8. Max Strus, Miami Heat
At this point in our list, we transition to those players who could both change teams this offseason and sign for more than the Full Mid-Level Exception (#12.2 million) which is the most the Cavaliers can functionally offer to free agents (more on alternative options later). Still, it’s at least theoretically possible the market could go in other directions and these players end up accepting an MLE offer.
Strus is a bit undersized for small forward at 6’5″ but the Miami Heat have often deployed him as such, and his strength allows him to match up with most wings. He is a high-volume movement shooter even if he doesn’t have elite accuracy (37.1 percent from 3 for his career) and always seems to up his game in the playoffs.
7. Bruce Brown Jr., Denver Nuggets
Bruce Brown Jr. signed a bargain contract last summer with the Denver Nuggets and proved his worth, combining elite defense and excellent positional rebounding with good ball-handling, passing and good enough shooting. It’s the last factor that’s the swing factor; he shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range in 2021-22 and 35.8 this past season. He looks like he could be an upgrade on Isaac Okoro, bringing much of the same defensive impact but with more offensive punch. The question becomes whether the Cavs can afford him; he may have earned his way to a larger payday than the MLE.
6. Josh Hart, New York Knicks
Josh Hart, on the other hand, absolutely has earned his way to a larger payday. The 6’5″ wing is one of the best rebounders at his position (perhaps the best) and was a major part of the New York Knicks knocking off the Cavs in the playoffs. He’s in line for a big payday from the Knicks this summer, but the possibility that they make a big trade for a star and can’t bring him back exists. Even so, another team probably tosses more than the MLE at him.
5. Grant Williams, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics couldn’t seem to make up their minds about Grant Williams, and if they are indecisive, the Cavs wouldn’t be. While Williams’ size would be best deployed at the 4, he has enough shooting and defensive versatility to form a jumbo pairing with Evan Mobley at the forward positions, and he could fill in plenty of minutes at the 4 with Jarrett Allen or Mobley at the 5.
Williams is strong enough to take on centers but nimble and savvy enough to defend in space too. He shot 39.5 percent from deep this year and is a decent finisher inside as well. It’s possible that the Celtics decide not to re-sign him after handing Jaylen Brown a supermax extension, but even so, the path to him signing for the MLE is complicated and unlikely.