1 question for every Cavaliers player as countdown to NBA playoffs begins

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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What version of Caris LeVert will show up?

The Cavaliers need bench production in the playoffs, and Caris LeVert has undoubtedly been their best bench contributor this season. His scoring has always been his best attribute, but his improvements in defense and passing have been welcome surprises. As with most players, LeVert can go cold quick and suddenly. Entering the playoffs, the Cavaliers will have to ask themselves how to manage a cold spell for LeVert in the middle of a series. Their improved depth will surely help, but they will need to recognize and adapt quickly if LeVert has an untimely dip.

Can Isaac Okoro demand defensive attention?

Isaac Okoro made the biggest improvement of any Cleveland Cavalier this season, developing a reliable and trustworthy three-point shot. With a 39.5 catch-and-shoot percentage this year, Okoro is finally punishing lazy defensive schemes. The defensive phenom's lacking offense allowed teams to sag off of him and suffocate drives all last season, but he is beginning to command defensive attention. Will Okoro be able to punish poor defense enough in the playoffs to space the floor in a full series?

Is Sam Merrill able to provide playoff defense?

On the opposite end of the court, the Cavaliers know Sam Merrill can be a flamethrower from deep in a hurry, but can they rely on him to play real defense in the playoffs? Merrill has fallen in and out of the NBA for his heavily-specialized skillset. Granted, his three-point shooting skill is the most coveted talent for a wing role player in the modern league, but the postseason demands two-way production. Cleveland does not need All-Defense skill from Merrill, but they need to trust that his three-pointer on one end will not be defeated by allowing an opponent to blow past him without a problem on the other side.

Will Dean Wade be healthy?

In short, the Cleveland Cavaliers need a healthy Dean Wade to win a playoff series. His elite wing defense and lethal shooting will be a necessity for the Cavs to do anything. As much as star players win big for their team, the best squads have to find impact guys off the bench. At his best, Wade is just as good as any other 3-and-D guy in the NBA. As he continues to rehab from a knee sprain, the Cavaliers have to hope that Wade is healthy for the playoffs after entering the postseason injured last year.

Can Georges Niang keep it up in the playoffs?

Cleveland knew they need veteran presence in the locker room along with floor spacing. Alongside Strus, Georges Niang was signed to the Cavs for this very purpose. While Niang had a long early shooting slump as he adjusted to the team, he is likely the most dependable shooter off the bench night-to-night. Will Niang keep up his shooting and defense in the postseaon? While the former Utah Jazz teammate of Mitchell's has carved out a career with his deadeye shooting, his defense has pushed him out of lineups in the postseason. He has been better defensively under Bickerstaff, but will he sustain it going forward?

Will anybody else crack the rotation?

Tristan Thomson, Craig Porter, Jr. and Damian Jones have all given the Cavaliers needed help over so many stretches without a healthy lineup. Ty Jerome has missed nearly the entire season after a major ankle sprain in two games. In the playoffs, teams shorten their rotations as much as they can. The remaining Cavaliers, including Marcus Morris, Sr. if he signs a standard contract, will likely only see minutes in specialized lineups or garbage time. Hopefully, any garbage time minutes are in the final moments of a win. Thompson and Morris are ready enforcers, willing to scrap and endure some hits to set the tone. Porter has tremendous rim pressure for a rookie guard and can play tough defense. If the Cavs need extra playmaking and crafty scoring, Porter will see some time.

As for Jones, the path to playoff minutes is less clear. With Allen, Mobley and Thompson ahead of him in the center rotation, Jones is unlikely to make the cut outside of garbage time. Still, Jones' work over the regular season improved with time and will be appreciated nonetheless.

The playoffs are dangerously close, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot to prove this year. Their postseason success could have major implications for their summer moves, from plans with Donovan Mitchell to Isaac Okoro. Only time will tell. The Cavs are undeniably in a better position to succeed than last season, but maybe's and probabilities are not guaranteed.

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