Breaking down some of the recent Cavs moves
Opinion by Joey Schneider
The Cleveland Cavaliers added some much need depth to their roster on the first day of free agency. First by resigning Caris LeVert to a two-year deal worth $32 million. Then by signing free agent Small forward/Power forward Georges Niang on a three-year $26 million contract that is fully guaranteed. Niang was drafted by the Pacers, played only one year in Indiana before being traded to the Utah Jazz where he played for four seasons also being a teammate with Donovan Mitchell for three of those years. His last stint was with the 76ers where he was relied upon to space the floor as he is a deadly three-point shooter. Lastly the Cavs, in a three-team deal, acquired high energy Shooting guard/Small Forward Max Strus from the Miami Heat, sending Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens to the San Antonio Spurs. Strus then signed a 4-year $64 million contract with the Cavaliers.
What the Cavs get in Georges Niang
Nicknamed “Minivan” Georges Niang is 30 years old and stands at 6’7. His strength is in his three-point prowess. He is a volume three-point shooter and has a very quick release. In his last five seasons Niang has averaged over 40 percent from beyond the three-point line and is not timid about taking the shot, earning him another nickname, “The Closer.” Niang has the height to play both the Small forward and Power Forward positions, which make him a solid utility option. With his ability to shoot the three and space the floor, opposing teams are going to have to account for him at all times, opening up more opportunities for other players who may be under the basket or a swing pass to another open shooter. In my opinion Niang was never properly used in Philly. He is also very tough. Niang is not shy from backing away from contact, talking on court and getting himself and his teammates fired up. Niang has some glaring weaknesses too however, as he is average defender, not always able to stay in front of the better Small forwards in the league. He can hold his own in the Power forward position, but again at 6’7 doesn’t have the height to stop taller players at all times. His best defense comes from his basketball IQ, being able to strip to ball and take charges. While Georges Niang was a solid pickup as the Cavs were in desperate need of three-point shooting, don’t expect Niang to be in the lineup as a starter or at the end of a game when they need a stop. He will be a solid sixth or seventh option off the bench to provide spacing and shooting.
What the Cavs get in Max Strus
Max Strus who went undrafted in the 2019 draft was a key part of the Miami Heats improbable run to the NBA finals last season. Strus, at 26 years old is 6’5, and like Georges Niang can play multiple positions from bringing the ball down the court to playing the Shooting guard and Small Forward positions. His last two seasons he has averaged a combined 38 percent from the three-point line and well as shooting 88 percent from the free throw line. Strus is as tough as they come on both sides of the ball. While he is a streaky shooter at times, when he gets hot, he can be a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to being a solid three-point shooter Strus can also create his own shot as he has a good mid-range jumper and can also get to the rim and is not afraid to make contact inside amongst the taller players. Max is also one of the better rebounding guards in the league, not afraid to jump high and grab the rebound along with having a knack for knowing where a missed ball might end up. He is a solid passer and team player, able to see where an open shot might be and kick the ball out. Strus is also solid on defense, able to make the occasional block and can see an open pass, run into the lane for a steal and start a fast break. Strus can also make a difference without the ball in his hands as he will run from baseline to baseline moving defenders creating openings. While I really like Max Strus on the Cavs and think he was a terrific pickup, just like Georges Niang, he doesn’t come without some deficiencies. Strus again may be a bit undersized to guard the taller Small forwards in the league if he is in that position. Like I said earlier he is a bit of a streaky shooter, able to give you a very efficient 20 points or not be able to find his shot for most of the game. Max Strus is a player to watch if he cracks the starting lineup with Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, and now Max Strus are all vying for that wing position.
What the Cavs get in Caris LeVert resigning
We all watched LeVert last season when he was completely healthy, and Caris took a two million dollar a year pay cut to remain on the Cavs. While that may not seem like much it was the market value for LeVert. I’ll be the first to say I’m glad the Cavaliers resigned Caris. He is well liked and respected in the locker room. He has proven to be a great defender especially at the end of games when the Cavs need to close it out. He can hit the three, he can hit the mid-range, and he can get to the basket. LeVert can do everything well. He just needs to be more consistent with his game. Some games he tends to disappear when the team needs him to step up and knock down shots if Mitchell and Garland are struggling. Caris can score in bunches when the opportunity arises having a 40-point game last year. LeVert averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game during the season. That was also a combination of starting and coming off of the bench. I’m not sure how much more his numbers can rise with the Cavs having a core of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. If he can, however, become more consistent and efficient he could see a rise in his production as well as the players around him.
What the Cavs lose in trading Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens
Like the Boyz II Men song goes “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” However, the Cavaliers and the fans need to say goodbye to Cedi and Lamar as they were traded to the Spurs in the three-team deal that landed Max Strus in Cleveland. I don’t believe Cedi ever fully reached his potential here in Cleveland. He at times was a lights out shooter and other times was so far down the bench you would think he was in the locker room. While I did enjoy his games when he was knocking down every three, he would shoot, they were so few and far between that keeping him on the team just did not make sense anymore. Being able to include him in a deal for Max Strus, who I do consider an upgrade, is a great move. The downside to the deal is having to see Lamar Stevens go as well. The original “Junkyard Dog” also didn’t realize his full potential here in Cleveland and it is not for the same reasons as Osman. I personally do not think Stevens was given a fair shot at extended playing time. When he did get chances, he made the most of them. He was never afraid to battle for the ball, and many times pulling down rebounds he had no business getting in the first place. He was able to hit the corner three. Not extremely efficiently (32 percent), but still good enough to put trust in his game. He fought for offensive rebounds and was able to score plenty of second chance points as well as get to the free throw line. I’m sure both he and Osman will see a solid bench role in San Antonio.
Improvements or lateral moves?
Here is the 64,000-thousand-dollar question. Did the Cavs improve their roster? In my opinion, yes, they did. Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens just were not getting the opportunities to see the court as much as they needed to make an impact. Georges Niang will see the floor much more often than both Osman and Stevens. The bigger question will be what he will do with the opportunity. He has the tools to be a flamethrower from three. At 30 years old though, you’re going to have to teach an old dog new tricks as he is going to have to improve his defense to be able to keep his rotation minutes up. I still believe that Niang will be a massive contributor offensively off the bench where the Cavs sorely needed shooting last season. Max Strus is the key piece here. While some are not as high on him as a player like I personally am, I believe at only 26 years old he will fit right into this Cavs team. He is a high-octane player, who can score at all three levels. He can fill a stat sheet either starting or coming off the bench. He is a solid defender and can get hot on offense, taking pressure off of the star players, much like he did in Miami. Overall, as of this writing I believe the Cavs have better reliable depth than they did last season. Reliable being the keyword. I don’t believe the Cavs are done just yet as they still need to find a backup big man. If they can sign someone who can actually give them solid minutes off the bench to give Jarrett Allen or Evan Mobley a breather, then I believe the Cavs have the depth to actually go further than a Gentleman’s sweep (4-1) in the first round of the playoffs.
POSTED 07/04/2022 15:39