The Cleveland Cavaliers should keep Caris LeVert on a reasonable deal

Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports) /

Slightly past the midway point of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 10 games above .500 as the fifth seed but 1.5 matches behind second place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the success that has them one to two years ahead of schedule, the outfit still has important decisions to make before the trade deadline on Feb. 9 that concern its long-term plans. Some of the key choices will be Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro’s future with the Wine and Gold.

LeVert is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Okoro likely won’t get a rookie extension following this season, so it appears. The latter is probably safe for now and won’t go anywhere in a deal unless he’s a sweetener another team wants. The former said he wanted to make Cleveland his home when he got traded there, but keeping him around via extension complicates financial matters. So does letting him test free agency because he could leave for nothing.

In 59 games for the Cavs, LeVert has recorded 754 points with 221 dimes and 230 rebounds. This divides into 12.7 points, 3.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds. It’s solid, but the numbers aren’t eye-popping. When he got to Cleveland, he only played in four games alongside Jarrett Allen and 12 with Evan Mobley. Last year’s initial results could have been misleading because there wasn’t much opportunity to establish continuity with the frontline.

In the Cavs’ last 15 games of 2021/2022, LeVert appeared in those without Allen, and Mobley missed five nights. During that span, Cleveland had the 24th-ranked defense out of 30 teams. This season, those three have played in 31 games together, and Cleveland is ranked second in the same category.

Offensively, he’s an average 3-point shooter and finisher at the rim with a decent-enough handle. Letting LeVert initiate the offense up the court is a good thing for this team. It gives Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell a mental break by not always being the decision-makers. Also, when the backcourt is off-ball, they are less likely to get doubled. In fact, it makes it easier for them to lose their defender when curling around a screen because 10 eyes of the defense always following the ball first.

With how much usage DG and Spida have racked up this season, it would be a severe blow to the Cavs to lose a capable ball handler on the floor next to them, and one who can make plays for others. LeVert allows them to unlock another feature of their game, plus Cleveland doesn’t want to burn out its primary scoring options.

So what should the Cavs do?

The Cavaliers should extend LeVert via reasonable deal and eat the charges.

I remember this team once had the highest payroll in the league in 2015 and 2016 when they went to the NBA Finals both years and beat the Golden State Warriors in the second confrontation. The following two seasons the Cavs went to the championship round, they were second and sixth in paid salary. This season, Cleveland is 18th.

It’s an uncomfortable truth. To win a title, a team must be willing to write some big checks. This squad shouldn’t get let off the hook either because soon, new TV money will kick in, and the NBA is seeking a $75 billion deal. Also, putting LeVert on the market now will probably yield fewer returns because he’s got an expiring contract. If the Cavs are hellbent on moving him, then they should re-sign him and trade him when allowed by the CBA.

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Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reported on Jan. 5 that Cleveland’s front office didn’t have real extension talks with LeVert last summer. It would be a shame to lose such a likable locker room guy.