Skeptics were everywhere, and they included anyone who had seen the Cavaliers struggle over the past three seasons, and who wondered about the “Let’Em know” theme for the 2021-22 season.

This is a strange idea.

The Cavs were far from elite and had fallen back to irrelevancy following LeBron James’ 2018 season. Expectations were low.

Now, Cleveland’s back in contention.

The Cavaliers are one of the Eastern Conference’s most elite teams thanks to an all-star guard Darius Garland, and rookie sensation Evan Mobley.

Even long-time nemesis Draymond Green is impressed.

“The greatest surprise team to me, Cleveland, for certain,” the Golden State forward stated. “I don’t think anyone expected them be this good and they’re really putting together it.”

They will be great for many years. “

These Cavs are built to last. They’re definitely way ahead of schedule.

Cleveland reached the All-Star break at 35-23, fourth in the East. But the record of the Cavs doesn’t reflect the difficult return to respectability.

They’re just like every other NBA team. There have been COVID-19 problems, injuries, scheduling quirks, and the usual season grind.

Despite Collin Sexton, leading scorer, and Ricky Rubio, veteran guard, the Cavs have continued to win despite their season-ending knee injuries. These were serious losses that could have hampered this young team’s progress.

Rather, the adversity of the Cavs has only strengthened them. At their heart is a toughness togetherness, values often preached but not always practiced.

They played together — in the locker room, on offense and defense.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff stated that he hasn’t seen a group of people who don’t want each other to disappoint.

“So it’s really special. We have to keep nurturing and helping it grow. “

Garland’s incredible growth has driven the Cavs’ remarkable rise.

This 22-year-old, baby-faced guard has blossomed into a skilled combination scorer/playmaker. He can break down defenses with his dribble and spread the floor by hitting a 3-pointer.

Garland is one of four players who average at least 20 points per game and eight assists. He started his career this summer playing for the USA Select Team against the U.S Olympic squad, as they prepared for the Tokyo Games.

“When we scrimmaged with the main team that’s where it was, that’s when you saw a different Darius,” explained Erik Spoelstra from Miami, who coached Garland. “

Garland is leading the charge, and the Cavs are finally emerging from the ashes left by James’ departure. Cleveland is once again a basketball capital.

The Cavs will make their first playoff appearance since 1998 without James.

Garland stated that “our guys want to leave a legacy for the future,” during All-Star Weekend. “

A team without playoff experience is likely to face growing pains.

There are 14 more regular-season games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse where the roar is back in LeBron-era levels. With their interior size, and relentless defense, it could prove difficult for any East team to draw the Cavs.

The Cavs demonstrated during the All-Star Weekend why they want to do more than make it to the postseason.

Mobley was the frontrunner for Rookie-of-the Year. He calmly hit a half court shot to win Friday’s Skills Challenge. After, Allen, Garland, and Allen took photos with trophies above their heads.

Garland scored 13 points during his All-Star Game debut. He and Allen were both on the floor during Team LeBron’s crucial closing minutes.

The Cavs have already pulled off a big surprise and they believe they might have more to come.

Mobley stated that they have the team and pieces to get as far as they want.