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Cavs address shooting, toughness after last season's playoff disappointment

Cleveland Cavaliers' Evan Mobley (4) looks to shoot as New York Knicks' Julius Randle (30) defends.
Phil Long
The Cavaliers hope Evan Mobley, here looking to shoot against the New York Knicks in Game 5 of the NBA playoffs last season, takes a big step forward this year.

The Cleveland Cavaliers began this preseason with their quick playoff exit and Donovan Mitchell's contract on their minds.

Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said fans are struggling to feel positive after last season’s 51-31 record, followed by the abrupt five-game playoff loss against the New York Knicks.

“And you also went from really good, which is a six-month judgment of a regular season, to really terrible after about two weeks in the playoffs. So, this is a pretty good team. And going into this season, that's how Cavs fans should view it,” Pluto said.

Pluto believes the way to truly measure the team is to look at the direction it’s headed.

“So that's why when people get really emotionally off the hook about what happened in the playoffs, I'm like, 'Can we put some context to it? The team won 51 games. The team became watchable and relevant. And now if your standard is it's a championship or nothing. I have to wonder, what do you even watch in pro sports for?'” Pluto said.

Pluto believes the Cavs brought in free agent shooters Max Strus and George Niang to address their lack of rebounding and scoring in the playoffs.

Now they're not big household names, but they are established three-point shooters that really should help,” Pluto said.

Pluto said the primary growth has to come internally.

“Donovan Mitchell, who is their, kind of, one established star, he's only 27. The guy that they're hoping could really take steps forward, and not just them, but other people in the NBA believe so, is Evan Mobley, who's 22. And if you look at the teams in the NBA, they tend to have guys in their late twenties, early thirties, the teams that are really good,” Pluto said.

Hanging over the upcoming season is Donovan Mitchell's future with the team and whether he will sign a contract extension. Pluto said Mitchell is under contract for two more years and has said he will wait until next summer before deciding.

“If Donovan Mitchell waits till next summer, when he still would have one more year to go on the contract, it would be worth $60 million more than if he signs it now. And so, there's always going to be the speculation around any of these players who approach free agency, who are pretty big names, where they're going to go,” Pluto said.

Pluto said what’s more important is that Mitchell comes through when the team needs him most.

“I'll tell you this much, Donovan Mitchell played very poorly in New York at Madison Square Garden in the playoffs. He looked as starry eyed as some rookie. So, I think that's part of what this year is going to be about, too, is Donovan Mitchell to have this exalted star status that he would like and he should have, he needs to lead these guys when it comes playoff time to play like a hard and tough playoff team,“ Pluto said.

Pluto’s advice for Cavs fans is to enjoy the ride.

“Don't worry about Donovan Mitchell's contract. Worry about, you know, is your team going to be fun to watch? I think it will be," he said. "Watch to see how Evan Mobley grows as a player. And really, I just think they're going to win around 50 games again and it's going to be enjoyable. So just enjoy it."

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