Going into the season, many would’ve expected Max Strus to make his presence felt for the Cleveland Cavaliers as a perimeter shooter. That’s a significant part of the reasoning as to why Cleveland acquired Strus by way of sign-and-trade from the Miami Heat over the summer.
Strus made tons of three-point shots for the Heat over the past two seasons, and he should continually help Cleveland’s floor spacing. His off-ball movement as a shooter and cutter is outstanding, too, and thus far with the Cavaliers, Strus has shown he can be a knockdown contributor.
In his first game with Cleveland at the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, he made seven three-point shots and had 27 points. Furthermore, those seven triples he made tied an NBA record for most threes made in a debut with a new team.
Granted, Strus did not have the same type of night on Friday in Cleveland’s home opener. He went two-of-11 from three, and had eight points. It was obviously not the shooting night he wanted, and the Cavaliers as a group went 12-of-45 from three, a 26.7 percent clip, in the 108-105 loss. Credit to the Thunder for their late push as well; OKC had a 16-2 run to close the game, and came out on top, even after being down by nine with 1:56 left.
But, to Strus’ credit, he’s also been very active defensively, and while there’s still some things to clean up there, an area he’s really made an impact has been on the glass, too. That shouldn’t go unnoticed this season.
In that Brooklyn game, Strus had a career-best 12 rebounds, and had his third double-double of his career. It was a terrific start to his tenure with the Cavaliers, clearly, and in a wild contest between two playoff teams from last season, Strus’ play was huge in a 114-113 W.
In that second game of the campaign, he again did not have close to the shooting night he had in the preceding outing. That was less than ideal, and there were some looks that defenses would not be content allowing him to have in there.
However, it was the second game of the season, and Strus was solid for Cleveland defensively, and to reiterate, his glass cleaning early on has been encouraging to see, particularly with the Cavaliers without Jarrett Allen thus far. Strus has helped Cleveland’s defensive rebounding at various points as a weak side/off-ball defender and on Friday, he snagged five boards.
In fairness, it’s been two games for Strus with the Cavs, and in both, Allen was not involved, and Strus had 3.2 rebounds per outing last season with the Heat. The season prior, that number was 3.0 per game. The dude is not going to be leading the Cavaliers in rebounding in a considerable chunk of games, at least one wouldn’t think.
Even with those caveats in mind here, Strus has been an especially active defender for Cleveland, and while there’s some matchups he’s at a disadvantage on-ball, it’s not as if he’s going to be a sieve. And from a team standpoint, early on, he has seemed to be in the right spots, for the most part, to provide meaningful help, and his hand placement to cause havoc, and his defensive rebounding awareness have jumped out thus far.
The Cavs as a unit have to be more up to the task on the defensive glass, and having Dean Wade back last game seemed to make a difference, as opposed to in Brooklyn, when Cleveland was outrebounded by 13. But, it’s not as if Strus, to the overarching point, didn’t make his presence felt on the glass in that one, and he came up with some crucial ones.
The gist is, though Strus’ shooting is going to always be the primary talking point for most fans, and that has to be meaningful in the playoffs, he definitely understands how he’s more than capable of affecting other aspects of the game. He’s been vocal about how that’s always been the case, it’s just going to be up to him to continue to demonstrate that moving forward.