There are only 29 games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the start of the Eastern Conference Playoffs starting with a home tilt against the Orlando Magic. Unfortunately, they might be without their most important player. Heading into their matchup against the Magic, the Cavs will be without Emoni Bates (NBA G League assignment), Ty Jerome (ankle), Isaiah Mobley (NBA G League assignment), Pete Nance (NBA G League assignment), and Tristan Thompson (suspension).

Bates, Mobley and Nance being unavailable shouldn't come as a surprise since all three aren't normal members of Cleveland's rotation most nights and need to take advantage of the on-court reps available to them with the Cleveland Charge, the NBA G League affiliate of the Cavs. Jerome, meanwhile, had surgery on a nagging ankle injury in late January, with no sign of return while Thompson is currently serving game 13 of a 25-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Donovan Mitchell's status for Cavs-Magic

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with guard Darius Garland (10) during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland will be missing its best player against the Magic, too. Donovan Mitchell was initially listed as questionable to play on Thursday with a non-COVID illness, and has been ruled out of action shortly before tipoff.

In their official team practice after the All-Star break, Mitchell was a non-participant according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, with the team electing to rest Mitchell after the superstar guard had a busy weekend during NBA All-Star 2024. With Mitchell is unavailable, Caris LeVert and Darius Garland will likely see an increased run for Cleveland.

Another big question mark for Cleveland against Orlando was Dean Wade, who missed several games with a lingering illness. Wade was unavailable for the Cavs in their recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and win over the Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland felt it in the worst way possible. While he may not take as many three-point attempts as fellow power forward Georges Niang, Wade is an important defensive piece off the bench for the Cavs. With Wade unavailable, Niang tried to step up on his behalf against Philadelphia and Chicago, and was bullied whenever he was forced to defend a smaller and faster Bulls player.

That's why Wade's availability for Cleveland against Orlando will be a major bonus for the Cavs against the Magic. But, on Orlando's side of things, the Magic will be without Markelle Fultz (knee), Kevin Harris (NBA G League assignment), Jett Howard (NBA G League assignment) and Trevelin Queen (NBA G League assignment).

Fultz missed Orlando's final game before the All-Star break due to left knee injury management and will be sidelined once again as the team returns to action Thursday which means Cole Anthony could see additional playing time against Cleveland. Harris, Howard, and Queen, meanwhile, aren't major parts of the Magic's rotation so the trio being unavailable doesn't have a huge impact in the grand scheme of this matchup.

In the current Eastern Conference race, the Cavs are seven games ahead of the Magic, with Cleveland in second place and Orlando in eighth. If the playoffs started today, the Cavs could host the Magic in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs if they beat the Miami Heat during the Play-In round. But, thankfully, the playoffs don't start today but, for Cleveland, with teams breathing down their necks at the top, any win counts, no matter the Eastern Conference opponent.