with the NBA Trade deadline just three weeks ago, one of the biggest questions looming for the Cleveland Cavaliers centers around the starting small forward spot.
Anything can happen at this point in the season. For example, the Cavs Caris Levert Just days before last year’s deadline.
he could Cleveland Seeking a small improvement forward by February 9th? Does the Cavs have the means to do that? Or should they just roll with their current squad until the end of the season? There are a few factors that influence this conversation.
Let’s dig deeper.
Set a salary cap
The first factor we’ll look at is Cleveland’s finances. According to Spotrac, the Cavs have exceeded the salary cap by $29.6 million and are about $2.5 million below the luxury tax line. If the Cavs go over the luxury tax, the repeat offense tax isn’t far off.
Cleveland also doesn’t have much in terms of first-round assets to use by the deadline. The team’s 2023 first-round selection is due Indiana Because of the aforementioned acquisition LeVert. The Cavs have a 2024 first-round pick, but that pick can’t be transferred until next year’s NBA draft night. The remaining winners from the first round through 2029 are included in the trade for Donovan Mitchell As explicit choices (2025, 2027, 2029) or selection trade-offs (2026 and 2028).
If first-round opposing teams do price their trade, Cleveland’s lack of such assets could prove problematic in settling the deal.
Small anterior spot
The Cavs have experimented with several options on the wing this season, starting with Caris LeVert, then moving to Lamar Stevens And Isaac Okoro. Dean Wade He was also part of that group but he was plagued by injuries in the first half of the season.
Levert won the starting job after an impressive training camp and pre-season. However, after the Cavs’ losing streak last November, There has been a change to the starting lineup, with Stephens at the small lead. It was a mutual decision between Levert and coach JB Bickerstaff, with Levert approaching Bickerstaff about coming off the bench to have the ball in his hands more in the second unit to create for himself and his teammates.
“He was aggressive, and that’s what we thought Carys was,” Bickerstaff said of LeVert recently. “We know he’s a capable goalscorer, but he’s also a playmaker. And I think he’s starting to find some relief and find a rhythm, understanding where his positions are coming from.”
LeVert’s contract makes him a negotiable asset, as he’s on an expiring $18.8 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. However, the Cavs have appreciated what LeVert brings to their group.
His role also doesn’t change much, even though Ricky Rubio Back in the guard mix. Bickerstaff described Rubio’s presence as making LeVert’s job easier. Rubio can be the facilitator while Levert can be aggressive, making plays or ending plays one-on-one.
As Stephens stepped into the starting lineup, he brought a defensive presence to that group. But in December, he missed three matches due to a sore knee, and Okoro was inserted into the starting lineup. The starting job has been ping-pong over the past month between the two, with Stevens returning to the starting lineup for four games before Okoro started the Cavs’ Final Eight.
In this eight-match tour, Okoro has looked strong on both ends of the earth. He shoots 3s, clips the ball into the basket for layups and is physical on defense. Okoro has shot 60.9 percent from 3 and 58.7 percent from the field over those last eight games. 17 points against him Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday marked a season high.
“I mean, it’s about earning what you get and fitting into the group in front of you,” Bickerstaff said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think Isaac did. Again, we’ve talked about it over and over. He’s a tireless worker, and he’s a great fellow. All he wants to do is help the team win and support people the best way he can. So, to me, it’s like you want a reward.” Guys like that, and I think he’s done that. You’re watching him, his shooting numbers have continued to improve, his aggression has improved. Again, we’re trying to figure out the best piece for this team, and we’ve put in a lot of time with Isaac, and we believe in Isaac and we just want to give him a chance to be successful “.
The other option the Cavs had for a small forward was Wade. A league source said the 26-year-old had been on his way back from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him since December 2 when he sustained an ankle injury when he stepped on a player in training a week and a half ago. the athlete.
“not him [doing] Five-on-five so far,” Bickerstaff said after Tuesday’s practice. “Again, because of where he was before, you don’t need much to get him back going because it wasn’t a huge setback.”
Wade agreed to a contract extension in September and, according to league rules, could not be traded for six months after the extension was signed. But the Cavs love what Wade brings to the table with his size, height, big feet, distance on the ground, perimeter shooting, and defense.
Cleveland has multiple options for the small forward, and everyone has seen time in the starting lineup during the first half of the season. Is there a player in the commercial market that Cleveland considers a better fit?
potential trade targets
As the deadline approaches, other names may emerge as the landscape changes. Here are two recently reported names that the Cavs are related to in some way.
the athlete‘s Shams Al-Sharaniya reported on Tuesday The Cavs are among the teams that have registered interest in Bojan Bogdanovic from Detroit. The veteran forward, who signed an extension with the Pistons in October and is holding onto a contract through 2025, could deliver a spacer on the floor and a perimeter shooter. He’s shooting 41.5 percent from 3 this season.
Mark Stein, NBA reporter I also mentioned recently that The Cavs considered a three-team trade involving the Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks, in which the Cavs would acquire Malik Beasley from the Jazz, the Hawks would ship John Collins to Utah and LeVert would head to Atlanta.
(Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today)