For Cavaliers, something has to give with their defensive wings

Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images /

It’s not a secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have to find ways to shore up their perimeter shooting to open some things up for Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley. Ditto for Jarrett Allen, who is an important piece for this Cleveland team as well.

For the Cavaliers, they seem likely to address their perimeter shooting and small forward needs via free agency and/or trade this offseason, and bringing in a developmental piece for down the road by way of the 2023 NBA Draft wouldn’t hurt.

Rumored targets for Cleveland this offseason would appear to be Kelly Oubre Jr., Yuta Watanabe, Donte DiVincenzo, among others, and names reportedly on Cleveland’s trade radar have been Royce O’Neale, Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., for example. The gist is, Cleveland has to add some more shooting to the picture.

That said, when looking at the wing/3 man outlook for next season, currently, Cleveland could still possibly bring Caris LeVert back, and could still have Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens, for now at least.

One would imagine things could definitely be different in that aspect from a rotational sense, though, and for the defensive wings, something likely has to give.

For the Cavaliers, something has to give with their defensive wings, in Okoro, Wade and Stevens, realistically.

Okoro, Wade and Stevens all are players that have aided Cleveland’s defense in recent seasons, and they deserve their credit for their efforts on that end of the floor. It shouldn’t go unnoticed, and their teammates and Cleveland’s coaching staff recognize the value those guys provide.

Okoro has held his own against wings over the years, and has been a perimeter and point-of-attack pest on many occasions, making it difficult for key scoring options to get comfortable.

With Wade and Stevens, both are quality forward defenders who do a solid job of preventing drivers from breaking set defense down, and their contests to pull-up and mid-post threats are typically under control where their length is impactful.

Wade, in particular, has shown he’s a viable primary defender against off-screen/movement shooters, too, and Stevens’ sturdy build has enabled him to handle bigger matchups by playing essentially at the 4 spot, even at 6-foot-6 at times.

Both Wade and Stevens have proven themselves to be nice options to go to for stretches for Cleveland’s defense, and last season, even with offensive woes partially because of a shoulder injury, Wade deserves some love for the Cavaliers being 10-3 in games he started. Most of those came early on in the campaign predating his injury, but that still shows he can help, and overall, the Cavs were 30-14 in the regular season in games he appeared in.

Granted, the sample was relatively small, and with the lack of offensive production from Wade, there were some chunks of games where he was not nearly the player he was early in the season, and in the playoffs, didn’t seem viable. Minutes inconsistency post-All-Star played into that, but it was somewhat telling.

For Cleveland, as we’ve mentioned, when it comes to these three defensive wings/forwards, in Okoro, Wade and Stevens, especially, something has to give with their outlook. Okoro has made strides as a shooter, but has a ways to go before being a spacer, Stevens is in the same boat, even with him having some on-ball game, and Wade is somewhat streaky.

Wade has hit 35.9 and then 35.4 percent of his three-point attempts in his minutes the past two seasons, and the inconsistent opportunities have played some into that, however, he’s not much of an on-ball presence in this Cavs situation. In the playoffs, it’s fair to be skeptical of Wade being an offensive threat.

Further, while Wade is on a relatively team-friendly deal still, if Cleveland were to involve him and/or Okoro, and potentially multiple future second-round picks in a deal to sure up their starting 3 spot and shooting this offseason, nobody could blame the Cavs. It might be in the Cavs’ best interest to move one or both of Okoro/Wade before next season, if Cleveland can bring in another defensive wing/forward.

Stevens, meanwhile, has a team option of roughly $1.9 million for next season, but for his energy and locker room presence, would probably be sensible to keep around. He’ll be 26 in July, for context.

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All things considered, it seems something may have to give as it pertains to the Cavaliers defensive wings/forwards we’ve discussed here.