Cleveland Cavaliers: The potential case for Tacko Fall

Last week, it wasn’t the biggest free agency news in the world when the Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly signed big Tacko Fall to a training camp deal.

Fall, who was unrestricted, has previously spent the last two seasons on a two-way deal with the Boston Celtics, those two being his first in the NBA.

He’s played sparingly at the NBA level with Boston, where he appeared in 26 games in that span, in an average of 6.5 minutes per contest. Last season, he had 2.5 points per outing, to go with 2.7 rebounds in 7.2 minutes per appearance, of which he had 19.

Now, as we’ve touched on, Fall has not played much at the NBA level through two seasons, and it’s uncertain if he will have a real shot at making the Cavaliers heading into next season. Maybe he could have a two-way possibility, as an option, and play more with Cleveland’s G League affiliate, the now-Cleveland (and formerly Canton) Charge.

So what’s the potential case for Fall possibly having a role with the Cavs, then?

For him to have a case for a potential roster spot, or two-way, to me it boils down to Fall being a potential upgrade over Mfiondu Kabengele. Kabengele’s deal from here is non-guaranteed, and although one can’t read a ton into Las Vegas Summer League, particularly with Cleveland’s lack of true point guard in that, Kabengele was still very underwhelming there.

And at least with Fall, while I do give Kabengele credit for his rebounding on both ends when he’s gotten chances, and him providing some rotational shot blocking, Fall I believe could be a more viable depth 5 option.

I know he’s not going to be a floor spacer in the traditional sense, and I acknowledge that, but he does good nice touch inside of 10 feet as a roller, and is a constant lob threat.

The 7-foot-5 Central Florida product could also help in spurts as a screener in the on-ball sense with his humungous frame for the likes of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Rubio, and he could aid movement shooters off-ball to some degree.

Kabengele was a solid screener though, and I give him that, but is he nearly the screener of Fall in that realm? I wouldn’t think so.

From there, on the defensive end, the possible argument for Fall maybe being in the conversation for having a roster spot is the shot blocking/shot altering element. He has an otherworldly 8-foot-4 wingspan, and though he’s not somebody that’s going to be a switchout-type of player, he’s going to deter drivers and protect the rim.

Again, I know he wouldn’t have a significant role, with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley in mind, in particular, and to some degree, Lauri Markkanen I’d think, but Fall could be a notable rim protector in spurts.

The sample size was meniscule, sure, however, he did have 1.1 blocks in 7.2 minutes per outing in his appearances with Boston last season, and a block rate of 13.7 percent in his minutes was, well, telling.

He had 5.3 blocks per-36 minutes in 2020-21, to that point. And even with it then having been G League play with Boston’s affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, he did have 4.7 blocks per-36 minutes with them in 29 appearances in 2019-20.

Moreover, even with it being maybe a long shot that Fall does eventually have a standard roster spot, given lack of shooting/Cleveland’s big situation, I do believe he could very well be a depth 5 upgrade over Kabengele. I wouldn’t want to see Kabengele back, frankly.

Perhaps the 25-year-old Fall could again be a two-way candidate realistically, anyhow, which I could be on-board with theoretically. Cleveland, for what it’s worth, after their Kevin Pangos signing, has 11 players rostered that have guaranteed deals for next season.

Fall could maybe have a case though, particularly with the unrestricted Isaiah Hartenstein seemingly less and less likely to be back.