2 dark horse candidates to eventually break into Cavs’ starting lineup

Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Caris LeVert could fight his way back to a starting role

As initially mentioned, the Ohio native Caris LeVert began last season in the starting five. His role fluctuated numerous times until he settled into a role as the leader of the second unit.

LeVert put the team first, accepting every role thrown his way. At season’s end, LeVert expressed jubilation toward the Cavaliers organization and his desire to re-sign in free agency.

The cause of LeVert’s move to the bench was not a lack of skill or fit. Though he played well next to both Garland and Mitchell, the second unit had no energy. Ricky Rubio was expected to lead the way, but his rhythm never completely returned after a season-ending injury the year prior.

In the 2022-23 season, LeVert shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. He also averaged 3.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds. His offensive impact gave the Cavaliers a surge, spreading the floor and forcing defenses to keep an eye on him during every possession.

Defensively, the 28-year-old wing was one of the Cavaliers’ best perimeter forces. Though his scoring was not consistent every night, his defense was. Over the season, he averaged one steal and earned a 112 defensive rating. In tight matchups, LeVert was Cleveland’s defensive anchor numerous times.

Additionally, LeVert was one of Cleveland’s only bright spots in the postseason. In the short series against the New York Knicks, LeVert scored 15 points per game and shot 51.9 percent from the field. While it was not an awe-inspiring performance, his effort kept Cleveland alive before the embarrassing gentleman’s sweep.

While Strus’ playoff experience and consistent scoring output will likely secure him the starting role on opening night, his undersized build and subpar defense might lead the way for LeVert to gain a second opportunity.

Standing at 6-foot-6, LeVert matches against taller wings and forwards better than Strus, especially next to a short backcourt. Although Strus’ height might not be a serious downfall thanks to Mobley and Allen, Caris LeVert proved himself as a starting-caliber wing last season.

With better depth to trust with leading the bench, moving LeVert back to the starting squad could serve Cleveland well.

The second dark horse contender could shift Cleveland’s entire dynamic moving forward.