It’s safe to assume when Max Strus was acquired by the Cleveland Cavaliers via sign-and-trade and was given a four-year, $62.3 million deal, that his primary impact was set to be as a sharpshooter. Strus made his mark in recent seasons with the Miami Heat as being one of those types of perimeter threats, and he should bolster the Cavs’ shooting efforts from the jump.
Strus made 197 and 181 three-point shots in the last two seasons with the Heat, and with the threat he poses from the outside, he should open up more spacer for a number of Cavaliers players. Drivers such as Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert will benefit from Strus’ knockdown shooting capabilities, and Evan Mobley and Cleveland’s bigs definitely could as well.
Strus and offseason signing Georges Niang are both three-point shooters who should free up key Cavaliers scorers and playmakers more with their reputations off-ball. Those two both can make others more effective in both set offense and as transition targets. It’s just going to be on the Cavs to do their part in getting those new guys going, and both their teammates and J.B. Bickerstaff and Cleveland’s coaches fall in line with ensuring that.
Fortunately, Bickerstaff expressing how he wants the Cavaliers to be more “dynamic” on offense, regarding man and ball movement, is reason for optimism as it pertains to utilizing those shooters, and Strus, especially. Bickerstaff said the following on that offensive approach this coming season recently in a Q and A with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
"“I think by adding a guy like Max, adding Georges, they can move and create movement and make shots off movement. Now people are chasing them, and you still have your opportunity to play your pick-and-roll with Darius [Garland] and Donovan and Evan [Mobley] and Jarrett [Allen].”– J.B. Bickerstaff”"
Strus is a not a player opposing defenses can leave open. If he is open from the perimeter, then he’s going to make the opposition pay in catch-and-shoot situations, either from spot-ups off of ball-swings or kickouts, or from his own relocation or off screen movement.
Now, Strus’ three-point shooting hit rate was 35.0 percent last season with Miami, whereas the year prior, that was 41.0 percent. The volume was 7.0 attempts per outing in 2022-23 and 6.5 in 2021-22, for context. Strus having more on-ball work and Miami’s injuries did factor into that drop in efficiency, but even some inconsistencies at points, Strus’ activity off-ball was still impactful for the Heat throughout.
With Strus’ constant movement and off screen proficiency, he’s a player the Cavaliers should be looking to early and often. As a polished off-ball shooter, he consistently finds subtle ways to avail himself as an outlet on the wing on the weak side, and on the strong side in set offense, has a quick release and is decisive to get shots off.
This isn’t a direct comparison, but if Cleveland and Bickerstaff can maximize Strus’ movement capabilities, he could be Kyle Korver-esque for this Wine and Gold group. Strus is going to have his share of opportunities with the Cavaliers moving forward, and the volume should be there for him as a movement shooting and off-ball contributor.
Along with his shooting prowess, Strus is a guy who can get up and finish at the rim after drives following hard closeouts, and he’s an adept cutter who can take advantage when opponents are overplaying his perimeter looks as well.
Also, Strus did show some underrated passing skill last season, as our own Mateo Mayorga recently mentioned, and with that in mind, Strus could potentially help other shooters get some easier looks, and/or Cleveland’s bigs with touch feeds inside. Whether Bickerstaff enables Strus to playmake from here and possibly add more to his game in that aspect is something one will have to see unfold, anyway.
Overall, however, to ensure they’re less predictable in key moments in the regular season and to be more multiple offensively in the playoffs, it’s imperative Bickerstaff and Cleveland consistently utilize more movement than last season.
Garland and Mitchell still will have their moments as stars, and it’d be huge if the Mobley offensive leap comes, but as an overarching point of emphasis, the movement must be there more game-to-game. And Strus’ skill set should be central to that approach.