Cavs looking to experiment with lineups is the right call

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff signals to his players in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff signals to his players in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers should be utilizing a multitude of lineups next season.

In the stretch post-All-Star break leading into the NBA season’s novel coronavirus-induced hiatus, the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing better.

That was in the opening span of games in which J.B. Bickerstaff took over as the squad’s head coach, and in that time, the Wine and Gold were a much more respectable 5-6, as compared to their 2019-20 overall record of 19-46.

In that stretch, Cleveland was sixth in the league in assist rate and 10th in effective field goal shooting rate, too. Although teams are often seemingly galvanized by a mid-season head coaching change, the club did appear to be gaining momentum leading into what was originally set to be a considerably larger closing portion of the campaign.

Then the league, again, went into the prior hiatus, and the Cavs season would end out, as they were not a club invited to the 2019-20 NBA restart in Orlando.

During that aforementioned post-All-Star break span, though, the Cavaliers did look much better, and part of that was seemingly with Bickerstaff’s game management. He made adjustments on the fly when needed, and that gave the squad energy.

Most notably, there were instances that had a good deal of success with Larry Nance Jr. at the 3 position, which paid dividends for Cleveland, and next season, we should end up seeing him more at that spot in stretches.

Along those lines, though, it would’ve been interesting to have seen Kevin Porter Jr. at the 1 for some stretches in what was supposed to be more of a closing stretch of the campaign for Cleveland. And Bickerstaff did touch on early on after he took over at head coach how he did want to see Porter in that spot at times before the season was to originally conclude in mid-April.

Anyhow, looking at next season, though, this tweet from Wednesday, via Forbes‘ Evan Dammarell involving Bickerstaff/the coaching staff wanting to experiment with lineups, is a positive to me.

Per a report from’s Chris Fedor last week, Bickerstaff did express how the club would be doing experimenting in the Cavs in-market team bubble workouts/scrimmaging, too.

The Cleveland Cavaliers looking to experiment with lineups next season is the right call.

The Cavs should be a squad that uses a variety of lineups next season for stretches. And with Nance, for instance, showing significant growth as a three-point shooter, and with him being such a gifted passing big, him at the 3 at times again would be a smart move in some matchups. It would seem that in the Cavs in-market bubble scrimmaging, albeit without Andre Drummond (personal), Nance probably is getting some run there.

That’s seemingly in lineups I’d imagine with a Darius Garland-Collin Sexton backcourt, along with Kevin Love-Drummond, when looking at next season, assuming he eventually does pick up his $28.8 million player option for next season. Or if Tristan Thompson is back, perhaps him at the 5 with those other players sans Drummond and Jr. at the 3 could work well at times.

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Additionally, I’d imagine potential draft picks for the Cavs at fifth overall such as Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Florida State’s Devin Vassell and USC’s Onyeka Okongwu would be able to fit in a number of lineup combinations, too.

A lineup I could see paying dividends for Cleveland for stretches could feasibly include Collin Sexton, Dylan Windler at the 2, Okoro at the 3, Nance/Love and Drummond.

Windler, who could be a knockdown shooter in coming years for the Cavs, provided he’s healthy, as KJG’s Grant Puskar demonstrated, is a player that should fit seamlessly in a number of lineup combinations.

And KPJ/Garland/and maybe some with Dante Exum at the 1, him and Okoro, for instance, at the 3, or even Cedi Osman, to some degree, would provide the Cavs with plenty of willing passers.

And I’d think at least from a catch-and-shoot variety, they’d space the floor well for Love in the mid-post and/or Drummond inside. In addition, we could seemingly see instances with Garland/Sexton on the floor with KPJ at the 2, Windler/Okoro/Vassell at the 3, to give Cleveland varying skill sets, and with a variance of bigs.

Perhaps Alfonzo McKinnie at the 4 with Drummond at the 5, from a defensive standpoint, could bring balance to those sort of lineups for Bickerstaff and company as well.

The point is, though, that the Cleveland Cavaliers looking to experiment with lineups, and not being rigid game-to-game should help them overall, and that will pay off in the long run for them.

For the Wine and Gold next season, seeing if Nance still at the 3 and Kevin Porter Jr., in particular, at the 1, who had a respectable 14.7 percent assist rate in 2019-20, to go with 10.0 points per outing, can be viable in those position slots will be meaningful. That’s for them looking onward also.

I firmly believe Nance, who had 10.1 points per contest, to go with hitting 35.2 percent from deep, and has a much-improved handle, and is one of Cleveland’s best defenders, could do damage in stretches in that 3 role, too.

Albeit most importantly, to reiterate, Cleveland and Bickerstaff switching things up should help them game-to-game be more multiple in their style. Obviously, chemistry will be key.

dark. Next. Range, shooting motion improvement should make Kevin Porter Jr. more dangerous in PnR

But lineup experimentation for the squad in the short and long term should aid Cleveland in keeping opponents more off-balance when that’s called for, and not be too vulnerable against certain types of matchups as games progress.