Cleveland Cavaliers: Dylan Windler’s shooting must pop in 2021-22

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler shoots the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler shoots the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

We haven’t seen a whole lot of Dylan Windler with the Cleveland Cavaliers since he was drafted by them in 2019; the Belmont product hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Windler missed all of the 2019-20 season because of complications involving a stress reaction in his lower left leg, and in what was technically his rookie season, there were again injury woes. Initially, Windler sustained a fourth metacarpal fracture on his left hand in his first game, leading to him then being out for 13 games.

Later in the season, Windler was then sidelined in what was designated as left knee soreness on March 27 at the Sacramento Kings, and unfortunately, after an extended absence, he was shut down. Windler in late April would undergo surgery to repair “ongoing patella tendinopathy concerns,” per a Cavaliers team press release.

He’s reportedly expected to be out through Summer League unfortunately as well, and this latest injury issue is yet another ailment for him. Due to the absences, aside from a prior hardship exception signing leading to him having to miss one game, Windler has only appeared in 31 games to this point for Cleveland.

So what did we see from Windler when he was in there in 2020-21?

I thought Windler’s defense on the perimeter against 1s and 2s, and at times against 3s, depending on the matchup, was generally sound. His positional feel was a positive, and Windler’s team defensive chops were too. Him having 1.3 steals per-36 minutes demonstrated that, and his block rate of 2.1 percent was nothing to sneeze at for a rotational wing.

On the offensive end, we did see the catch-and-shoot flashes, to go with sequences where he flashed his deep shooting capabilities when he’s in-rhythm and his cutting timing and finishing inside were positives.

Windler’s 7.5 rebounds per-36 minutes shouldn’t have been glossed over, either.

Now, the issue was Windler largely underwhelmed when he was in there regularly as a three-point shooting threat/floor spacer, objectively.

A 33.8 percent hit rate from beyond the arc wasn’t great, particularly based on the shooting chops both via spot-ups and as an off-movement shooter he displayed in a four-year collegiate career at Belmont. He hit 40.6 percent of his 534 career three-point attempts as a Bruin.

That sort of thing leads me to the crucial point here.

Windler must show his shooting capabilities more in 2021-22 for the Cavs, and those need to pop, frankly.

Windler again, has shown flashes of impressive deep shooting abilities, and when he’s been on, the deep range has been on display, as we touched on. There was a two-game stretch when he hit all nine of his then-three-point attempts before the All-Star break, for instance, and appeared to have been really getting it going.

At that point, as Spencer Davies of noted, Windler was in a nice groove and cited how getting his share off-movement looks got him going it seemed, too. That’s something that was shown throughout his Belmont career, and to me, looked to be a key seller for him.

The issue was that, while injuries didn’t aid his cause, when he was in there regularly and healthier, there were too many extended stretches where Windler couldn’t get his shot going enough as a catch-and-shoot threat. That was even with off-movement looks coming for him from Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and others seemingly a decent amount still when he was getting playing time for stretches/at least spurts.

Windler only hit 35.7 percent of his shot attempts overall in his last 12 games active of 2020-21, and he connected on just three of his 22 three-point shot attempts in that span, a dysmal 13.6 percent clip.

That was in 13.5 minutes per outing, of which didn’t lead to a ton of rhythm for him, but one couldn’t blame the Cavs coaching staff for that with how Windler didn’t seem to have it, so to speak.

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So in that realm regarding potential minutes-share, whether or not Cedi Osman/Taurean Prince could possibly be traded before next season, considering they were previously mentioned in trade rumors before the deadline, Windler should get his chances.

Dylan did play 46 percent of his minutes at the 2, anyway, and if one and/or both are back, he could again get playing time with them semi-regularly.

Granted, Cleveland could perhaps add a wing/combo forward in the 2021 NBA Draft, such as Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes, though, or a guard such as Jalen Green or James Bouknight, which could affect Windler.

All of that said, if Windler can show more consistency as a shooter threat/be an impact floor spacer, as he’s definitely capable, he should really help his case moving forward from there.

The problem with Dylan, while the team-friendly compensation wouldn’t be the issue, given the injury woes he’s had since being drafted by the Cavs, I don’t think it’s completely far-fetched to maybe foresee Cleveland eventually declining his fourth-year team option.

Albeit regardless of if that’s picked up, for Windler to potentially stick with the Cavaliers, he must show that he’s an impact shooter in his PT next season. Him hitting in the 37.0 percent-plus range from three is kind of what I’m thinking, on perhaps a decent volume in 17-18 minutes, for his sake to be kept around.

As KJG’s Amadou Sow emphasized, Windler needs to be mostly healthy, clearly, to further help his case, which can’t be overstated.

Next season, to me, it’s make-or-break time for Dylan to prove he’s a surely viable rotational shooter, though. I’m not glossing over the other ways he aided the Cavaliers in his PT; it’s just apparent the Belmont product’s shooting needs to pop next season.

If that’s not the case, I could potentially see him moved as a piece in a possible package down the road or perhaps waived, if his fourth-year team option is not picked up.

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Moreover, I’ve been patient with Dylan, and the Cavs have, but next season, the shooting needs to be on display when he’s given the opportunities more often.