As a small market team, the Cleveland Cavaliers rarely have the opportunity to nab the top choices in free agency.
This summer, there were no star studded players the Cavaliers were chasing, instead opting to focus on affordable, 3-point shooting role player depth to complement their core of young (and increasingly expensive) stars. Though Cleveland struggled mightily in the playoffs to find their form, the framework for a contender was clearly present. This free agency’s goal was to find the right pieces to elevate the team to that status.
The first signing was that of 40 percent 3-point sharpshooter Georges Niang, former Utah Jazz teammate to Donovan Mitchell. Following Niang, the Cavs inked a new contract with swingman Caris LeVert and then worked toward a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat to acquire small forward Max Strus.
While the Cavaliers gave up two fan favorites in Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens in their route to attaining Strus, his unique skillset should quickly make him another favorite among the Cleveland faithful. Strus will have plenty of time to make his home in Cleveland, as well, after a report from Cleveland insider Chris Fedor confirmed Max Strus as the fifth and final starter on the Cavs.
Last season, Strus averaged 11.5 points, shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc. He started at small forward for the entirety of Miami’s Finals run, and that playoff performance likely influenced Cleveland’s interest in the talented wing. And, during that postseason Strus formed a connection with a former Cavaliers legend, later reaching out to him for advice in his free agency.
When Max Strus approached free agency, the former undrafted prospect had his first chance to guarantee himself a serious payday in the NBA. His consistent production for the Miami Heat both in the regular season and playoffs put him in prime position for a successful summer.
A number of teams were looking for an upgrade at the wing spot this season, considering the value the position provides in the modern Association. For Strus, though, he said during media day that his decision became easy after speaking with former Cavalier Kevin Love.
"“Kevin was one of the first people I called, and he couldn’t have been more positive about the city and the organization. He told me it was a no-brainer… Kevin [Love] talked very highly of it, and he hasn’t steered me wrong once.”– Max Strus"
Before Kevin Love’s eventual buyout last season with Cleveland, he served as a tremendous mentor for the budding Cavs core. Love was the final member of the 2016 Championship Cavaliers roster to stick around (until Tristan Thompson’s return), making his departure a bittersweet goodbye. Clearly, the love for Love is not lost.
For him to help the Cavaliers this offseason by guiding Strus to Cleveland, it shows the chemistry and culture that is at the nucleus of the Land’s operation. In the midst of the offseason, Cleveland’s President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman praised the addition of Strus during an online media availability, lauding him as the Cavaliers’ first choice going into free agency.
The excitement for the new contract seems to be shared, as Strus cited he and his agent – Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports – discussed Strus’ fit and “the ability to come here and space the floor” alongside Cleveland’s star backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Strus noted he is looking to share his experiences and knowledge from his time on a contender in Miami with the young Cavaliers.
After this past season, Max Strus’ resume is not just regular season shooting accolades. The Cavaliers need somebody who has long playoff runs under their belt to get Cleveland’s players into the right headspace during the grueling seven-game series they must endure. Strus will be more than capable of this, knowing all too well what it means to earn your spot in the NBA through grit and determination.
With training camp now underway, the fit of Strus will begin to take shape, bringing another layer of versatility to the Cavaliers’ offense. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff seemingly realizes the value Strus and Niang bring as forwards, saying he hopes to lead a more dynamic offense next season.
Beyond the court, Max Strus’ arrival in Cleveland signifies how the Cavaliers maintain their relationships with players, both present and past. Although the future of Donovan Mitchell’s contract extension remains in limbo, the culture of the Cavaliers will continue to be the catalyst to build the team into a true contender.