ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst has offered his takes on Cleveland Cavaliers free agency lately, naming wing free agent targets the Cavs might look to bring to the roster.
Among those names was Miami Heat forward Max Strus. Strus started in all 23 matchups for the Miami Heat in their postseason run, scoring 9.3 points per night with a 51.6 efficient field goal percentage.
Strus played the prototypical 3-and-D wing role for the Heat. His active defensive work led to a number of extra possessions for the Heat, a momentous reason for their historic run to the NBA Finals as an eighth seed.
Would the Heat let him walk away?
After losing in the NBA Finals to the Denver Nuggets, the Heat are entering free agency with over $170 million on their active roster cap sheet already, per Spotrac.
Last season, Max Strus played for under $2 million on a minimum contract. This offseason, Strus will easily command the majority, if not the entire, $12.4 million Mid-Level Exception in free agency.
With Miami already less than $7 million away from the dreaded new Super-Tax Apron, Strus might be available for competitors with a full MLE to offer.
The Cavaliers could be one of those teams, and offering Strus a starting role on a contending team would be a serious offer for the breakout wing.
How would Strus help the Cavaliers’ title hopes? He has shown plenty of promise and value, and he could end up the best free agent target for the Cavs this summer.
With that said, let’s examine three pros and two cons of the Cavaliers potentially signing Strus.
Pro No. 1: Floor spacing
Throughout his career, Strus has knocked down 37.1 percent of his six 3-point attempts per game. He has the ability to repeatedly punish poor defensive rotations. Roughly one fifth of Strus’ long range shots were wide open, and he connected on 42.9 percent of his attempts, according to NBA.com’s tracking data.
Adding a consistent shooter to the starting rotation in Cleveland is a tremendous upgrade to alleviate their stagnate offensive struggles. Strus is a steady catch-and-shoot threat, as well. Roughly 66 percent of Strus’ 3-point attempts came within two seconds of catching the ball. On those attempts, he drained 35.4 percent.
Placing Strus next to Darius Garland opens the Cavaliers offense immediately. Garland had the eighth-highest kickout passing rate when driving into the paint. With Strus on the receiving end, many of Cleveland’s frustrating offensive drawbacks would be alleviated.
By signing Max Strus, the Cavaliers would have three sharpshooters in their starting five, giving their frontcourt duo in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen more opportunities to back down defenders in the post. As it stands now, defenses tend to pack the paint against the Cavs without much fear of losing to a barrage of threes.
At 27 years old, Strus is also young enough to chase down an open spot on the court through constant off-ball action. The Cavaliers began utilizing off-ball screens more this season to find open shots for their lethal backcourt. The league saw Garland’s catch-and-shoot abilities skyrocket once he could depend on star guard Donovan Mitchell to set him up.
While the Cavs have little to no floor spacing with their bigs, they can draw up clever actions to make the most of the 6-foot-11 Mobley and 6-foot-9 Allen setting picks and creating chaos for opponents as Strus, Garland, and Mitchell find each other on the perimeter.
While Strus’ knockdown shooting is a definite plus for Cleveland, his performance against Denver might raise some concerned eyebrows.