nov. 6 – @ Los Angeles Lakers
- Nov. 7 – @ Los Angeles Clippers
- Nov. 11 – @ Golden State Warriors
- Nov. 16 – @ Milwaukee Bucks
- Nov. 20 – v. Miami Heat
- Nov. 21 – v. Atlanta Hawks
- Nov. 25 – @ Milwaukee Bucks
- Nov. 28 – @ Toronto Raptors
- Nov. 30 – v. Philadelphia 76ers
Woof. Sure, there are a few bad teams sprinkled in between all those games but, that's a rough way to start the season if you're Cleveland. But, again, if the Cavaliers want to prove their worth on the NBA stage and be seen as a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference, this is the best way for them to further grow and develop in real-time.
If the Cavaliers are able to get through this with a strong record, it could set the tone for the remainder of their season. They have another tough test when the calendar changes to 2023 with five road games in nine nights. But, if they survive the grinder of the early season, then Cleveland should be alright and break on through to the other side.
Final thoughts, record prediction
Cleveland is banking a lot on the internal growth of their young star trio of Garland, Mobley and Allen. There will be a ton of anticipation leading up to the start of this season and some would argue that it's the most anticipated season in the team's recent history. It'll be fair to wonder if the Cavaliers will meet, and surpass, these expectations or crumble under the weight of them. The rest of the Eastern Conference got better since Cleveland's season ended, so things might be a bit heavier for the Cavaliers right out of the gates. But, if they're able to weather the storm, they'll be just alright and finally make the playoffs for the first time without LeBron James since the 1997-98 season.
Final record prediction/result: 48-34, fifth seed in the Eastern Conference
Featured image credit: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!