On Friday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers started out free agency bringing back one of their own, in re-signing Caris LeVert to a two-year, $32 million deal. That might’ve been a bit much for LeVert at this stage, but he got better as last season wore on, and his two-way play was crucial for the Cavs.
Following the news of the LeVert signing, it was reported that Cleveland signed Georges Niang to a three-year, $26 million contract. Niang was rumored to be a possible free agency target for some time for Cleveland, and rightfully so.
Niang has made his presence felt in the past two seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers as a catch-and-shoot threat and bench energy player, and he did the same when he got opportunities in his last two seasons with the Utah Jazz. That was a quality pickup, in particular.
After the moves Cleveland made on Friday, the Cavaliers ultimately would land Max Strus in a sign-and-trade from the Miami Heat, too, in which the deal included the San Antonio Spurs as well. That was a four-year deal for Strus, for a hefty bag of $63 million. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the details, and Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported the specifics involved with the future draft capital going to Miami and San Antonio from Cleveland.
In landing Strus, Cleveland gets a flamethrowing shooter who should give their offense another dimension with his range, movement shooting and his overall gravity. Strus will be making his share of dough, but he can be lethal with his group.
The Cavs free agency moves thus far have been just what the shot doctor ordered.
Going into the offseason, everybody and their brother, sister and pet knew Cleveland needed more shooting, to open up room for their primary threats and to make the offense more dynamic.
There is going to have to be some things the Cavaliers have to iron out over the course of next season, or at least in the beginning of the year, but the Niang and Strus moves should make a tangible difference for Cleveland’s shooting splits, and for their playstyle and movement.
The Cavaliers should have plenty of use for Niang for stretches of games, perhaps at both forward spots, even. He’s cashed in on 40.7 percent of his three-point shot attempts (4.4 per game over that span) over the last four seasons with Philadelphia and previously Utah, and in his two years with Philly, made 154 and 156 regular season threes.
Regarding Strus, while the Cavs will have to divy up the minutes-share and rotational opportunities on the perimeter, he should command his share of opportunities as well with him being such a versatile shooter. His 35.0 percent three-point shooting clip in the past regular season doesn’t truly indicate how polished a perimeter shooter he is; he did hit 41.0 percent from three in 2021-22, too, for what it’s worth.
Strus had something of a nightmarish NBA Finals with the Heat, hitting just 18.8 percent of his threes then, however, he was a key reason for their improbable run to that point despite being a No. 8 seed. He did hit 35.9 percent from deep in the other three series prior to then, and what’s always something to keep in mind with Strus is how so many of his looks are coming off movement, and/or highly contested shots based on his shooting reputation.
Strus’ skill set is something that bends defenses, and that alone can make a world of difference for players such as Garland, Mitchell and Mobley, and LeVert himself will benefit as a slasher and playmaking, too. It’ll be up to J.B. Bickerstaff and company to properly weaponize Strus, though.
Granted, there are concerns with these signings as well, and time will tell if those rear their ugly heads in the playoffs.
With Strus, who was originally a two-way player, is he as effective on the Cavs as he was in the past two seasons with the Heat? Does he work out effectively for stretches playing the 3?
What are the best lineups for Cleveland featuring Niang? And can LeVert have similar success as he did last season as a deep/off-ball threat? Will LeVert stay healthy, too?
We’ll have to see what plays out next season and beyond, but at least for now, the Cavaliers addressed their shooting needs early on here, and LeVert’s playmaking should also help generate quality three-point looks, also.
Now, hopefully, Cleveland can bring in a meaningful backup 5 to aid their defense, and maybe adding a value defensive piece forward could help via trade or via bargain deal to replace Stevens.