A way-too-early prediction of the Cavs’ 2023-24 Opening Night starters

Dorian Finney-Smith, Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
Dorian Finney-Smith, Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat prepare to face off Thursday in the NBA Finals, most other teams are considering what course of action they’ll take in how they’ll approach the offseason. The Cleveland Cavaliers had an incredible regular season finishing with 51 wins, the most a Cavaliers team without LeBron James has had since 1992-93. Donovan Mitchell is on a short list of Cavs not named LeBron to make an All-NBA Team, as mitchell was able to make All-NBA Second Team.

Still, it ended up finishing in disappointment as the Cavs bowed out early in the first round to the New York Knicks in a series that lasted only five games. The Cavaliers’ flaws were evident in the series.

Cleveland just didn’t have many players that they could play that they trusted, with the combination of not having a real starting wing and not having enough shooting to the point it was making things so difficult for Darius Garland and Mitchell where they couldn’t go anywhere. For plenty of stretches, there were three non-shooters on the floor with those two, and that was problematic.

One should expect the Cavs to be aggressive in trying to fulfill those needs this offseason, and with that said, here’s a potential way-too-early Opening Night starting group for 2023-24.

2023-24 Opening Night Cavs Starting Five:

Darius Garland-Donovan Mitchell-Dorian Finney-Smith-Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen

In this scenario, the Cavs would aquire Brooklyn Nets wing Dorian Finney-Smith in the offseason via trade. Finney-Smith has been a player that’s long been a rumored possible target for Cleveland, as has Royce O’Neale, another Brooklyn wing.

A reasonable suggested proposal from a Fanspo user, 49ERS FOREVER on the trade site, had Cleveland trading for Finney-Smith and O’Neale in exchange for Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Ricky Rubio and four second-round picks in 2023. Those came via the Golden State Warriors in 2023, and then Cleveland’s in 2025, via the Milwaukee Bucks in 2025 and from Cleveland in 2026.

Whether or not O’Neale could be involved in a deal, Finney-Smith could definitely be a Cav it seems, and with the Nets in a transition stage it appears, even more so.

Finney-Smith would be an amazing fit for the Cavaliers. Finney-Smith is 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, has really good length and is your prototypical three-and-D wing. He is someone who understands what his role is and would be a huge upgrade over what the Cavs had this past season at the 3 for extended stretches.

Statistically, Finney-Smith during the regular season didn’t shoot it as well as he did in past years, but the track record is there, and he made his presence felt over the years with the Dallas Mavericks. He did also return to form in the series against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, shooting 41.2 percent from three on 4,3 attempts per game, albeit in a first round sweep at the hands of a better team in Philly.

In this scenario the rest of the lineup remains the same on paper, but a trade like this changes everything for the Cavs. Obviously the Cavs are still banking on some internal growth. I myself think Garland has another leap in him and Mobley is still one of the better long-term building blocks in the league.

Adding somebody like Dorian Finney-Smith would give the Cavaliers a legitimate starting wing, but also someone who stretches the floor more compared to what the Cavs had last year. It would give Garland and Mitchell more room to work with going forward.

For the rest of the lineup everything else mostly remains the same. One shouldn’t expect the Cavaliers to make major drastic changes to the roster, but them running it back the same seems unlikely, nor should they. Cleveland will still have one of the 10 best players in the league in Mitchell, while they bank on some more internal growth from young guys like Garland and Mobley to reach their full potential, or nearing it.

The key going forward if the Cavs are going to be a true contender is Evan Mobley, who has to level up offensively, however, for the Cavs to reach that level they’ll also need to hit on the margins.

Nikola Jokic is the reason the Nuggets are in a position to win a championship, but we can’t forget the moves they made otherwise recently, such as acquiring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope via trade and signing Bruce Brown. Those were the key finishing touches to the roster that have especially paid off in the playoffs.

The Cavs will need to make moves like those to reach a similar status. Cleveland doesn’t need much; the hardest part is finding the top level talent and the Cavs have done that.

Do the Cavaliers need to push the pace more next season to succeed?. dark. Next

Now it’s just being able to add pieces around them that are meaningful role players, although a true starting 3 is a real need. Adding someone like Dorian Finney-Smith would go a long way to making that happen and for this Cavaliers team to take that next step.