Going into the offseason, one of the key questions looming for the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared to be would Caris LeVert be brought back? In the same wavelength was would LeVert maybe take a bit less to re-sign?
LeVert did not have nearly the impact of some thought he would in the closing stretch of the 2021-22 season for the Cavaliers after he was acquired via trade from the Indiana Pacers near the 2022 Deadline. A foot injury came at an unfortunate time, and he was not able to get into much of a rhythm.
In the 2022-23 campaign, to his credit, LeVert had a much better overall effect for Cleveland in his minutes, conversely.
In the beginning stretch of the year, he had some issues offensively in finding his way in minutes with Darius Garland and new trade arrival Donovan Mitchell, and eventually, LeVert moved to mostly a bench role. He was fully on-board with that, too, and for much of the season from then on, his two-way impact on games proved to be crucial.
Now, LeVert did not necessarily light it up from a scoring perspective for the season altogether, in fairness. He had 12.1 points per game, which was his second-lowest point per game average of his career, and the lowest since his second season with the Brooklyn Nets in 2016-17.
Despite some offensive inconsistencies as a scorer in a general sense, particularly inside the arc, LeVert did knock in a career-best 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts, and a career-best in threes made. Plus, he still tacked on his career averages with 3.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per contest. LeVert’s defense was a pleasant surprise, too, and it was great to see him for the most part healthy for Cleveland, as he was active in 74 games in 2022-23.
So, with his impact on winning games for Cleveland, it was nice to see the news that he and the Cavaliers agreed that he’d come back right as NBA Free Agency was underway. Per a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, LeVert/his representation and the Cavs agreed to terms on a two-year deal for $32 million. Cleveland had Bird Rights for LeVert, which had to have played into the compensation amount, and with both sides reportedly having mutual interest, this wasn’t too much of a shock.
The Cavs must be bullish on LeVert’s two-way impact for years ahead, which was big for them last season.
LeVert got increasingly better as the season wore on, and he grew more comfortable in his role for Cleveland. There were some ups and downs for LeVert in Cleveland’s disappointing first round playoff loss to the New York Knicks, sure, but he did still have his moments, and was a bright spot at points then.
What’s crucial for the Cavs, ultimately, is having LeVert be all the more acclimated to a key bench role, though. Once that was commonplace for him, he seemed to be in a better rhythm, and in instances when LeVert has things rolling, he could be a viable closing unit player. We’ll have to see if that continues from here, of course.
As we also alluded to, LeVert’s defensive play was a pleasant surprise last season, and even with his scoring inconsistencies, his ball pressure, defensive playmaking impact with his active hands and his hustle all were constants.
Moving forward, whether or not LeVert is starting or in a bench role, the latter of which seems more regularly likely, the Cavaliers are going to need LeVert to make his presence felt defensively on the perimeter, too. Hopefully, what he contributed on that end can be the standard in these years to come.
Now, hopefully, LeVert can find some more consistency on offense as a scorer next season and the year following, which doesn’t seem unreasonable, given he’ll be much better acclimated with the Cavaliers.
It would only help LeVert for the Cavs to add a couple of impact offensive weapons and namely perimeter shooters for the rotation, which could go a long way for LeVert’s driving and slashing, to go with his playmaking for stretches.
In that realm, Cleveland seems well in line to acquire the likes of Max Strus via sign-and-trade, given recent rumors, and Georges Niang, who has been linked to the Cavs as a possible free agency signing, could give the bench a lift, too. Further, longtime NBA Insider Marc Stein reported how it’s“increasingly likely” Strus and Niang will be Cavaliers soon enough.
Overall, though, it’s reassuring for Cleveland that LeVert, who will be entering his age-29 season in 2023-24, is back. If he can remain mostly healthy in coming seasons, he should help in a variety of ways.