If the Cavaliers want to save their season, the "other guys" need to step up

Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers
Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the post-All-Star play has not led to much jubilation. The Cavaliers have been just 10-16 in what many consider the "second half" of the campaign, and in March, they went 7-10. They've lost their last three contests 122-101 to the Phoenix Suns, 116-97 to the Los Angeles Lakers and blew a 26-point lead to the LA Clippers on Sunday. Needless to say, the latest showings by the Cavs have been subpar at best.

The last road trip of the Cavs' regular season hasn't inspired much confidence leading into the playoffs; they'd currently be slated to play the New York Knicks in Round 1 as the fifth seed. New York and the Orlando Magic (now in the No. 3 spot) have tougher roads ahead than Cleveland to close out, but in the playoffs, the Cavaliers have to be much, much more dependable than they have been of late.

Cleveland is still a talented group, and it's not as if the Cavaliers can't rebound from last year's playoffs. This is a better club with more meaningful veterans. That past failure in the 2023 postseason is something the younger guys can learn from, too.

Make no mistake, though. Given the Cavaliers' recent struggles, ups and downs and injury issues this season, the Wine and Gold will need their supporting cast to make their mark in the playoffs.

The Cleveland Cavaliers must depend on their depth in their final games

Ideally, the Cavaliers would be getting the lion's share of their production from the Core Four, but with Donovan Mitchell clearly not nearly 100 percent and Darius Garland's struggles recently, the Cleveland bench/role guys have to step up.

This isn't to suggest Cleveland's top players aren't going to be crucial in their efforts - they drive the bus. Even with that expectation, the fact of the matter is, it'd be a nice boost if the Caris LeVerts, Georges Niangs and/or Sam Merrills of the world can provide some juice.

Even with some scoring woes at times, LeVert has been very effective in multiple ways this season as a bench sparkplug for Cleveland, and he should be in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. He was also a bright spot for the Cavaliers last postseason, even with the team's struggles overall. LeVert's 13.9 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, with most of those appearances as a reserve, have played into the Cavs' bench being much more capable this season. And the Cavaliers will probably need him to make a difference in the playoffs as well.

From there, Cleveland could use some hot Georges Niang shooting from the outside. Niang has been somewhat up and down, but he's capable of igniting clubs and had some big moments in recent postseasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Cavs brought him here for that sort of energy to help out Mitchell and company.

Alongside Isaac Okoro's defense and improved shooting, the Cavaliers have found a wealth of talent from unexpected contributors this year. This season, Sam Merrill has been one of the Cavaliers' unlikely heroes at various points. Merrill has shot 40.4 percent from three-point range on 5.8 attempts per contest, and his presence on the perimeter has often put defenses in conflict with his range, quick release and constant movement.

Even when he's had off nights to some degree, Merrill's off-ball impact could give the Cavaliers a jolt in stretches he gets coming off the bench. And if that means LeVert or perhaps Garland is off the floor in some instances, so be it, if Merrill is giving Cleveland energy. The defensive end is not a strong suit, per se, but his offense could ignite the Cavaliers and open up more space for others.

Aside from those aforementioned guys, one shouldn't overlook how Max Strus could be a difference-maker for the Cavaliers this go-around, and while it's uncertain if he'll be back involved, Dean Wade being back could prove crucial for Cleveland.

Wade has been an integral role player for the Wine and Gold this season, giving versatile defense and reliable shooting as an off-ball contributor. He's been doing on-court activities coming off meniscus surgery, but he remains sidelined with no timetable for his return. With the Wade injury uncertainty, perhaps Marcus Morris Sr. receives some legit postseason minutes. He's had ample playoff experience, so that's something to keep in mind.

With such a deep bench and proven veterans, the Cleveland Cavaliers can still find an answer to lift themselves in the playoffs if the "other guys" can provide the needed boost behind Cleveland's stars.

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