3 Cavaliers players who need monster second halves to save their job

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers / Ron Schwane/GettyImages
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Before the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers were on a roll, but they still have a lot to prove in the final stretch and postseason to prove their legitimacy to the onlookers and themselves.

The Cavaliers failed to get the right start after the break, dropping their first two games in favorable matches. Donovan Mitchell missed both games due to illness, but the Cavs could not make up for his absence and looked clunky and disjointed on offense. While there is still plenty of time to recover from this slump, Cleveland cannot afford another playoff disappointment after last year.

Outside of Mitchell's contract drama, the Cavs have invested a lot into the rest of their core and the surrounding role players. Darius Garland signed the largest contract in team history, and Evan Mobley is nearing his rookie contract extension window. Cleveland's supporting cast is not cheap, either. Max Strus' $64 million four-year contract and Caris LeVert's two-year, $32 million deal put the Cavs in a relatively restrictive financial situation if they cannot find success in the postseason.

Ultimately, the Cavalier's current woes are nothing to cause sleepless nights. The Cavs still hold the second seed in the Eastern Conference and have shown debatably the most in-season growth of any rival across the Association. Conversely, this does not mean no players are without flaw or risk of losing their position on the team if they cannot make an impact in the homestretch. These four Cavs have struggled beyond the recent slide and could be in hot water in the summer if they do not correct course soon.

Max Strus has a lot to offer but is not irreplacable

When the Cavaliers gave Strus a long-term sizable contract, it was done with the expectations that the veteran wing would serve as a glue guy for the starting five, adding volume shooting and solid defense. For the most part, Strus has given Cleveland what they asked. He is the only player who has not missed a single game this season, and overall influence has helped the team to a number of wins, especially when Garland and Mobley were sidelined.

Offensively, Strus is a surprisingly talented overall player. His court vision and passing have helped unlock Mobley and Allen, and his athletic drives provide plenty of highlight dunks. Where Strus has fallen behind is where he was expected to thrive the most - three-point shooting. Strus is shooting 33.6 percent from deep on seven attempts per game, his worst efficiency on volume since joining the NBA.

Strus' track record in the postseason has shown he is a valuable contributor in total, but he is not immune to shooting slumps under the spotlight. In his most recent trip to the Finals last season with the Miami Heat, the Illinois native's shooting dropped from 35 percent in the regular season to 31.9 percent on similar volume. What has held up in the playoffs is Strus' energy, confidence, rebounding and defense. As long as Strus can keep defenders wary of him on the perimeter, he can help the Cavs.

Given everything Strus has already proven with the Cavaliers in his first year, it is hard to imagine he would end up on the trading block in the offseason. What could be on the line for Strus, though, is his starting position. In all 55 games, Strus has been in the opening five. As much as he has helped Cleveland, the three spot is the most competitive spot on the roster. If the Cavaliers can upgrade at the wing again this summer, Strus might see his minutes and starting role up for grabs.

Conversely, if Strus can lock in and help get the Cavaliers back on track to secure the second-best record by the time the playoffs begin, he will likely become a consistent factor in Cleveland's starting lineup next season, too. If Strus can give the Cavs valuable minutes and shooting in the playoffs, there is no doubt that he will stick around with the starters.