In that spot filling in as Cleveland’s starting 2 temporarily, he’s done quality work on a number of occasions, and while there are some growing pains at times on both ends, for a previously undrafted two-way signing before last season, Cleveland should be pleased with Stevens has been giving them.
He’s had career-highs in two of his last three games as a scorer with him being a bright spot in Cleveland’s loss at the Golden State Warriors on Sunday with 17 points then, and in Cleveland’s win at the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, he had 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The Jazz were admittedly without the likes of Rudy Gobert and Rudy Gay (from a rotational perspective) with them in COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and Joe Ingles was ejected early on.
That said, it’s been encouraging to see how Stevens has been playing, and this season, when he’s had meaningful playing time for stretches of games, we’ve seen continual growth.
Granted, I know there’s others in the mix, and the Cavaliers are reportedly active in seeking more backcourt help via trade, with their injuries there, but based on his defense and driving/transition play, Stevens is helping his case. That’s with his defensive versatility, also.
Regardless of the minutes for him, though, I don’t discount what Stevens seemingly provides as an exemplary teammate and emotional leader for this Wine and Gold team. The energy from him is truly infectious, and it’s clear that Stevens is fully bought into that role, from an intangible standpoint, as one could attest from these comments after that Jazz game.
Stevens is finding his groove, and it’s apparent that he’s one of the emotional leaders for this Cavs team, who feeds off the energy he brings.
Stevens first made his mark on the defensive end last season when the opportunities were there, and his ability to defend a number of different positions, and at times, primary initiators, has been on display at various points throughout this season.
The 24-year-old Penn State product is a quality rotational piece to have in that way in itself, and he has shown strides as a catch-and-shoot threat this season, involving his willingness and Stevens’ stroke does look to be improved as well. We’ve seen the mid-range shooting from Stevens, too, and in college, that was a bread-and-butter part of his offensive repertoire.
It’s been good to see Stevens do damage in recent games as well as a driving threat, and the cutting development from him helps him play off of Cleveland’s bigs, and in transition, Stevens’ skill set and frame allows him to be very effective in early offense.
As we alluded to, however, I don’t gloss over how Stevens relishes his role, from a locker room/team dynamic perspective, as an emotional leader for these Cavaliers. When healthy, it seems that Collin Sexton is that way, to some degree, and as a cultural leader, but one can see how Stevens always gives juice to the team as a whole with his gritty nature, and it’s cool how invested he is in bringing energy to the club.
That’s both when he’s on the floor or on the bench, and for still a relatively young team, with some key veterans, too, though, getting that sort of buy-in from Stevens picks other guys up. And it’s those sort of glue guys that a team like the Cavaliers need to have around to continue progressing toward them taking that next step.
Whether it’s diving for a loose ball, walling up against big wings or forwards in the post and stonewalling them defensively, driving hard to the rim through contact, or celebrating the success of his teammates on the bench, Stevens’ energy is palpable.
For a myriad of reasons, Stevens has been very impressive, and was quite the steal by the Cavs. It’s easy to see why his teammates, coaching staff and team seems to love the dude so much.