3 Cleveland Cavaliers players that could surprise us in 2023-2024

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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An NBA season is usually filled with surprises because unlikely rotation players emerge who become staples of a team. Draft status has nothing to do with this; it’s all about desire.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors took the starting power forward spot because David Lee got hurt in camp. Now he’s got four rings. Max Strus, now on the Cleveland Cavaliers, emerged from an unknown to perimeter flamethrower for the Miami Heat, assisting the club in reaching the 2023 NBA Finals. Gabe Vincent, another underlooked prospect, became the starting point guard for the same Heat team prior to leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

Going back further, there weren’t many expectations set on Kurt Rambis, the Showtime Lakers’ hustle man, who was told by head coach Paul Westhead that a job was not promised after coming back from Greece. The same can be said for Herm Gilliam, known as the Trickster, who played his last season for the youngest NBA team ever to win a championship, the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.

Heading into the 2023-24 campaign, the Cavaliers are loaded with depth at the guard position but thin in frontline reserves.

If any injury, suspension or absence kept out the main guys, here are the background Cavaliers who could dazzle, getting in where they fit in.

We’ll begin with one of the Cavaliers’ two-way signings.

No. 1: Craig Porter Jr.

Craig Porter Jr.’s three years of hooping at Wichita State under head coach Isaac Brown seasoned him well for the NBA. His reliable handle and burst off the dribble make him a threat to absorb an extra defender when getting inside the paint, and at 6-foot-2, is a master at using his shoulders to shield defenders away from the rock. When off-ball, Porter looks to attack the baseline on backdoor cuts or curl around picks, intending to dive straight towards the cup, or, if the defense drops back, pull-up.

He may be a score-first point guard, but he quickly identifies mismatches and can feed rollers well. In his last season at Wichita State, he averaged 4.9 assists per game in 33.6 minutes a night.

Porter shines in the open court, too. Porter wants to boat race opponents for easy buckets, which is something the Cavaliers didn’t have much of in 2022-23, as they were the slowest squad in the NBA and 24 of 30 teams in fastbreak points.

He also gets bonus points from me for rebounding well at his position (6.2-2022-23) and denying rivals extra opportunities.