Caris LeVert will continue to live large as the recipient of a generous two-year, all-guaranteed $32 million deal to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The price is heftier than supporters were likely anticipating, but a slight overpay was necessary for the Cavaliers because it gave up serious draft capital to bring him in.
Continuity is a positive, and last season, LeVert was used 30 times alongside the starters, and in these 7.7 minutes per game, the team held a 98.3 Defensive Rating. For reference, Cleveland had the top Defensive Rating during the regular season at 109.9.
In 2022-23, LeVert was the Cavaliers’ backup shooting guard and small forward. He set a career-high for games logged (74) and in 3-point percentage (39.2). This upcoming season, with higher expectations set on the outfit, more of LeVert’s contributions will be needed on the court and in the locker room for a deeper playoff run.
What would count as a solid 2023-24 season for LeVert with the Cavaliers?
LeVert is perfectly capable of being a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. He shouldn’t see his minutes drop much after he averaged 30.2 nightly, and his game compliments everyone on the roster. Playing at least 25 minutes per match is the floor while doing all the unsexy tasks, such as rebounding, defending, screening and spot-up shooting. He has to be well-rounded.
When alongside Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, LeVert should get more opportunities setting up his teammates. As a distributor, he’ll take pressure off the guards taking the ball up the floor, preventing a trap coming at it. In his second tour with the Cavaliers, LeVert assisted on 18.1 percent of his teammates’ buckets, placing him in the 90th percentile for his position, per Cleaning the Glass. His production in this department for 2023-24 should rise, flanked by additional snipers such as Max Strus and Georges Niang.
Last year he was good off the ball too. In the corners, LeVert splashed 41.3 percent of his attempted triples and made 39.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot trays. Sustaining this level of marksmanship is paramount so rival defenses don’t load up on Evan Mobley at close range.
As a starter in 30 of 74 games last season, his role shifted, being more relied on for buckets, but his efficiency dropped. LeVert converted 45.1 percent of his field goals as a reserve and only 41.3 percent as a starter. Most of his minutes are probably coming again as sixth man, with Strus turning into a Cav.
LeVert had a decent campaign with Cleveland but raised his production in 19 games post All-Star break, where he averaged 12.5 points, 3.7 dimes and 3.4 rebounds on shooting splits of 50.3 percent from the field, 46.6 percent behind the arc and 74.4 percent at the line. Of those 19 matches, LeVert started in four. Continuing that level of play for the entire season would erase doubt from the minds of skeptics and likely make him a targeted player in trade talks.
Defensively, LeVert is solid and only fouls on 3.2 percent of the Cavaliers’ plays, per Cleaning The Glass (subscription required). When working with DG and Spida, he’ll be able to take on a tough cover at guard, giving one of the two an easier assignment if LeVert’s original matchup is mainly an outside shooter.
The Cavaliers had the third-finest paint protection in the NBA. LeVert played a part in that, operating well in the 2-3 zone and switching in man-to-man. To validate his lucrative salary, he’ll need to be just as effective as previously.
Ultimately, what will make 2023-24 a successful season for LeVert is if he becomes the team’s security blanket on both sides. There will be nights when he’s needed heavily for points and others when required to lock up his man.
Turning into a star role player, like Bruce Brown was for the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, is what the Cavaliers need from LeVert.