Heading into next season, Lamar Stevens should have a strong case to stick around with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stevens was on a two-way deal to begin last season, but mid-season, he was converted to a standard roster spot via multi-year deal.
His deal from here is non-guaranteed, sure, although I thought he helped his case to a large degree as a versatile defender off the bench. Stevens, who had 4.1 points in 12.5 minutes per contest last season, and hit only 4-of-25 from three in 40 appearances as a rookie, is not going to be a crucial scoring presence in his playing time.
That said, he is a multi-positional defender that can handle big wings, forwards and his share of 2s, and offensively, his rim pressure, transition and cutting abilities shouldn’t be glossed over.
The offense needs to develop more, but he did show flashes last season, including some in the pull-up game.
Anyway, with Stevens, he’s not a player that projects as being an every-game type of guy; I get that. That’s with the likes of Isaac Okoro, Dylan Windler, Cedi Osman and Denzel Valentine in mind, and Lauri Markkanen/Evan Mobley at the 4, where Stevens played a significant amount last season, regardless of Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. injuries factoring into that then.
Nonetheless, with what he can provide defensively, and some as a driver, I thought Stevens had a real case to be back and stick around. And along those lines, I’m looking for him to build on his play in Las Vegas Summer League in preseason.
Cavs: Stevens will look to build on his Summer League play in preseason action.
I get it was Summer League play, so you take it with a grain of salt.
But Stevens again did show promising finishing abilities last season, as evidenced by him hitting 69.8 percent of his restricted area shot attempts, per NBA.com’s shooting data, in 2020-21. His rim pressure and driving/cutting acumen was on display in Vegas in those contests, too, and it’d be meaningful for the Cavs to stress for him to do that more in preseason.
In Summer League (again, I know it was Summer League), he did have 14.6 points per outing on 45.3 percent shooting across the team’s five games played, and his defensive efforts did lead to some opportunities in transition, which was encouraging.
That sort of aggressiveness did play some into him having 3.6 free throws per contest, also, for what it’s worth. Getting to the line was a key positive from his play last season as well, when Stevens, albeit in a role with inconsistent minutes, did still have 3.7 free throws per-36 minutes. His free throw rate was 37.5 percent, along with that.
So, while of course preseason play will be meaningful for others, such as Dylan Windler, and I’d like to see Cleveland give Isaac Okoro more playmaking opportunities then, for one, hopefully Stevens can get some legitimate time, too.
A concussion halted momentum a bit for him to close last season, and the minutes tailed off some when Kevin Love was back, but Stevens had a very productive Summer League and looked great defensively, much like last season.
To drive it home, hopefully he can get some real chances at notable PT, at least in a few games before the regular season to further prove himself, and I’d like to see him at the 4 again some in those games.
We’ll have to see, anyhow, but the 24-year-old Stevens would seem to have a good chance at sticking around to and I’d imagine through next season/perhaps onward.
For reference, the Cavs preseason slate begins at the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 5, then they’ll go to the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 6. From there, they’ll host the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 8, the Bulls on Oct. 10 and then wrap up that play on Oct. 15 at the Pacers.