Three weeks ago the Cleveland Cavaliers were the laughingstock of the NBA.
A losing record, the failed Andrew Bynum experiment, and the subpar play of first overall pick Anthony Bennett seemed like precursors to another “mistake by the lake” season.
Fast- forward to February 6—general manager Chris Grant is fired and replaced by assistant GM David Griffin. Since Grant’s dismissal the Cavaliers have rattled off five consecutive wins by an average of 16 points a game. Three of the five wins have come on the road and the team has had four different leading scorers over that span.
Chris Grant draft picks Tristan Thompson (25 points, 15 rebounds vs. Detroit), Dion Waiters (24 points vs. Washington), and Tyler Zeller (18 points, 15 rebounds vs. Philadelphia) have played their best basketball throughout the win streak. And for anyone out there living under a rock, Kyrie Irving dazzled his way to an MVP performance in Sunday night’s All-Star Game. Irving rang up 31 points to go along with 14 assists and a number of break-your-ankles highlights in an Eastern Conference win.
The contributions haven’t been limited to Wine and Gold veterans. Oft-knocked rookie Anthony Bennett has steadily progressed. The UNLV product has averaged 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds during the winning streak, including double-doubles in two of his last three games.
Suddenly the David Griffin era Cavaliers have a legitimate shot at reaching the playoffs. Cleveland is just three games behind Charlotte for the eighth seed and trail the Atlanta Hawks (losers of six straight) by only five games for the fifth seed.
The Cavaliers play five of their next seven against teams with winning records, including away games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. Over the next two weeks we’ll find out if Cleveland rocks or if this February win streak was nothing more than a Valentine’s tease.