Handicapping the non-guaranteed players in training camp for the Cavs

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Tristan Thompson and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

Tristan Thompson:

The reserve frontcourt is too thin, and because of his experience, Thompson will likely make the team, and if not, it’s only $200K down the drain for ownership. Recently, he assisted the Los Angeles Lakers in spot minutes during the 2023 Playoffs and was praised by Cavs president Koby Altman at Media Day for his toughness and motivational prowess.

Thompson’s calling card is defense and rebounding – skills that will always find a place in the NBA. He should match up well, defending slower-footed guards and young big men at close range. Offensively, he can still set powerful screens, getting others and himself open. As a vet who has won a championship, his voice will carry extra weight in the locker room as well.

Zhaire Smith:

Since getting drafted in 2018, Smith has logged 13 career games. Recovering from a broken foot and an allergic reaction kept him out most of his rookie year (2018-19), but between the Delaware Blue Coats (G-League affiliate) and the 76ers, he appeared in 17 games. The next season, he spent 28 of his 35 matches with Delaware. Smith is now on an Exhibit 10 deal with the Cavaliers.

At the NBA level, in his microscopic sample size, Smith is an inefficient scorer inside the arc, recording 44% of his baskets as a rookie. Unless he has shown up at camp as a completely transformed player, it’s not likely that a project to get back into the league gets a lot of time at guard. Not counting the starters, Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro are more dependable options at shooting guard.

Pete Nance:

His name likely bought him a ticket to camp to show off his stuff, but the Cavaliers got an early glimpse of him at the 2022 Draft process before he elected to go back to school. He isn’t a skywalker like his brother or father, but he created separation at Northwestern and North Carolina with decent footwork and hard screens. Using this skill set at the post or elbow could unlock another dimension to his game as a dribble hand-off hub.

Nance is a throwback player who wants to post up opponents, getting them in foul trouble and taxing their bodies, banging down low. Further developing this in the G-league may not be a bad idea, considering, that drawing extra help in the post is the best way to create spacing.

Additionally, he was disruptive as a help-side shot blocker in his last two years at school, and after a defensive rebound, executed the outlet pass adequately. Since the frontcourt is thin, if he impresses at training camp, Nance might take a spot. It would be a great story if he were good enough to play real minutes as a backup power forward.