For the most part, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster appears to be set heading into the 2023-24 season.
Cleveland brought in several new faces this offseason in Georges Niang, Max Strus (via sign-and-trade), Damian Jones (by way of trade) and Ty Jerome, and Caris LeVert was re-signed. Tristan Thompson was brought back last week for added veteran leadership as well, which should pay off in the long run.
The Cavaliers had to address their perimeter shooting needs, and having more playable depth for the bench was a focal point, too. Cleveland seemed to do a decent job of doing both.
After their offseason, and following a largely promising 2022-23 campaign, there’s plenty of reason to believe the Wine and Gold can level up this upcoming season. Cleveland still has an impressive quartet with Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, and despite last season’s playoff failure, it was undoubtedly a year this team can build off of.
It will take some time to iron out some things within the Cavaliers’ rotation, though, and while it may be a bit premature to forecast the outlook for both, Cleveland might have to eventually choose between two role guys. Those two that jump out in that aspect are Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade.
Both Okoro and Wade have given Cleveland a boost on the defensive end, with Okoro being a difference-maker against primary initiators and doing quality work against wings, and Wade often given the Cavaliers a viable option against big wings and forwards.
With those expectations, by and large for both, it’s maybe reasonable to believe both guys can stick around with the Cavs, too. And it looks as if they’ll both will be with the Wine and Gold heading into next season.
That being said, both could seemingly be competing for 3 man minutes in the rotation, and with the contract structure of both, Okoro and Wade have been often mentioned as possible candidates to be involved in trades it seems.
In Okoro’s case, he is an impactful perimeter defender, and he’s still not 23 years old yet. So there could be more to see from him on the offensive end.
The problem in that sense is, even with catch-and-shoot strides from him, including in the second half of last regular season, he’s still going to be a player defenses play way off of. He did hit 36.3 percent of his three-point attempts last regular season, but the vast majority of those shots were wide-open corner threes, and with others involved, it remains to be seen if Okoro will demonstrate on-ball growth with this iteration of the Cavaliers.
With those things in mind, and Okoro likely on track to be a restricted free agent next offseason, he could be a trade deadline piece to be moved at some point.
As it pertains to Wade, he was a player Cleveland extended before last season, and he could factor into the rotation at the 3 and 4 spots, either in lineups with both Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, or one or the other.
The 6-foot-9 Wade is a more legitimate shooting threat at this juncture than Okoro, even with him being a player with minutes variance and some odd DNPs throughout his tenure with the Cavs.
Wade’s 36.2 percent three-point hit rate over essentially three-plus seasons with Cleveland doesn’t necessarily indicate the shooter he can be, if he’s given the opportunities. He’s had several hot stretches when he’s had regular rotational work, and his shot release is more fluid than Okoro’s at this stage, even with Okoro showing growth there. Wade’s size and positioning can aid Cleveland’s rebounding, too, and he’s proven to consistently make unsung, winning plays.
Plenty of the concern with Wade, though, has been the injury bug. He was not close to the same shooter last season after an AC joint sprain, and he was reportedly still affected by that injury even after returning. That’s understandable, to some degree, but his shooting was not close to what it was in early-season play prior to the injury, and there’s been some other minor ailments at times for him in recent seasons.
Wade’s prior season was cut short due to a meniscus tear as well, and that didn’t help Cleveland’s sans Jarrett Allen defense during that time, as they fell to being a Play-In Tournament team, where they would lose both of their games. So, injuries have been part of the issue for Wade, who endured a few unfortunate and untimely foot ailments as well in his collegiate days at Kansas.
Now, all things considered, however, both Okoro and Wade (an original undrafted, two-way signing) have been important culture guys for the Cavaliers over the course of their turnaround in recent years. Perhaps both are players that can stick around.
But eventually, Cleveland might have to end up choosing between one of the two, with the other being a potential trade candidate as part of a package, either in early-season, or more near the 2024 deadline. Or maybe the Cavs could move both at some point, hypothetically.