The Cleveland Cavaliers have prioritized shooting this summer, which is no surprise given the way that the New York Knicks absolutely strangled their offense in the playoffs last season. Max Strus, Georges Niang and Ty Jerome have now been added to a team that won 51 games last season.
While Strus looks in line to start, and both Jerome and Niang are likely to have significant roles off the bench, each of those players brings shooting and offensive punch without much defensive prowess. All three try hard on that end; there’s no Trae Youngs lurking on this team. Even so, the Cavs didn’t do much in terms of adding “two-way players” this summer.
Their defense was so good last season that they may be able to survive with so many offense-first players in the rotation, but the ideal addition for the team would be a perimeter player who can both defend at a high level and shoot the basketball. That coveted “3-and-D” player who is so hard to find in free agency or on the trade market.
Except…what if the perfect player to fill just that sort of need is suddenly hitting free agency? What if the Cavaliers get a chance to sign a veteran 3-and-D wing to help them contend in the Eastern Conference without committing an expensive contract or using their sparse remaining trade assets to deal for him?
That’s the gift that the San Antonio Spurs just gave to the Cavaliers this weekend. The Spurs have been busy this summer taking on other teams’ salary to facilitate trades, using their cap space to add future draft capital. The Cavaliers actually made use of that earlier in the offseason, trading Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens and a second-round pick to the Spurs to allow them to pull off a sign-and-trade for Max Strus.
In a separate transaction, the Spurs took on the money of veteran swingman Reggie Bullock from the Dallas Mavericks, allowing Dallas to add Grant Williams from the Boston Celtics in a sign-and-trade without Boston having to take on any money; it was very nearly an identical situation to the Cavs signing Max Strus.
The difficulty for the Spurs was that they brought back most of their roster from last season, added multiple draft picks, and helped to facilitate three trades by taking back players (they also helped Phoenix unload a contract). That meant their roster was packed with players well above the limit of 15 full contracts (18 when you factor in two-way deals).
The Spurs had to cut someone, and as a rebuilding team trying to develop young players into a future contender, the choice they made was to move on from the 32-year old wing in Reggie Bullock. That means the 10-year veteran, who is likely to clear waivers, will soon be available to sign with any team he likes (other than Dallas).
It’s hard to imagine a player available for a minimum deal being a better fit for the Cavaliers than Reggie Bullock. They have been trying to find shooters without compromising their defense, and Bullock would seem to thread that needle perfectly.
For his career, Bullock has shot 38.4 percent from deep, including 38 percent last season. He is not afraid to get up shots, either, shooting at least five 3-pointers per game in four of the last five seasons. He does have a track record of starting a season cold and heating up as the year goes on, but that’s a quirk the Cavs can weather as they work him in.
In contrast to someone like Max Strus, Bullock is also an extremely solid defender. He is 6’7″ with a 6’10” wingspan, solid size for a small forward. He doesn’t do much defensive playmaking, but as a perimeter defender tasked with guarding an opponent’s most formidable perimeter player he is quite solid and experienced.
The Cavaliers have defenders and they have shooters, but depending on how you try to massage Caris LeVert or Dean Wade into that description, they don’t really have someone who is both. They likely will need to find that player at some point to fully realize their potential.
It’s possible that the Spurs just took such a player, gift-wrapped him, and sent him in the mail right to the Cavaliers. That doesn’t mean it’s obvious that Bullock would sign with the Cavs, especially with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics now in the running to fill a few roster spots, but Cleveland has a shot and can offer a solid role.
Bullock is not a perfect player, but he’s the kind of player the Cavaliers would have been trying to trade for at the Trade Deadline, and he could be available right now for a minimum deal. The Cavs should strike quickly, adding the 3-and-D wing to the roster before Training Camp officially kicks off. Then send the Spurs a nice gift basket.