Cavs: Defense has been best part of Dylan Windler’s play thus far

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler (left) steals the ball from Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler (left) steals the ball from Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

As Cleveland Cavaliers fans are well aware of at this point, Dylan Windler has not been able to stay healthy with the team. His first season was washed out because of complications involving a stress reaction in his lower left leg, and in what was technically his rookie campaign, he had injury troubles.

In Windler’s first game with Cleveland, he fractured the fourth metacarpal on his left hand, leading to a tough start to the season, for one. Windler would be back in the fold for most of the time for roughly two months from that point, but then unfortunately would miss a game at the Sacramento Kings on March 27 due to what was designated as left knee soreness.

From there, he wasn’t in the rotation for a while, and then in late April, Windler’s season would end up done after he underwent left knee surgery to “address ongoing patella tendinopathy concerns.” Windler is reportedly expected to be unavailable for 2021 Summer League, for further context.

On the plus side, it would appear that he should be ready to go for next season and hopefully, he can get himself right and be set for playing time in the preseason. I’d imagine that should be the case at least.

That said, while there were positive signs from Windler in his play last season for the Cavaliers, the catch-and-shoot play was fairly underwhelming.

He had a three-point shooting clip of 33.8 percent, which, although there were a number of flashes from him involving deep range/catch-and-shoot abilities, including off movement, in particular, Windler was not consistent enough. Now, I understood some of the reasoning there, as he had little experience due to the injuries, and it was not easy to get into a rhythm game-to-game.

But Windler hit a rough patch prior to his absences from late March onward, and in his last 13 games, had only had 3.8 points per outing and hit just 26.7 percent of his 2.0 three-point attempts per contest in that stretch.

That was in 14.3 minutes per game; he seemed to be in a slump though, trimming down minutes overall and Windler only made one triple in his last seven games.

In a general sense, Windler’s cutting and finishing were positives in his first year, however, and there were flashes on-ball that were encouraging for him as counters via push shots/floaters here and there.

Albeit the best part of his play in Year 1 was his defense for Cleveland, which featured far more consistency, from my perspective.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Defense has been the best part of Windler’s play thus far.

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To me, his defense was the biggest positive takeaway in relation to Windler’s play for Cleveland. His on-ball positioning was generally solid, even while there were some ups and downs against bigger 3s, as Windler is a thinner 196 pounds.

By and large though, Windler did do a decent job in deterring drivers in matchups against 2s and at times against opposing primary playmakers, depending on lineup construction.

In his rotational minutes, his team defense was something that especially stood out, though.

While there were some issues for him at times on-ball, as rookies will have, his rotational feel was encouraging, and he regularly got his hands in passing lanes when he was out there, and had 12 blocks on the season in 31 games, mostly on the weak side near the rim.

Dylan’s 2.1 block rate was not something I glossed over, and as was noted, his feel for playing the passing lanes was nice to see from a player with little NBA experience. That aided others on the floor with him, such as Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade and others.

In addition, Windler’s rebounding positioning, even with him on the thinner side, was something that often stood out from his minutes. He had 7.5 boards per-36 minutes, and that aspect of his play, even though it was demonstrated in college at Belmont, was still pretty noteworthy to me, and was also something for him to build on, along with the team defense, for next season.

Nonetheless, for Dylan, objectively, circling back, considering he knocked in 40.6 percent of his 534 three-point shot attempts in his four-year career at Belmont and was drafted to be a shooting/spacing presence, he needs to show more in that regard next season.

Early on, I believe there has to be more from him game-to-game when the opportunities arise too, for what it’s worth. Now, Cleveland could draft another wing, but I do still believe Windler should end up getting his share of minutes if he can be mostly healthy/available heading into next season.

And somewhat along those lines, even while Windler could play with them in spurts next season, and did last season, Cedi Osman and Taurean Prince were both previously key players mentioned in trade rumors near last deadline. So perhaps they could end up dealt earlier on next season and/or in the offseason, which could maybe open up some more chances for Windler.

We could see Sexton used more this way in Year 4. dark. Next

Either way, to reiterate, Dylan does have to show more offensively next year, when he does have something to prove, clearly. But in terms of the positives, Windler’s defensive play/feel on that end shouldn’t be discounted; that’s something for him to build on.