In a season full of poor performances, the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered one of their worst losses against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 21. The 104-88 defeat at the hands of Chicago was one of their most important games, for better or worse. They found a way to get revenge on Jan. 27 with a 104-101 win in Chicago.

The Cavs entered the week of Jan. 20 at 9-38, the league’s worst record. On the other side, the Bulls entered the week at 10-36. For the vast majority of the game in Cleveland, Cleveland trailed Chicago by double digits, further indicating the performance gap between two of NBA’s most sluggish franchises, at the moment. Since the Bulls game, the Cavaliers lost two straight. It isn’t getting any better.

The Cavaliers had the chance to face the Bulls again and did the opposite of their performance on Jan. 21.

The Negatives in the Loss

This season, the Cavaliers defense continues to its historically awful play. Given the recent stretch of play, the defense somehow got progressively worse. Cleveland allowed 140 points to the New Orleans Pelicans, 141 to the Houston Rockets, 129 to the Portland Trail Blazers and 124 to the Denver Nuggets. While all the aforementioned teams have above-average offenses, these point totals exemplify why Cleveland’s defense grows worse.

On Jan. 21, the Cavs defense looked lost against a Bulls team without one of its starters, Wendell Carter Jr. Coming into the game, the Bulls averaged a league-worst 99.3 points per 100 possessions. Right now, the Bulls average 101.1 points/game, second-worst ahead of only the Memphis Grizzlies.

While the defense allowed 104 points, the offense was anemic. Forward Cedi Osman hadn’t improved his game from last season to that point. He collected only eight points without a single rebound. Their highest scorer, Collin Sexton, didn’t record a single assist in his 29 minutes, while guard Rodney Hood languished again, this time with only four points. Center Ante Zizic walked away with the only significant statistical output (13-9-2). Despite a poor overall performance against Chicago, the most recent stretch of basketball proves the Cavaliers continue to trend in the wrong direction. The 2018-2019 Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming historically bad.

Hot Garbage

During the Cavaliers last 18 games, they’ve compiled a 1-17 record, with their only win coming against a relatively depleted Los Angeles Lakers team. Their loss on Jan. 21 to Chicago signified they can’t even compete with the league’s worst teams. Their 10-41 record isn’t likely to improve at any point. Most recently, the Cavaliers dropped their game to the Miami Heat on Friday in Dwyane Wade‘s final game at Quicken Loans Arena. The Chicago game days before has been their most significant game all season.

At their current pace, the Cavaliers are likely to depart the 2018-2019 campaign with the franchise’s worst season. The 2002-2003 Cavaliers finished at 17-65, but if this particular team can’t compete with team’s like Chicago, 17 total wins this season seems nearly impossible.

The Positives in the Loss

The Cavaliers 16-point loss to the Bulls signified an important campaign goal for the organization’s front office: their odds to win the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery will only continue to improve. Despite the front office’s insistence to keep their core players and continue to build, the Cavaliers organization remains in the early stages of a full-scale rebuild. For the rest of the 2018-2019 campaign, it doesn’t look like the Cavaliers have many wins left in the tank.

Cleveland’s loss on Monday doesn’t sour all hope. The Cavaliers organization will be among the three worst teams in the NBA, all of which have the same odds to win the draft lottery. As long as Cleveland doesn’t compete well the rest of the season, they’ll stand a 14% at the #1 pick, where one of Duke’s superstars Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett will hear his name called with the first overall selection.

In addition, the Cavaliers will remain active at the trade deadline, in the hopes of acquiring additional draft picks for the upcoming draft and beyond. Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin told reporter Terry Pluto the organization will take advantage of expiring contracts to acquire draft assets.

“I think they’ll be in the epicenter as the trade deadline comes. It should really be interesting,” Griffin told Pluto. “Just like now, we had a huge advantage of an owner [Dan Gilbert] willing to take on money to help add assets and draft picks. He’s doing it again.”

Given the Cavaliers current talent pool, it’s unlikely any big splashes will be made at the trade deadline. If Cleveland can add additional draft selections in relatively diverse 2019 draft class, the rebuild can take off much quicker. The Cavaliers loss to the Bulls can’t feel good, but it puts Cleveland at better odds to win the upcoming draft lottery.

Despite their 0-3 record this week, it’s been successful, mainly considering their lottery odds improvement. If they couldn’t beat Chicago their last try, they’ll likely finish 0-4 to end the week.

Sweet Revenge

Since that game, the Cavs are 1-2 with the win on Jan. 27 but have looked a bit better. Osman is averaging 23.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in three games since then. Jordan Clarkson has been very good in these last three games with 12.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in Cleveland’s win in Chicago.

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