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
Sharife Cooper, Cleveland Cavaliers and R.J. Hampton, Orlando Magic. Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images /

Sharife Cooper:

In 2021-22, Cooper averaged three minutes per game for the Atlanta Hawks as a rookie. Most of his action last year was for the Charge as its leading scorer (24.9) in 25 outings. In the G-League, he was a threat in isolation, but he wasn’t a strong finisher from 0-3 feet from the basket (57.6 conversion rate). The NBA average from that zone is 66.5% and defenses at that level are sharper.

Cooper would need to be a lockdown defender to thrive at the next level. It is unlikely that he will make the team.

Sam Merrill:

Merrill is a career 37.5% shooter from deep in 41 games across three seasons. In college, he was very good at playing off the ball and did so as well for the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers’ G-League affiliate. In 22 regular season games with the Charge in 2022-23, Merrill was a drop coverage killer, averaging 18.4 points a night, taking 8.9 triples, and converting 44.1% of attempts.

His movement around the perimeter and cuts through the middle pressure a defense, but the tradeoff is his defense. Merrill is not a high-level athlete. He doesn’t possess the foot speed to stay in front of most ball handlers. He can be exploited and when put on the back hip of the offense, will require a Cavs teammate to leave his spot and help.

Merrill’s niche might be G-League standout.

Justin Powell:

Powell is a 6-foot-6 sniper in the halfcourt and on the break, shooting 41.9% from deep in three seasons between Auburn, Tennessee and Washington State. The gravity of his marksmanship could cause some hard closeouts by opposing defenses, allowing him to put the ball on the floor to get inside.

The former three-star recruit takes care of the ball well. In 2022-23 at Washington State, he had three times as many assists as turnovers, and defensively, he isn’t a zero – foot speed isn’t the issue but he would need to add strength to defend other guards and small forwards.

Powell is an intriguing enough prospect to keep around.

Final Word:

The Cavaliers should give Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a call after his performances for Jordan. He is a more impactful player than each of the guys mentioned above.

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His feet are quick enough to defend smaller players, and he recorded 23.6 points per game at the FIBA World Cup.