After it was widely rumored for quite some time since their early playoff exit as a result of a loss in the first round to the New York Knicks, it was good to see the Cleveland Cavaliers address their shooting needs.
After re-signing Caris LeVert, the Cavs signed Georges Niang to a three-year deal, and then acquired Max Strus in a sign-and-trade from the Miami Heat. Both of those players have made their knockdown shooting abilities known in recent seasons, and they should make a difference in multiple ways for the Cavaliers in years ahead.
Niang and Strus should provide the Cavaliers’ key options in Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley with supplemental relief, and both of those signings should make Jarrett Allen a more viable vertical spacer.
But, when it pertains to both Strus and Niang, one can’t help but to take a closer look into how they could both make Mitchell even better.
The Cavs’ new additions will make Mitchell even more dangerous as a downhill threat.
Mitchell was outstanding for the Cavaliers in the regular season, as he had a career-high 28.3 points per game, and had a career-best true shooting rate of 61.4 percent. He broke Cleveland’s team record for three-pointers made in a single season with 245, and for his efforts, was named All-NBA Second Team.
He was also a significant playmaking presence for the Cavaliers as well, with 4.4 assists per outing and his multifaceted offensive game was a driving force behind Cleveland’s success and return to the postseason.
Unfortunately, he and Cleveland underachieved in their first-round series loss to the Knicks, and in the final three games, Mitchell shot just 20.8 percent from three, and in those contests, his overall splits were 20.3 points per game. In those games, all of which were losses by double digits, Mitchell had an identical number of turnovers, being 15, to his assists, 15.
That assist clip for those outings was fine, he just clearly was out of rhythm, and Cleveland’s lack of spacing and offensive flow issues were detrimental to their chances, and some of it was the Cavs being way off. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen had their problems, too, for what it’s worth.
As we alluded to, however, the new additions in Strus and Niang should be very impactful for the Cleveland offense, and Mitchell himself.
Mitchell is clearly one of the best drivers in the league, and his strength, explosiveness, handle and pull-up capabilities enable him to always be a downhill scoring threat. Having said that, with Strus and Niang as big-time shooting threats off the ball in stretches on the floor with him, that should make Mitchelll more lethal as a driver.
Strus and Niang hit 197 and 154 triples last season, respectively, and that added spacing could make a considerable difference for Mitchell to have room to get into the paint, to either score himself or initiate more meaningful kickout feeds. That’d have helped Cleveland in the playoffs this go-round, and hopefully, should next year, also with the Cavs’ young guys in Garland and Mobley having that experience under their belt.
Along with the spacing aspect, Strus’ movement shooting and the gravity that could have should be significant for players such as Mitchell, Garland and Caris LeVert as on-ball threats.
Strus’ production and shooting is not going to exactly mirror that of former Cav Kyle Korver, but there are some similarities between the two as movement shooters. Strus’ overall off-ball impact bends defenses in a way that Korver used to, and that made former Cavs such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving more dangerous.
From there, while the vast majority of his shots will come from ball-swings and standard spot-ups, Mitchell’s former Utah Jazz teammate in Niang could realistically be a pick-and-pop threat here and there in sequences with Mitchell as well. If that threat is established over time between those two guys with the Cavs, natural counters to that action could be in-play to come for the Wine and Gold offense, also, which is another wrinkle to keep in mind.
While it’ll take some time for Strus and Niang to get acclimated to their new situation with the Cavaliers, it’s encouraging to know that both could make Mitchell even more lethal as a driving threat. Hopefully that will pay off come playoff time.