Many fans hoped that the Cleveland Cavaliers would re-sign defensive specialist David Nwaba, but Nwaba decided to sign a two-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets. It’s hard to blame him for wanting to go to a team that should be in the playoffs this season, and there should be no hard feelings towards Nwaba. Cleveland now has two open roster spots, and while the Cavs won’t be signing any All-Stars, there are still some players worth adding to the team. Here are five who could fill the hole Nwaba has created.
5. Naz Mitrou-Long
NML is a candidate for Cleveland’s second two-way contract after a strong Summer League. According to NBA.com, in four games Mitrou-Long averaged 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 26.8 minutes per game. In two NBA seasons, he has appeared in 15 games for the Utah Jazz, playing sparingly.
Mitrou-Long’s best Summer League game came in one of Cleveland’ two victories, as he finished with 21 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and a steal to lead the Cavaliers to an 82-75 win over the Chicago Bulls. NML will turn 26 next month, so his age puts him at a disadvantage compared to other players, but he has shown he belongs on an NBA roster, at least as a two-way player.
4. Jaylen Adams
Undrafted out of St. Bonaventure in 2018, Adams played 34 games for the Atlanta Hawks as a rookie, averaging 3.2 points and 1.9 assists in 12.6 minutes off the bench. He can shoot the three-pointer well and create for others, as well as get to the rim at a decent level.
He wouldn’t displace Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, or Kevin Porter Jr., but he could be a valuable bench player later in the season, as while Cleveland is rostering six guards at the moment, half of them (Matthew Dellavedova, Brandon Knight, and Jordan Clarkson) are in the final year of their contracts, and could be traded at the February deadline.
3. Malik Newman
Another Cavs Summer League member, Newman’s 14 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists aren’t as impressive as Mitrou-Long’s statline, but he is only 22 years old and ended the Summer League with a bang by scoring 33 points in the Cavs’ overtime win against the Sacramento Kings.
He can knock down triples and put the ball on the floor quite well. He is more of a pure shooting guard than Mitrou-Long is, so he would need to compete with Kevin Porter Jr. for minutes, which may not be the best thing for the team. It’s likely that at least one of Mitrou-Long and Newman stick with the team, either on the NBA roster or as the other two-way player, and perhaps both will make the team.
2. Dragan Bender
If the Cavs decide they don’t want to add another guard at this point, taking cheap risks on talent is a good idea, and the team has shown interest in big man Dragan Bender. The fourth overall pick in 2016 has not had a good start to his career, but to be fair, he was considered a reach at the time, and would need years of development before becoming a legitimate NBA player.
The fact that the Phoenix Suns are one of the worst-run organizations in professional sports certainly didn’t help with Bender’s development. Both Tristan Thompson and John Henson could be gone at the trade deadline, so Bender could have a chance at playing time around February. It’s worth a shot to see if John Beilein can get something out of him.
1. Vince Carter
The Cavs are dedicated to a full rebuild, and with that comes a major youth movement. Having plenty of young players with potential is great, but veteran leadership is needed. Kevin Love fills that role perfectly, but adding another player who has been around the league would be beneficial.
Vince Carter will be playing in his 22nd NBA season this year, and is regarded as one of the best teammates in the league. He is no longer the high-flying superstar he was in the early 2000’s, but he can still help a team, both on the floor and in the locker room. The Cavs are weakest on the wing, so Carter could see some time there; he played 17.5 minutes per game last season for the Atlanta Hawks.
The future Hall of Famer would also be a great influence on rookie Kevin Porter Jr., who comes with some character concerns that led to him being suspended in college. It’s hard to imagine a better mentor than Carter, who is an extremely hard worker and great person.