Lineup No. 1: Main lineup
PG: Darius Garland
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Max Strus
PF: Evan Mobley
C: Jarrett Allen
Nearly identical to last year, the only change in the team’s likely starting and closing lineup is at the small forward position. New free agent Max Strus may not possess the size of a typical three-and-D wing, but he brings a much-needed sharpshooting ability from beyond the arc.
As a nearly 37 percent three-point shooter, averaging around six attempts per game for his career, Max Strus is an ideal complement to the core four in this lineup. His proficiency playing off-ball, combined with his ability to shoot effectively even with tight defensive coverage, makes him perfect for spacing the Cleveland offense. Defenses will need to assign a high-level defender to him to prevent him from getting open looks. This level of attention is in stark contrast to what Isaac Okoro experienced last year, where he was essentially ignored by the Knicks as they focused on guarding Mitchell and Garland.
While Strus isn’t renowned for his elite defensive skills, Erik Spoelstra often preferred Strus over other rotation players on the Miami Heat due to his upper body strength. Strus may not be a lockdown defender against the opposing team’s best player, but he is not a liability, and his length can be masked when playing alongside Mobley and Allen. The improved spacing and the addition of a capable shooter to the lineup have the potential to elevate Cleveland into one of the league’s better offenses.