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Cavaliers 2019-20 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IAugust 12, 2019

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 20: Darius Garland poses for a portrait after being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20, 2019 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Steve Freeman/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers are now three years removed from their first NBA championship in franchise history, and it feels much longer ago than that.

Out with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, in with 2018 eighth overall pick Collin Sexton and rookie fifth overall pick Darius Garland. In fact, the only players remaining in Cleveland from the Cavaliers' title team are Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, while Matthew Dellavedova has returned to the team after a stint in Milwaukee.

On top of the roster turnover, Cleveland will be led by first-year head coach John Beilein in 2019-20. 

The Cavaliers are coming off a 19-63 record—the third-worst mark in the league—last season and have been ranked dead-last by ESPN in NBA power rankings heading into this season. According to ESPN's Malika Andrews, the 2019-20 campaign "will be about chemistry building, not pursuing a playoff spot." 

Below is a look at top matchups and predictions for the Cavaliers as their young core tries to build a cohesive foundation.

        

2019-20 Details

Season Opener: Oct. 23 at Orlando Magic

Championship Odds: 1,000-1 (via Caesars)

Full Schedule: Visit NBA.com

       

Top Matchups

Memphis Grizzlies (First Game: Dec. 20)

Cleveland and Memphis are both firmly in rebuild mode and expected to occupy the basement of the Eastern Conference in the meantime. However, watching Garland compete against Ja Morant, the Grizzlies' rookie second overall pick, could grant some immediate gratification. 

Garland only played in five collegiate games for Vanderbilt due to a meniscus injury in his left knee, but that didn't hinder his projection to the NBA.

According to Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman, Garland sports an NBA-ready jumper and holds the promise of Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

"In 2019-20, he'll be valued most for his streaky scoring and shooting, plus some playmaking ability as a pick-and-roll ball-handler," Wasserman added. 

Morant, meanwhile, thoroughly showcased his skill set in two seasons at Murray State. Last season, Morant averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals across 33 starts. He gained notoriety nationwide by registering a triple-double for the first time in an NCAA Tournament game since 2012.

Both playmakers are expected to immediately provide offensive firepower to their respective franchises. Add Sexton alongside Garland opposite 2018 fourth overall selection Jaren Jackson Jr. in the frontcourt for Morant, and this matchup will at the least provide entertaining highlights. At best, it will be a look into two future Eastern Conference contenders.

         

Los Angeles Lakers (Home Game: March 26)

Seeing as the Lakers are 3-1 favorites to win the title and the Cavaliers are among the worst odds to do the same (h/t Caesars), the reason to watch Los Angeles and Cleveland play is LeBron James. 

James chose to sign with the Lakers as a free agent last summer, leaving Cleveland behind for the second and presumably final time in his career.

Even though few of the same personnel from Cleveland's LeBron Era are still with the franchise, his departure will be a storyline that follows the Cavaliers for as long as he continues playing. 

Last season, the Cavaliers split their regular-season series with the Lakers 1-1—losing James' return to his hometown as a Laker 109-105 in November. 

Prior to that game, USA Today's Jeff Zillgiitt wrote of Cleveland "picking up pieces" post-LeBron: 

"Cleveland is trying to find bright spots, all of them in the future. The team is going through a transformation. They are renovating Quicken Loans Arena and rebuilding the team, and the NBA just rewarded the franchise with the 2022 All-Star Game.

[...]

"'Of course, it's tough because you want to win every game,' [Tristan] Thompson said. 'But this season, it's bigger than wins and losses, and you want to see the development. You want to see guys getting better.'" 

That mentality Thompson described follows the Cavaliers into the present. 

Thompson and Love will be pivotal in mentoring the likes of Garland, Sexton and rookie first-round forward (No. 26 overall) Dylan Windler if the franchise plans on once again ascending to the heights James once took them.

     

Prediction

The pressure will be on Beilein to prove he can coach at the NBA level. His ability to lead a mostly young group of guys—as he did at Michigan from 2007 to last season—will set the tone for how big of a developmental step the Cavaliers can take this season. 

There are plenty of other variables to consider, too.  

For one, Love played in just 22 games last season due to a toe injury. Will injury woes persist into a new season for the 30-year-old and diminish his desperately needed veteran presence? 

Though it may be an obvious point, avoiding injury will be crucial for Garland, Sexton and Windler as well because Cleveland can't afford to delay their collective development. 

At this point in Cleveland, though, anything goes. Injuries or not, the Cavs will need to take their lumps and use them to make them better—and fast. 

This will be a bumpy season at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse—make no mistake. This team as currently constructed is not anywhere near being ready to contend.

Predicted Record: 25-57