The Cavs have no intention of breaking up the ‘core four’

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have been dubbed the “core four” — the most important parts of the Cavs’ continued ascent.

Get used to that moniker. The talented quartet will be together for a while. Or so says president of basketball operations Koby Altman.

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“I intend for that to be the case,” Altman said when asked on a recent Zoom call if those four players will remain together through the 2023-2024 season. “I never promise if something miraculous were to happen, but all four know how important they are to this and there have been no talks. Outside of teams making calls and doing their jobs, no significant conversations have happened that we envision breaking up this core. It’s a core that won 51 games last year and really has a lot more room left. I think we will keep getting better.”

In the wake of Cleveland’s disappointing first-round playoff loss to the New York Knicks, talk abounded about whether Altman and the calculated front office would overreact after the non-competitive streak and consider radical roster changes. Altman tried to quell that thought, explaining in a season finale that he was not considering “sweeping changes”.

But these public comments didn’t stop the rumor mill from rolling. There was even foolish speculation that the Cavs were open to a Garland trade.

“It was the craziest rumor you’ve ever heard of in your life,” Altman said. “We drafted him. We raised him to be an All-Star. He’s under contract for five more years. He loves it here.”

When Garland wasn’t at the center of frivolous offseason speculation, it was Allen, Cleveland’s All-Star center and defensive linchpin, who raised eyebrows in late April by talking about the playoff lights being too bright.

Can a team compete with two non-shooting bigs? Are Allen and Mobley a good match? Wouldn’t it be wise to split them up? Why aren’t the Cavs looking for a bigger, stronger, tougher center? Should Allen be used in a trade to finally fix the wing spot? Is there another way forward? Is Allen overrated and overpaid?

Trade chat typically comes with being the fourth wheel. Given the other members of Cleveland’s core, Allen is realistically the most useful piece, especially with the league-wide belief that Mobley will eventually become the Cavs’ full-time center, and the organization will struggle to keep an expensive roster together.

As reported by, the Cavs received trade offers for Allen around the draft. But none were appealing enough for them to change their minds. They kept telling those interested “thanks, but no thanks.” Some of the packs involved multiple players. Others were more pick-centric, allowing Cleveland to regain lost assets after last summer’s blockbuster trade for second-team All-NBA guard Mitchell. There were also some who combined picks and players, helping Cleveland thread a short- and long-term needle.

Even after a terrible playoff run, the defense-first Cavs value Allen. He is a 25-year-old center in development who is consistently in the Defensive Player of the Year mix. He also has an affordable — and static — contract that earns $20 million annually through the 2025-26 season. Many in the organization point to his arrival more than two years ago as the moment that forever changed the course of the rebuild, and his absence is felt — on both ends of the floor — when unavailable.

Altman also believes there is enough data to indicate that Cleveland’s core four are a good fit and that the Allen-Mobley front line is a success.

So unless they get blown away with a massive offer or are presented with an unexpected opportunity, Allen will stay. The list is essentially set.

“Do I feel good about Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen? Absolutely,” Altman said. “We’ve got all kinds of defensive players in our frontcourt. Can we add to that? Absolutely. I think we’re looking at that, too. But to start there, we’re the No. 1 defense in the league because of those two. I think we are in a good place.”

The early playoff exit stung. Emotions were high. But Altman admitted it’s been easy to resist the temptation to shake things up.

“We’re very, very fortunate that the players we have — and our best players — are high-character guys who want to be in Cleveland. We got that part right,” Altman said when asked about the offseason approach. “Now it’s how do you complement that group with some dynamic shooting and also bring in guys that fit the culture?”

That’s what the Cavs have done so far in free agency, with Altman staying true to his word.

In a way, he bets on internal evolution. The Garland-Mitchell pairing will not have the stylistic growing pains of the first years. Mobley will be more involved in the offense in hopes of diversifying the attack. There is a plan for him to act as a hub from the elbows and utilize his passing ability. He will also be used at center with a four out around one offense, which may be harder to guard given the shooters Cleveland has added this summer. Therefore, there shouldn’t be an over-reliance on the high pick-and-roll, and Garland and Mitchell may not have to carry such a heavy load.

But those improvements alone wouldn’t allow the Cavs to take the next step.

So Altman assessed the roster, understood the weak points and addressed them, adding sharpshooter Max Strus, stretch forward Georges Niang, reserve point guard Ty Jerome and leaping center Damian Jones while re-signing versatile swingman Caris LeVert — the team’s best offseason. priority.

It was a purposeful approach to smartly improve around the margins and find complementary pieces that went with the core four rather than breaking it up.

“I told you not too long ago that I wasn’t going to make sweeping changes,” Altman reiterated. “I was really excited about our core, our youth, and really having patience with this group.

“I am very pleased with our acquisition.”

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