Cavaliers 2021 Schedule: Top Games, Updated Championship Odds and Predictions

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2021

Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff, left, talks with Collin Sexton during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Cleveland. The Knicks won 95-86. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The first two years following LeBron James' second departure offered little in the way of optimism for the Cleveland Cavaliers

In terms of the standings, this season is more of the same. The Cavs sit 14th in the Eastern Conference at 11-21, at one point losing 10 games in a row.

To some extent, Cleveland's record belies the progress that's being made. While general manager Koby Altman was laying the groundwork for the future, it was difficult entering 2020-21 to identify who could plausibly contribute in a meaningful way once the Cavaliers were closer to contending.

Now, Cleveland looks to have a solid foundation with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro. Larry Nance Jr. was an instrumental member of the rotation, too, before a fractured finger took him out of action.

Thanks to their February swoon, the playoffs are probably out of the question. If they can right the ship a bit in the second half, then this year will still be a positive in the event they wind up in the lottery once again.


2020-21 Second-Half Schedule Details

Second-Half Opener: at New Orleans, March 12 at 8 p.m. ET

Championship Odds: +25000 (via FanDuel) (bet $100 to win $25,000)

Schedule: NBA.com


Top Matchups

Chicago Bulls (First Matchup: March 24)

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Prior to this season, the Cavs and Chicago Bulls were effectively in the same place. Then Chicago revamped its front office and hired Billy Donovan to replace Jim Boylen. That seemingly put the Bulls on a stronger footing going forward.

Undoing the damage from the Boylen era will take time, but things have improved with Donovan in charge. Zach LaVine is building a possible All-Star candidacy. Coby White is showing progress in his second season. Lauri Markkanen is having his most efficient shooting year.

In short, the Bulls are where the Cavs wanted to be.

The teams have yet to cross paths, so they should have plenty of head-to-head confrontations in the second half. Those encounters will be a good measuring stick for how far Cleveland still needs to go in order to take a step forward in its organizational development.


Washington Wizards (First Matchup: April 30)

Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Cavs can take some solace from the fact they aren't falling short of expectations as much as the Washington Wizards are.

Trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook made sense on the basis that Wall's four-year, $171.1 million contract made it tough to line up the salaries with another player(s). Westbrook's $41.4 million salary is nearly identical to that of Wall, and Houston was eager to move the 2016-17 MVP.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, Wall has rebounded nicely from his Achilles injury. Westbrook, on the other hand, continues to see his performance decline.

Along the same lines, Washington probably wants a do-over on Davis Bertans' five-year, $80 million contract since Bertans is knocking down a career-low 37.2 percent of his three-pointers.

As a result, a career year from Bradley Beal is going to waste. Finishing below the Cavs in the East would be a sign of how badly things have gone off the rails in the nation's capital.


Season Forecast

After winning nine of their first 18 games, the Cavs have fallen back to where many expected them to be before the season. The absence of Kevin Love hasn't helped, nor did the Nance injury because he did a bit of everything on both ends of the court.

Things probably won't pick up too much in the second half because Andre Drummond may not be long for Cleveland. The same is true of JaVale McGee since it seems inevitable the 33-year-old is moved to a contender or bought out entirely.

The Cavs' slide across January and February removed any incentive to be a buyer at the trade deadline. Maybe they take advantage of a team desperate to shed money as they did last year in the Drummond deal. Otherwise, reinforcements probably aren't arriving.

The next few months are mostly about seeing how Allen fits into the frontcourt and how he jells with Sexton and Garland.

Record Prediction: 20-52


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