With the way he's played for the Cleveland Cavaliers early on in his tenure with them following his sign-and-trade acquisition over the summer, Max Strus is quickly becoming one of the more beloved players for the Wine and Gold.
While Cleveland's offseason move to bring him in led to some skepticism it seemed, Strus is doing his damndest to dispell that, and has rather quickly.
On the season, he's on pace for career-bests essentially across the board. His 13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per outing thus far all would qualify as those, and on the other end, Strus has taken the defensive challenge, regularly defending top wing options for opponents, and his defensive playmaking has been a welcomed addition.
Given the nature of his role as a movement shooter, and volume three-point shooter, there are inherently going to be some fluctuations in his deep shooting splits over handfuls of games. But even with that being the case, it's apparent that Strus is an integral piece, and his all-around play has been so impressive.
Not disregarding what he's brought as a two-way contributor, and with how he affects games as an off-ball player, one aspect of his game has been a pleasant surprise, and that's been his ball movement impact.
Strus is far exceeding expectations as a ball-mover/secondary playmaker for the Cavaliers.
Strus has proven that he's much more than just a shooter throughout this season, and after there were positive signs from him as a more well-rounded player last season with the Miami Heat, he's carried that forward. And as was aforementioned, that's included his ball movement feel/secondary playmaking.
In what's been somewhat silently, Strus has done a fine job of being a meaningful connective passer for Cleveland, independent of the the Cavaliers' inconsistencies as a whole, regardless of their injury woes. That's led to Strus making timely kickouts and sensible one more passes to shooters, and he's found Cleveland's bigs after counters to hard closeouts, or at times connecting with them as rollers.
Strus has had 3.8 assists per contest this year, and while injuries for Cleveland have played some into that, he's typically made good reads and Strus' urgency has paid dividends. The ball doesn't stick in his hands, and others on the weak side, as shooters or at times as cutters, have benefited from that.
Nobody would suggest that the Cavs should be utilizing Strus as a lead guard, or a playmaking hub type of wing necessarily, but as a tertiary playmaker and ball-mover, he's done a nice job.
Due to his decisiveness with the ball and in counters to hard closeouts, Strus has placed in the 72nd percentile thus far this season in assist rate among wings, per Cleaning The Glass. In 10 of the Cavs' last 13 games, he's had three or more assists.
It's obviously far from ideal circumstances for the Cavaliers to not Garland and Mobley in times ahead with their injuries, and they're two of Cleveland's best passers, however, it has been encouraging to watch Strus' chemistry get progressively better with his teammates. It's going to take a collective effort from Cleveland pertaining to ball and man movement with the crushing absence of Garland and Mobley, but overall, it has been great to see Strus contribute in that aspect of the game both in set play and at times in transition.
While shooting and off-ball movement will always be what's often discussed with Strus, his two-way play has often been on-point, and he's clearly exceeded expectations so far as a ball mover/secondary playmaker with the Cavs. And in weeks ahead, whether that holds firm will be a storyline to keep watching on the margins, no matter if Cleveland potentially brings in some lead playmaking depth, which could be wise.