This from Cavs’ Niang and Strus seems to be underrated

Max Strus, Miami Heat and Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Max Strus, Miami Heat and Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /

When the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Georges Niang and then swung a deal to acquire Max Strus via sign-and-trade, the key takeaway was how both should be big-time shooting threats. Since becoming rotational contributors, both of those players have made their share of deep balls in recent seasons.

Niang has connected on 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts per contest over the last four seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and previously Utah Jazz, and in the past two seasons, Strus shot 37.6 percent from range with the Miami Heat. In last two regular seasons, Niang hit 154 and 156 three-point shots, and Strus has hit 197 and 181 deep balls.

It was encouraging that the Cavaliers addressed their perimeter shooting needs in bringing in those types of floor spacers early on in free agency. When they’re in there, both should aid offensive flow and open up more room for guys such as Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley. Strus is polished shooter off of movement, too, which is something the Wine and Gold should be sure to utilize often.

The additions of Niang and Strus should be a boost for Cleveland’s perimeter shooting efforts when they’re out there, clearly, and both project to hopefully be impactful off-ball players for the Cavaliers for years to come.

That being said, while the volume on other shots for them won’t likely be high, per se, these two players can also make plays to counter hard closeouts. That’s gone unnoticed it seems.

Niang and Strus are known for their deep shooting, but don’t discount them making plays off of their reputation to affect games in other ways for the Cavs.

The pure shooting from Niang and Strus will be the calling card for both players, as it’s been for some time. Their abilities in that aspect will improve Cleveland’s spacing horizontally, and it should aid Cleveland’s core players.

Both of the Cavaliers’ new additions can make plays off of their shooting reputations, too, though.

Strus has shown he can make his share of movement shooting looks, but at times to counter to those and his spot-ups, he can get to pull-ups in the in-between areas and convert. Also, Strus can make plays at the rim on occasion and/or a bit further in the paint. On a volume of 24.3 percent in 2022-23, in the regular season in this sense, he hit 65.2 percent of his looks inside of 10 feet, per’s shot tracking data.

Additionally, his passing has been under-appreciated to some degree, and he makes timely passes to open shooters if defenses are there to react, or bigs are rotating higher as opposed to playing in drop, if the scenario is pick-and-roll. It’s meaningful to have wing shooters who can make those sort of plays, and means they have more value in set offense than just set shooters.

Regarding the Niang element, while the passing splits aren’t anything spectacular, at a lifetime assist rate of 8.0 percent in the NBA, the ball definitely won’t stick in his hands; he was a very meaningful playmaker in college at Iowa State, for what it’s worth. He can make some timely plays in the lane with runners and push shots, too, in the scoring sense.

Over the course of his career as a rotational regular, in the last four seasons with the Sixers and previously the Utah Jazz, he’s been a nice finisher as an alternative to his catch-and-shoot play.

A volume of 1.3 attempts was not a ton, but out of 6.4 rotational shot attempts throughout games last season with Philly, he did connect on 59.0 percent of his shots inside of 10 feet, per’s shot tracking data. That was still on a 19.9 percent frequency.

Over that aforementioned last four-season span, he’s hit 66.5 percent of his shot attempts in the restricted area and 49.4 percent of his shots from three-to-10 feet out, according to Basketball Reference. The frequency of the latter shot area was 13.2 percent, for context.

So, while the bread and butter for both Strus and Niang will be their pure shooting from the perimeter in their time on the floor for Cleveland, them being able to make some plays by putting the ball on the floor as counters to that has seemingly been underrated.

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Both should assuredly make the Cavs more dynamic offensively, and in some lineups, they could work well with Caris LeVert as a de facto lead initiator, too.