Looking at the offseason, it’s not a well-kept secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers could use another primary playmaker in a role off the bench. It seems apparent that Matthew Dellavedova, who is not much of a scoring threat anymore, and was hampered by injury last season, is extremely unlikely to return.
Now, a potential player such as 2021 NBA Draft prospects in Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes in a point forward role, Davion Mitchell or Franz Wagner could aid Cleveland in that way, too.
Barnes, in particular, intrigues me the most of those players, but having a veteran as a backup primary playmaker would be a sound move in the offseason by the Cavs, in a general sense, to help Darius Garland, and to an extent, Collin Sexton.
A few free agent names I believe that could be sensible in that way are T.J. McConnell, Patty Mills, Alex Caruso, perhaps Ish Smith and to while it’d be more so a defensive add, Frank Ntilikina could be competent in that area, somewhat.
From my perspective, McConnell, of that group, would be the ideal target/free agent acquisition for the Cavaliers. And for what it’s worth, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com touched on how a potential free agency list for Cleveland “should start” with McConnell and Caruso. That’s reportedly as non-taxpayer mid-level exception targets, of which is likely set to be roughly $10 million.
Fedor then stated in a report/set of mailbag responses, how some within the Cavs prefer McConnell, whereas some prefer Caruso; to me, though, I’d lean McConnell.
Now, on the MLE subject, I don’t frankly think the likes of either McConnell or Caruso would cost the full MLE, and Cleveland could feasibly compensate Dean Wade (who is non-guaranteed from here though) and Lamar Stevens additionally.
McConnell could seemingly be had for say, $6-7 million of the MLE, and I would think Damyean Dotson and Mfiondu Kabengele, who are both non-guaranteed, not being back, could aid in the MLE formalities, anyhow.
Regardless, it does seem realistic that McConnell, given the Indiana Pacers’ current situation, similarly to potential Cavs free agent target Doug McDermott, could very well look to sign elsewhere in unrestricted free agency. And admittedly, McConnell is likely the better target.
Along those lines, McConnell could aid the Cavs in a variety of ways, and we’ll focus on three here.
The first relates to the aforementioned playmaking.
#1: McConnell would provide good bench playmaking for the Cavs
As we hit on, the Cavaliers could really use a viable bench playmaker, assuming Dellavedova is not back, and that would appear to be a near-foregone conclusion.
McConnell, in that realm, has been a quality bench playmaker throughout his career, of which was with the Philadelphia 76ers in his first four seasons, and in the last two with the Pacers. In 22.1 minutes per game in his career, he’s had 5.0 assists per outing, and has had 8.2 assists to only 2.6 turnovers per-36 minutes.
He’s been Dellavedova-like in that way, and similarly to Dellavedova, when Delly has been able to be in there for the Cavs, McConnell does a nice job hitting bigs in pick-and-roll, and is timely with his feeds to cutters. Jarrett Allen/Isaiah Hartenstein (assuming they’re back) could work really well with McConnell as rollers, for instance.
Along with that, McConnell does a good job of initiating ball-swings for shooters in early offense, and he’s more than capable of hitting skip and hook passes out of pick-and-roll for pick-and-pop threats or shooters on the weak side. That’d be meaningful for players such as Sexton, Kevin Love/Dean Wade and others, such as Dylan Windler.
So, to reiterate, a veteran such as McConnell, who has always been durable, too, could take burden off Garland in a sizeable way in minutes-share off the bench, and one would assume Cleveland recognizes that first off.
Secondly, we’ll discuss how McConnell would help the Cavaliers defense.