Cleveland Cavaliers: This could pay dividends for Lamar Stevens on O

Lamar Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Lamar Stevens, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

During this now-past season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, wing/forward Lamar Stevens contributed as a quality defender. Stevens, who was signed via two-way deal as an undrafted free agent after having not been selected in the 2020 draft, showed the ability to defend positions for Cleveland.

That was nice to see from the Penn State product, and although injuries to Dylan Windler, Kevin Love and/or Larry Nance Jr. did play into it, particularly earlier on, Stevens’ defensive chops were the selling point for him in legitimate rotational minutes spelling Isaac Okoro/others.

From say, April onward, the minutes-share for Stevens wasn’t there as much. And then even while Anderson Varejao’s hardship exception/end-of-career signing probably had some to do with it, Stevens was inactive in the last 12 games of 2020-21 because of a concussion.

Again though, I’m not reading a ton into that, with the circumstances.

Albeit overall, Stevens’ defense again was a key positive in his playing time in Year 1 for him, and his multi-positional capabilities in that regard jumped out to me. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound wing/forward played, thanks to his strength/physicality and the prior injuries to Love/Nance, actually 50 percent of his minutes-share at the 4 spot, even.

Nonetheless for the 24-year-old, while he was very effective as an interior finisher and did show some pull-up viability in the mid-range, both of which he did at Penn State, the perimeter shooting needs to further develop for him. That’s at least ideally, and hopefully the offseason could pay off for him in that realm.

In his 40 appearances last season for Cleveland, he hit just four-of-25 from three-point range, which was a 16.0 percent hit rate. Obviously, that was not stellar, and in a four-year career at Penn State, he hit just 27.6 percent from range.

On the plus side, again, the finishing was a positive for Stevens, who finished his share of plays with authority and his ability to absorb contact and still convert stood out. His body control in the transition game did too, and as he gained more experience, his cutting feel improved.

That said, to me, one thing in particular could make him more viable on the offensive end of the floor, of which we’ll touch on here.

A respectable clip on corner threes for the Cavs would pay dividends for Stevens.

Stevens has a ways to go to be considered a viable three-point shooting threat, and I’m not saying otherwise. On a positive note, he did show some driving capabilities in settled situations with his strength and burst/feel in the paint, but if he can hit a decent clip from the corners, that’d pay off for him.

On a frequency of 32.0 percent, he hit just 25.0 percent of his three-point attempts from the corners.

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If he’s able to get meaningful PT for his defense in spurts next season, of which I’d think he could still, even if that’s 12-14 minutes, if he can hit a respectable clip on corner triples, that’d enable him to get to drives more along the baseline and/or get to pull-ups.

Granted, I’m not saying that this is a simple thing, as Stevens is not comfortable really from deep at this point as a catch-and-shoot guy.

But if he can take strides in that way in the offseason, perhaps that could play be demonstrated from him in Summer League/preseason, and he could show more feel from there.

In any case, with Stevens, he again has a ways to go as a perimeter shooter, albeit from the corners off of kickouts, if he can develop into a decent shooter from there, such as hitting 34-35 percent from that range, it’d aid him as a cutter/finisher.

Could that be wishful thinking? Perhaps, but with a full offseason with Cleveland and with getting plenty of shots up/work with the Cavs player development staff, I don’t foresee it being completely outside the realm of possibility.

Anyway with Stevens, it is still not a certainty if he will be back next season, though. But with him previously having received a multi-year deal for his defensive work from the Cavs during the past season, albeit one that’s non-guaranteed from next season/onward, I’d imagine he definitely could/will be.

So to me, converting a respectable amount of his corner triples should be a point of emphasis for Stevens, and would aid him as more of a seller for potential rotational PT next season/moving forward.

That’d lead to more possible scoring chances as a driver/cutter for him, and feasibly lead to more than 4.1 points in 12.5 minutes per outing, of which he had in 2020-21.

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The on-ball defense is there for Stevens, whose team defense and 6.9 rebounds per-36 minutes were positives as well. Although converting on more triple attempts from the corners, even on not a high volume realistically, could be key for his outlook/potential on offense.