In the midst of constant injury concerns, Max Strus has been one of the only constants for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.
After joining the Cavaliers via sign-and-trade after a monumental run with the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals, Max Strus has looked better than anyone could have expected. As free agency approached, Strus garnered attention across the league for his long range shooting and athletic build. Strus quickly chose the Cavs after speaking with former Cleveland legend Kevin Love in Miami.
The Illinois native entered the NBA undrafted with the Chicago Bulls where he only played two games. The next year, the Heat signed Strus to a minimum deal. He continued to prove himself year-by-year until he became a solidified starter on the perennial playoff squad. His veteran leadership and hustling mindset is exactly what the Cavaliers needed after a humiliating playoff loss to the New York Knicks.
In 18 games, Strus is recording career highs in points, assists and rebounds per game with 14.2, and 4.0 and 5.7, respectively. While Strus was only viewed as a 3-point threat entering this season, his all-around play is nothing short of exceptional.
With every new season, a team's new players typically go through an adjustment period until they find their spot in the system. Georges Niang joined the Cavaliers alongside Strus, but Niang had a slower start than Strus, not hitting a single 3-point shot until his fourth game. Niang, a career 40 percent outside shooter, had to work his way into a new system.
Strus, on the other hand, set a franchise record for most 3-pointers made in a team debut with seven 3-pointers in the season opener against the Brooklyn Nets. Although he has had down games, he has been a constant contributor to a team in need of consistency and health. He and Evan Mobley are the only two Cavs starters who have appeared in every outing so far this year.
Throughout his first season with the Cavaliers, Max Strus has impacted the team since day one of training camp. While he is not a superstar, Strus has been a difference-maker for the young Cavs.
Max Strus is unlocking Evan Mobley's potential on Cavaliers
One advantage of Strus' consistent availability has been his chemistry with star big man Evan Mobley. After three seasons playing alongside one of the league's best centers in Bam Adebayo, Strus came to Cleveland and recognized similarities between Mobley and Adebayo.
In Miami, Adebayo often facilitates the offense from the elbow, a trait Strus believed Mobley could incorporate as well. During training camp, Strus asked the Cavs film team to create a reel of Adebayo for Mobley to study. It was the first instance of Strus displaying his intelligence and leadership.
On the court, Strus has assisted Mobley 25 times since opening night, the most of any Cavalier. His crafty playmaking on the wing and shooting abilities have opened up the post for Mobley and his frontcourt partner Jarrett Allen, leading to an improved overall presence down low. The Mobley and Strus connection has been incredibly positive for Cleveland's offense.
With Strus as a screen-and-pop threat and Mobley as a pick-and-roll monster, the Cavs offense has another layer of lethality that was entirely absent last year. For the Cavaliers to take the next step in their growth, maximizing the potential of both players will be crucial.