The Cleveland Cavaliers took a major leap forward last season. Two seasons after winning just 22 games they not only leaped into the playoffs, but they won 51 games and had the league’s second-best net rating. This was a really good team, and things came together for them quickly after adding Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell in particular was a surprise, as he elevated his game and at times was in the MVP conversation. He probably doesn’t have much upward mobility left, and even if he does take another step forward it wouldn’t be shocking.
Which players on the Cavaliers could shock the world this season? Let’s look at three candidates, ranging from most surprising to most impactful.
Alright, let’s start with the low ceiling. Dean Wade was a starter for the Cavaliers in short stints last season, but a shoulder injury first knocked him out of the lineup and knocked his jumper out of alignment once he returned.
If an offseason of rehab can resolve his shooting motion and get him back to league average or better from 3-point range, Wade’s defense will be extremely valuable on a team without many perimeter defenders in the rotation, and especially not many options to defend opposing combo forwards. Unless the Cavs trade for someone like Dorian Finney-Smith, they lack an ideal option to defend the Jayson Tatums and Jimmy Butlers of the world.
The shocking path ahead of Wade is if he leapfrogs Max Strus during the season to start at small forward. The team needs the movement shooting of Strus, but if he can’t hold up defensively they may need to rethink their lineup. Wade becoming a full-time starter would be shocking to say the least.