The big names for the Cleveland Cavaliers and offseason signings such as Caris LeVert (by way of re-signing), Georges Niang and Max Strus will have their share of production and chances. That’s safe to say.
Beyond that, though, the Cavaliers will need others to step up throughout games to supplement Cleveland’s key cogs. While it’s tough to forecast exactly the kind of roles those types of contributors will have, a couple of players come to mind that could help the team in that sense. That’s at least for now, as the roster stands.
To that point, here, we’ll suggest two players that could prove to be unsung heroes for the Cavs next season.
The first unsung hero-type of player for next season was an offseason signing which might have gone under the radar, to some degree. That was Ty Jerome.
Cavs Unsung Hero No. 1: Ty Jerome
Jerome was a logical depth signing initially, but after Ricky Rubio announced he’d be taking a hiatus from pro basketball activities to address his mental health earlier this month, the Jerome signing looked to be all the more meaningful for Cleveland.
Jerome can hold his own on the perimeter defensively, is usually in the right spots on that end to not be in compromising positions, and offensively, he makes the right plays. Despite being on a two-way deal last season with the Golden State Warriors, he did do a commendable job in his chances with that squad, with 6.9 points and 3.0 assists in 18.1 minutes per game in 45 appearances.
Jerome is not going to be generating tons of pub with his play, but with his ability to play on or off the ball for rotational stretches as a respectable shooter, defend, and move the ball and move without the rock well, he could be a very underrated addition.
Jerome hit 38.9 percent of his three-point attempts with Golden State last season, and among combo guards, placed in the 75th percentile in assist rate in 2022-23, per Cleaning The Glass.
As a low-maintenance contributor, he could find his niche for the Cavaliers, and despite some minutes variance, whether or not Rubio eventually makes an impact from here, Jerome could prove to be a steal pickup.
If Jerome gets his share of opportunities, he could affect winning for the Cavs as a good shooter, sound decision-maker, also out of pick-and-roll, and solid player off-ball on both ends.
Cavs Unsung Hero No. 2: Dean Wade
The other viable candidate here that came to mind was Dean Wade.
Unfortunately for him, Wade did not finish out last season how one would’ve liked, as he was not the same level of catch-and-shoot player offensively after he came back from an AC joint sprain, and the lack of results followed. He shot 31.0 percent from three-point range in his last 27 regular season appearances of the 2022-23 campaign, and posted 3.6 points per contest in that span from late January on.
That said, when healthy, Wade is a respectable catch-and-shoot guy and is a good mover without the ball as a cutter, relocator, and transition player. The constant with Wade, however, is how he’s helped Cleveland defensively when he’s had regular opportunities.
Wade is an intelligent defensive player who can handle defensive assignments against bigger wings, is competent against plenty of forwards, and in the team scope, has often made a positive impact for the Cavs.
He is especially long for his 6-foot-9 stature, and can get outmuscled at times against more physical players, but generally, he’s helped Cleveland in the non-glamorous areas. His frame and spatial awareness have aided the Cavaliers for stretches on the defensive glass as well, and his willingness to get loose balls has led to the Cavs being successful when he’s been on the floor regularly in recent seasons, too.
Regardless of the shooting splits, Wade’s defensive play and winning plays helped Cleveland when he was available last season. The Wine and Gold were 30-14 in the 2022-23 regular season in games Wade played in, and Cleveland allowed 6.4 points less per 100 possessions Wade was on the floor in those, which placed in the 93rd percentile in that metric, per Cleaning The Glass.
Wade did not seem comfortable on offense nearly enough last season after coming back from that shoulder injury, and he was reportedly still affected by it after coming back, which probably didn’t lead to much confidence. He wasn’t effective offensively in Cleveland’s first round playoff loss to the New York Knicks, either, and likely led to minutes being hard to come by.
But, if Wade gets his chances this next season, provided he is mostly healthy in 2023-24, Wade is a solid defender, and if comfortable, he’s an effective off-ball offensive player who is an athletic finisher as well.
Granted, Wade could seemingly be a possible trade candidate for Cleveland in months ahead it appears with a team-friendly contract, as aside. If the chances do come for him, though, including as a possible starting 3 or closing 3 man option, Wade is definitely a player that could fit the mold of an unsung hero regularly for the Cavs.