When the Cleveland Cavaliers added Max Strus via sign-and-trade, that was big for their perimeter shooting efforts, and the same went for the signing of Georges Niang. Both of those players will open up more spacing for Cleveland, and they’ll be hopeful for the Cavaliers’ top on-ball options.
As it pertains to Strus, he hit 197 three-point shots in the 2022-23 regular season with the Miami Heat, and even with an NBA Finals where he was way off, he did still hit 43 postseason threes for Miami. Strus was one of the Heat’s top offensive players, and whether or not his shot was falling, his off-ball presence, constant motion and the gravity he had as a shooter all proved to be crucial for Miami.
For the Cavaliers, Strus will again project to be a significant offensive piece as a knockdown wing shooter, both via spot-ups off of kickouts/ball-swings and from movement looks. His overall three-point shooting splits were down to some degree last season at 35.0 percent as compared to the year prior, when he hit 41.0 percent from downtown, but Strus’ gravity and shooting reputation was always significant.
What’s something many should look forward to watching with Strus that’s flown under the radar in his upcoming years with the Cavs is how he can work with Cleveland’s bigs, such as with Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and perhaps Niang.
Strus should work so well with the Cavaliers’ bigs.
The majority of Strus’ assisted field goals will probably come from Darius Garland, and Donovan Mitchell will have his share of dishes to the sharpshooter, one would assume. Both of those players are Cleveland’s top scoring threats, and in Garland’s case at the very least, he’s Cleveland’s top playmaker.
That being said, this next season, it seems reasonable to believe the Cavaliers will run more things through Mobley as an initiator. There have been encouraging signs about that possibility in his first two seasons, but in Year 3 for him, him as a playmaking hub-type big should be on display far more with his vision, basketball IQ and feel for the game.
This isn’t suggesting Mobley is going to be Bam Adebayo over night as a passer and initiator for others in set offense, but a player like Strus could play especially well off of a willing and gifted big man passer in the mold of Mobley.
Mobley can find shooters over the top, hits skip passes which can result in open above the break threes, or corner looks from there, and Mobley usually makes the right plays in 4-on-3 situations. Those plays can result in terrific opportunities for Strus, and with his marksmanship, he can benefit from those sequences by then making timely back cuts or get to looks curling around off-ball screens.
Now, Mobley’s 2.8 assists per contest last season did not necessarily illustrate it, however, with it seeming as if the Cavs will feature him more as a playmaker next season, one should expect his splits to increase in that regard. Mobley’s scoring and on-ball growth will be important of course; still, with more offensive progression, Cleveland can utilize his vision and IQ as a passer, and that can make a difference for Strus.
Along with the Mobley playmaking element, with Strus being such an active mover off-ball, Cleveland’s bigs can aid him as screeners there, and both Mobley and Allen should be able to have plenty of handoff deliveries to Strus, who can fire those nearly instantaneously. Strus and Adebayo had amazing chemistry in that aspect in recent seasons, and with that threat, Mobley and Allen could emulate some of that.
Perhaps off that as a counter, Mobley, in particular, or at times Niang could get into drives to the basket, or make a different play for themselves or others from there. Strus could even be used as a relocating shooter, as an added wrinkle to those handoffs on the wing, too, for example.
So, overall, while Strus as a spacer and knockdown shooting threat will get the lion’s share of the pub involved with his signing, how he can potentially mesh with Cleveland’s bigs as a movement player shouldn’t be glossed over, either.
For the Cavs to maximize Strus’ impact, they have to utilize a myriad of ways to get him in the action, and realistically, that should factor in the bigs and how both could work harmoniously together. That’s factoring in how Strus’ gravity can open up the paint, the baseline and rim looks as well.