Cleveland Cavaliers: Lamar Stevens has real shot at sticking around

Cleveland Cavaliers wing/forward Lamar Stevens reacts after a dunk. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing/forward Lamar Stevens reacts after a dunk. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

Lamar Stevens proved to be a capable defender for the Cleveland Cavaliers in his rookie campaign, which was nice to see. Stevens, who spent much of the season as a two-way contributor, got his share of playing time for Cleveland at various points, and for an undrafted player, that was notable.

Stevens, who was a four-year collegiate player at Penn State, was signed shortly following the 2020 NBA Draft as again an undrafted guy, and given the circumstances, I thought he played well.

The basic box score splits for him game-to-game didn’t illuminate it, but he gave Cleveland energy and was a multi-positional defender on-ball.

Now, Stevens offensively has a ways to go in the catch-and-shoot realm, and hit only four-of-25 three-point attempts in 40 games active. In his appearances, he averaged 4.1 points in his 12.5 minutes per appearance, for further context.

On the plus side in that realm though, he did show some quality driving and finishing capabilities, had a healthy free throw rate of 37.5 percent in his playing time, and his cutting feel improved as his season wore on.

Albeit circling back, Stevens proved to make his impact more so as a defender for Cleveland in his rotational minutes. That sort of work led to him eventually being signed seemingly via minimum deal, of which was a multi-year contract, and similarly to Dean Wade, is set to be non-guaranteed from years to come onward.

That was a sensible move by the Cavaliers, with his defensive chops/ability to defend multiple positions.

Unfortunately for Stevens, and with Cleveland eventually looking to bring back Anderson Varejao for an end-of-career stint with them via hardship exception somewhat playing into it, he was inactive for the last 12 games. That was due to a concussion; I would imagine that Lamar should be fine and/or is now, as an aside.

In a general sense, too, Stevens has a legitimate case for sticking around.

Stevens has a real shot at sticking around with the Cavs.

To get it out there, injuries to Kevin Love (more so in the pre-All-Star) and Larry Nance Jr. at several points during the season, for example, did factor some into Stevens getting his share of appearances.

Regardless, when he was given opportunities for spurts/at times stretches for Cleveland, Stevens did a commendable job defensively on-ball, and showed the ability to defend 2-4, in particular, against a variety of matchups competently.

He showed more fluidity even for a 230-pound wing/combo forward than I would’ve anticipated, which led to him containing drivers and often forcing tough pull-ups.

Plus, his team defensive feel/impact led to him posting what I believe what respectable splits of 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per-36 minutes, and a 2.3 percent block rate for a rotational wing/combo forward was nothing to sneeze at. His off-ball instincts and functional strength/timing aided guys such as Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Taurean Prince, too, and I’d think those will next season, too.

With Stevens, while we’ll have to see what plays out with Kevin Love, whether or not he could potentially be waived and stretched, for instance, before next season and/or down the road, I’d still expect Lamar to get his share of opportunities with his defensive capabilities. And the energy he provided in spurts could give the Cavaliers again some juice, too.

We’ll have to see if Love is potentially waived/stretched and/or if previously rumored trade pieces Cedi Osman/Taurean Prince possibly are moved at some point, and Cleveland could potentially draft a 3/4, regarding Stevens’ outlook.

But while it’s tough to say if Stevens could be an every game-type of player, with him turning only 24 still in July, being a switchable defender and so athletic, I could foresee him giving Isaac Okoro breathers at points in games and/or others.

The shooting is a clear point of emphasis for him, albeit he did showcase some mid-range abilities, and his finishing stood out.

Looking at next season/I could maybe see beyond, with his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame, Lamar would appear to have a real shot at sticking around with the Cavs. He’s again only 23, and at least as a situational contributor, would appear to be a nice piece to have for key matchups defensively on-ball for spurts/some stretches.

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He is set to be non-guaranteed beginning next season, though. So we’ll see, but Stevens seems to have been a good find.