CLEVELAND — Even with a disappointing loss in the play-in tournament, the 2021-22 season was still a major step forward for the Cavaliers, who at 44-38 finished with their first winning record in four years.
While there will be no playoffs for Cleveland this time around, the NBA is still taking great notice of the team's exploits, and on Sunday three players were nominated for different league awards.
First is center Evan Mobley, who is up for Rookie of the Year. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, Mobley averaged 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds a game to emerge as one of the NBA's brightest young stars at just 20 years old. His mark for boards led all first-year players, and he is joined by fellow finalists Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons and Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors.
Next, power forward Kevin Love is nominated for Sixth Man of the Year, punctuating an improbable career renaissance for the 33-year-old. After multiple injury-plagued seasons, the only remaining member of the Cavs' 2016 NBA championship squad led the club with 74 games played while also averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Miami Heat's Tyler Herro and the Phoenix Suns' Cam Johnson are also nominated.
Finally, Darius Garland is a finalist for Most Improved Player after making the jump from up-and-coming point guard to bona fide game-breaker. Still just 22, Garland finished in the league's top 20 for both points (21.7) and assists (8.6) per game and was named to his first NBA All-Star Game, which was held at Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Other finalists include Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzles and DeJounte Murray of the San Antonio Spurs.
Two Cavaliers -- LeBron James in 2003 and Kyrie Irving in 2011 -- have earned Rookie of the Year honors, while no Cleveland player has ever won either Sixth Man of the Year or Most Improved Player. Winners will be announced throughout the NBA Playoffs.