After an embarrassing and humbling loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Saturday's tilt with the Detroit Pistons has become vital for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's right: the team that didn't win a single game in November and has only won two games this year will be the Cavs' biggest test.
That's a lot riding on a game considering it's against a hopeless Pistons team, but jobs and the team's future could be on the line. Unfortunately, this is also the hole Cleveland dug for itself. Hopefully, the Cavs can find a way forward and finally turn the corner.
Caris LeVert headlines Cavs' absences vs. Pistons
Unfortunately, JB Bickerstaff's team will be without one of its key scoring threats on Saturday in the Motor City. Caris LeVert was seen limping on the court toward the end of loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and had been ruled out with a left knee injury. Joining LeVert, Dean Wade (ankle), Ty Jerome (ankle), Emoni Bates (G League), Isaiah Mobley (G League) and Ricky Rubio (personal) are all unavailable for Cleveland.
Rubio's ongoing absence is expected as the Cavs give the veteran point guard as much time as he needs to prioritize his mental wellbeing and decide what is best for him. Meanwhile, Bates and Mobley are getting well-deserved rest after playing recently for the Cleveland Charge, the team's NBA G League affiliate, to get the on-court reps they typically won't get with the Cavs.
Wade has been dealing with a sprained ankle and has missed several games. But he was spotted at practice recently going through an extensive shooting drill with coaches. Sources tell ClutchPoints that Wade is on track to be available for Cleveland sooner rather than later, which gives the Cavs another healthy rotation piece available. Getting Wade back would be a massive boost for Cleveland considering how valuable his skill set is as a big forward with the ability to hit shots from the perimeter.
Of course, the Cavs won't rush Wade back to the floor, but he'll make a team that's already deep much harder to game plan against on a nightly basis. Meanwhile, with Jerome, it's tricky to determine when he'll be back on the floor after Bickerstaff shared that his recovery hasn't progressed as they had hoped. The team's medical staff is trying alternative methods to regain the backup guard, but his availability remains uncertain.
While Craig Porter Jr. has entrenched himself in the rotation, getting Jerome back would give Cleveland even more three-point shooting threats and another guard to support Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Though Cleveland has rode out the storm absent the help of Wade and Jerome, the lack of LeVert is a huge blow for a Cavs team trying to find their way.
LeVert is Cleveland's primary scoring threat off the bench and has been part of a lethal lineup alongside Garland, Mitchell, Max Strus and Evan Mobley. While the Cavs might be able to afford to be without LeVert against a team as pitiful as the Pistons, there was a similar sentiment against the Trail Blazers. Cleveland cannot afford to come out flat against Detroit and without LeVert, it could be an extra load on Garland, Mitchell and Strus to carry the Cavs to the finish line.