Starting small forward (Isaac Okoro or Max Strus)
Last season, Isaac Okoro logged 73 percent of his minutes at small forward. This season he’ll be required to keep improving his long-range touch but this time on a higher usage. In 202-23, Cavaliers forwards were 15th of 30 teams in three-point efficiency between October and April. In the playoffs, they were 10th of 16.
For Okoro to have a maximum impact starting, his catch-and-shoot numbers must hover around 40 percent and take a minimum of two trips to the free throw line nightly. Shooting percentages that high on quick fires would make it difficult for the opponent to cheat by giving Okoro space to bother his teammates’ drives.
Improving as a sniper means getting blitzed on the perimeter after an Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen screen with the vertical threat dashing through the middle. To get more involved in the offense, Okoro will have to raise his screening volume too. His muscular frame can derail defenders away from Garland and Mitchell for a pop shot on the side or roll to the cup post-contact.
As a third-year player, Okoro attempted 2.1 catch-and-shoot triples per game, converting 36.6 percent.
Multiple trips to the charity line are important, too, because it assists the Cavaliers in reaching the bonus while giving defenders a breather. Okoro has always been a decent shooter at the line for his career, but his problem is he barely gets there.
In 2024, Okoro will hit restricted free agency. His value can soar if he keeps improving defensively, but he would need a stronger showing against a rival’s best perimeter player in the postseason. In the series with the New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson did what he wanted, guarded by Okoro.
In Max Strus’ case, he must be a spark plug when working with the starters or coming off the bench. His constant relocation on the perimeter stresses the other team’s defense because he runs his matchup into screens creating mismatches for other players off an emergency switch.
Last season, seven of his 9.9 field goal attempts were three-pointers, made at a 35 percent clip. In the playoffs, his efficiency dipped to 31.9 percenet. Strus is capable of better shooting performances, evident by logging 41 percent of attempted triples in 2021-22.
In the Cavs’ offense, Strus should receive tons of open looks when an extra man is sent toward DG, Spida or Mobley. In the corners, Mad Max splashed 46.1 percent of his tries in his third season with the Miami Heat. This type of accuracy will cause defenders to leave their feet when they overplay him after the catch for an open jumper or runway to the rim that requires a man to rotate.