A mix of old and new
One of the Cavs’ biggest needs last year was more reliable depth coming off their bench – with these moves in free agency, they seem to have addressed that. The next challenge is for J.B. Bickerstaff and the coaching staff to take this newly-acquired talent, along with the returning players and find a rotation for the second unit that works best for this team.
Last year, many of Cleveland’s downfalls came from a lack of consistency from their bench. This offseason, it seems evident that the Cavs have made a commitment to improving their roster by enhancing the fringes.
A second unit rotation behind the starters that could prove to be successful this season could look something like: Ty Jerome, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Georges Niang, and Dean Wade. This newly-revamped bench squad sees some familiar faces in Okoro, LeVert, and Wade working with some of the new guys like Ty Jerome and Georges Niang. This is critical to building stability throughout the season. By letting guys like LeVert and Okoro work in the second unit, the Cavs can ensure there is an element of continuity carrying over from the previous season into the next.
Jerome takes the role of the backup point guard. This spot could also be filled by Ricky Rubio, however, with his injuries, Cleveland might look to utilize him in a different role this season. While Rubio’s veteran presence is appreciated throughout the Cavs organization, Jerome provides a more reliable option to run point off the bench.
As a rather consistent shooter, with him shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from the three last season, not to mention being nearly six years younger than Rubio – it makes more sense to have Jerome on this bench unit. At minimum, Jerome could at least work in units when Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell are staggered, functioning in a rotational combo guard role. Jerome’s average of 3.0 assists per game last year make him a reliable facilitator as well; generally speaking, he’ll make the right plays.
From there, fans have also been hyping up the rookie, Craig Porter Jr., in the Summer League, and while he has been awesome so far – with him being on a two-way deal, we can expect to see him mainly suiting up for the Cleveland Charge. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Jerome provides a nice blend of experience and youth to work with other bench players.
Georges Niang, another newcomer to the team, is a no-brainer for the second unit. Niang might even have some potential in the starting lineup, but all signs point to Max Strus taking on that role. With Niang playing off the bench, the Cavs add a big man with a lethal shooting consistency. With his 40.1 percent three-point shooting, Niang can bring some much desired firepower to the team. Niang hit 154 threes last season with the Philadelphia 76ers in a bench stretch forward role.
According to a report from Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, Caris LeVert had other offers on the table – offers that would have been more financially lucrative, but instead he chose to return to the Cavs with the belief this team could compete deep into the postseason. Cleveland should make the most of LeVert’s desire to stay and win with the team by utilizing him as a spark plug off the bench.
Throughout last season, LeVert put up an average of 12.1 points per game, as well as 3.9 assists and 3.8 total rebounds. He brings some guidance to this group as well. Having played in the starting lineup and off the bench last year, he has a more rounded understanding of the Cavs’ playbook.
Rounding out the Cavs’ new and improved bench are Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro. While Wade did have somewhat of a down year this past season with an average of 4.7 points per game, and his three-point shooting clip went way down to 35.4 percent for the year after a hot start, he still has the capabilities of being a solid role player for this roster. Most of Wade’s troubles on the court this past season can be attributed to his AC sprain in his shoulder. If he can get back to full health, he should provide a decent addition to this bench/rotation.
The addition of Strus means Okoro’s position on the bench is almost inevitable. That said, this might actually be the best-case scenario for the wing going into his fourth year. With Okoro playing off the bench alongside shooters like Niang and LeVert, there will be less pressure for him to score. Instead, Okoro can focus in on the defensive side of the ball.
Okoro’s major strengths have always been his gritty defense and knack for switching on targets. Cleveland can ensure he continues to build on those strengths in this new role.
Moving on, let’s try and get a better understanding of what the offense and defense of this new lineup might look like.