This has been an up-and-down season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but with several of their rivals dealing with much bigger problems, they have managed to maintain second place in the East standings for more than a month now.

Among Cleveland’s core of Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen, only Allen has been relatively healthy this season as he has appeared in 61 of their 66 games so far. Mobley is currently sidelined with an ankle sprain while Mitchell just returned from a seven-game absence with a left knee bruise.

The Cavaliers went just 3-4 while Mitchell was sidelined, yet the silver lining of this tough stretch was that it gave Garland a chance to finally regain his rhythm after missing 20 games with a broken jaw. The 6’1 guard was sidelined from mid-December up until late January and initially struggled upon his return.

However, last month’s All-Star break seemed to have done him some good as he has picked up his averages to 20.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in the 13 games since. The absence of Mitchell was definitely helpful as it led to more on-ball opportunities for Garland.

Now that Mitchell has returned, Cleveland’s All-Star backcourt has just enough time to reacquaint themselves with one another before the postseason begins. In Mitchell’s first game back, they pulled off an impressive 116-95 road win against the New Orleans Pelicans with Garland leading the charge.


The one-time NBA All-Star Garland led the Cavaliers with 27 points, six three-pointers, six rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, a block, and only one turnover as he also played a key role in their second half run that put the game away. Garland’s 11 assists were a team-high on a night when Cleveland set a season-high with 38. They also set a franchise record as reserves Sam Merrill and Caris LeVert recorded nine assists each, marking the first time in franchise history that three Cavaliers tallied at least nine in a single game.

Garland’s unselfishness set the tone for Cleveland and his ability to run this team may ultimately decide their ceiling come the playoffs. The Cavaliers infamously dropped out of the first round last season despite having home court advantage, but with another year together under their belts and potentially a higher seed, they have as strong a chance as ever to make it past the first round.

Cleveland is currently tied for second place in the East with the Milwaukee Bucks as both own a 42-24 win-loss record. They own a comfortable 3.5-game lead over the fourth place New York Knicks and it seems unlikely that either team will slide down the standings over the next month.

With Garland rediscovering his All-Star form and the team now almost at full strength, these Cavaliers may prove to be a dark horse contender come the postseason. Garland has yet to earn a place in the discussion on the best point guards in the league today, though if he can keep this up until the playoffs, it is only a matter of time before he gains recognition as one of the best in the league today.