Early season will be telling when it comes to this Cavs players’ role

Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offseason moves, the roster for next season feels mostly set. Cleveland could at some point end up converting one of their two-way contract players to a standard contract, with Isaiah Mobley and Emoni Bates realistically being options there, or the Cavaliers could sign a free agent via team-friendly deal.

For the most part, though, Cleveland generally seems to have its options for the rotation in-house now, based on their moves that came early this month.

Now, there are some incumbent players whose roles will naturally be affected from players such as Max Strus and Georges Niang coming on-board, and with the signing of Ty Jerome, Ricky Rubio could eventually be supplanted in the rotation. Additionally, what will Isaac Okoro’s role be from here?

Time will tell as it pertains to both Rubio and Okoro, but they aren’t the only Cavaliers that come to mind in that realm.

Another Cav who could be marginalized would appear to be Dean Wade. Wade has been a quality defensive player for the Wine and Gold in recent seasons, and when healthy, he has been a meaningful shooting option to go to.

Unfortunately, injuries at various points have been an issue for Wade, and with the new players involved, along with still Caris LeVert, for example, Wade may be hard-pressed for opportunities with Cleveland. How things are early will likely tell the story with Wade looking onward, too.

Early season will likely be telling when it comes to Wade’s outlook with the Cavs from here.

Wade didn’t end last season well as a shooter, and after he was back from his AC joint sprain, he didn’t have the same effectiveness in that regard. It was a gut punch, as Wade started the season so well in that aspect, canning 41.1 percent of his three-point attempts in his first 17 appearances of the 2022-23 campaign.

Wade would then be sidelined from early December until late January, though, and was not the same offensively upon his return. In his 27 regular season appearances from that point onward, he shot only 31.0 percent from three, and had 3.6 points in 17.9 minutes per contest in that span.

Wade was reportedly still dealing some pain to some degree even after his return, so one has to acknowledge that, in fairness, and next season, he should be much better offensively if he’s healthy. But, as a role player who has had minutes variance, him being somewhat streaky in his Cavs tenure is not so surprising.

Wade can always still help the Cavs defensively, however, and even with the new guys in the fold, and others still as well, some minutes for him would be sensible, provided he’s still healthy.

Wade’s 6-foot-9 size and length, and good positional awareness often makes him viable defensively, and that’s useful. Opponents scored 6.4 points per 100 possessions less last season when Wade was on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass, which ranked in the 93rd percentile in that swing metric.

Even if his shot is not falling, Wade can give Cleveland productive stretches, and despite the splits not illustrating it, he does aid Cleveland’s ball and man movement, is a good finisher and runs the floor especially well. His athleticism on both ends makes a difference and also helps the Cavaliers in varying lineups.

All of that said, with players such as Strus, Niang, LeVert and Okoro in mind, it’s tough to project the outlook for Wade.

He is a player who can still be impactful for winning basketball, and that’s not something that should be glossed over, even if his shot is not falling. He does the little things, is a plus athlete, and can mesh well with Cleveland’s on-ball threats.

To reiterate, though, Wade’s run in the early portion of next season will likely be telling as it pertains to his role moving forward.

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He is a player whose name has also seemingly popped up in trade rumors, too, as a tradeable contract as part of salary matching. Whether or not Cleveland were to move him by the start of next season, what the approach is with his minutes early in 2023-24 could very well indicate what his long-term role could be.