CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The buzzword for the expectations surrounding the Cavaliers this season is “runway.”
Cavaliers President of Basketball operations Koby Altman has used it multiple times to describing his team.
“This year is not contention or bust at all,” Altman said. “We're still a very young group and we're gaining experience.”
The Cavs played 84 games last year. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be playing deep into May and possibly beyond. As this group makes the transition from the honeymoon of the come up to the weight of expectations, the Wine and Gold remain focused on embracing who they are and not adding any additional pressure.
“This is a runway, I think, that we have here with multiple years, with guys under contract for the foreseeable future,” Altman said. “We want to grow, and we want to add more playoff experience and build towards something.”
Altman wouldn’t put a ceiling on what he thought his team could do but did temper any “championship or bust” talk at the team’s annual media day at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. He instead focused on continuing the growth his team has shown and carrying it over the course of the next few seasons.
“We want to grow, and we want to add more playoff experience and build towards something,” Altman said. “You have not seen Darius yet in his prime. What does that look like? What does the internal growth look like for Evan Mobley?”
The Cavs burst onto the NBA scene last year largely thanks to Mobley and Garland. Embracing a scrappy identity underscored the culture that J.B.
Bickerstaff, Altman and company have established in the last three-plus years.
But there will be no transition from “hunter” to “hunted” as Bickerstaff and his group are keeping the same mindset.
“It should be the same because we didn't accomplish anything last year,” Bickerstaff said. “We improved and got better. But, you know, we didn't win a championship.”
This season they’re out to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Bolstered with the addition of Donovan Mitchell in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, the Cavs are also welcoming Ricky Rubio back into the fold.
“Chemistry is fragile, you know?” Bickerstaff said. “The details of what you're doing and how they impact the next rotation or the next step, whatever it may be. You realize how delicate those things really are.”
Rubio’s presence both on the and off the floor was immeasurable for this team last season. His relationship with Mitchell will play a key role moving forward.
But as the health of the Cavs eroded down the stretch so did their position in the standings. The moves the Cavs made in the offseason were designed to fix that. Their playoff experience could be the key ingredient to their secret sauce.
However long the runway is, it’s clear Altman believes his team is clear for takeoff.
“We have competed with that top level when we were healthy and we want to continue to have that that runway and that opportunity to do it,” Altman said. “I think why this opportunity was so unique is Donovan's age. And we acquired him at 25 years old.
“He's already played in 39 playoff games. And that's what we're hoping to achieve with this group in terms of some real meaningful playoff basketball moving forward.”