This final Hot Take may not seem as bold as the one before it, but appearances can be deceiving. Predicting the Cavaliers to be the No. 1 seed is saying they can move up three spots and is buoyed by their No. 2 net rating a season ago. To say that Dean Wade should close for the Cavs is to take a player who may not even be in the rotation right now and thrust him into the top 5.
The Cavaliers signed Max Strus to start at the 3 for the Cavs, and they signed Georges Niang to be the backup power forward and pair frequently with both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley as the stretch-4. Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro will both be a part of the regular rotation and play minutes regularly at small forward.
That doesn’t leave many minutes for Dean Wade, if any when everyone is healthy. Wade was a part of the rotation last season but suffered a significant shoulder injury; when he came back his ability to shoot cleanly and even rebound were hampered by the injury, and his numbers struggled across the board.
Wade completed his rehab for the shoulder injury over the summer, and he looks like the player he used to be, if not even better. His shot form looks smooth and he is 6-for-11 from 3-point range this preseason, a healthy percentage (54.5 percent) and volume (11 attempts per 36 minutes). He is the best option on the team for defending big wings and forwards other than perhaps Evan Mobley. No other player on the team profiles better as a 3-and-D forward than Wade if his shot is falling, and thus far it appears to be.
Starting Max Strus makes sense, at least to start the season, but at 6’5″ he puts the Cavs at a size disadvantage from the jump. When it’s time to close games the Cavs need size and perimeter defense, and Wade brings that. Last season, a lineup of Wade with the four stars had a +20.7 net rating, in the top 10 percent of all lineups leaguewide (per Cleaning the Glass). The offense was essentially unstoppable., scoring 132.9 points per 100 possessions.
Playing Wade with the four stars is probably the Cavs’ best lineup, but the other tantalizing option is to pull Jarrett Allen and play Strus at the 3 and Wade at the 4, giving the Cavaliers a truly lethal offensive group with the defenders to still keep up. It may take J.B. Bickerstaff time to figure it out, and he may never get there, but Dean Wade is among the best five options to close games for the Cavaliers.