The Cleveland Cavaliers wasted no time at the start of free agency.
The Cavs traded for Miami Heat guard Max Strus in a sign-and-trade that sent forwards Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens to the San Antonio Spurs. Cleveland brought in forward Georges Niang on a three-year, $26 million contract. A trade for center Damian Jones and the signing of guard Ty Jerome rounded out Cleveland’s additions during the first two days of the NBA’s player negotiation period.
The Cavaliers addressed their need for extra shooting with the signings of Niang, Strus and Jerome. Niang, a seven-year NBA veteran from Iowa State, has a career average of 40.3% from the 3-point line. He hit 40.1% of his 4.9 attempts per game for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, peaking at seven made threes on ten tries in a 12-point win over the Phoenix Suns in November.
But, above all else, they kept one of their own.
The Cavs re-signed guard Caris LeVert to a two-year, $32 million deal on Friday. LeVert arrived in Cleveland after a trade that sent him and a second-round selection to the Cavs in exchange for guard Ricky Rubio, a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2022 and two second-round picks.
Since then, he has played in 93 games and started in 40 for the Cavaliers. LeVert earned three starts in the team’s NBA Playoff series against the New York Knicks, earning averages of 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in his three starts.
What grade should bringing Caris LeVert back to the team receive?
Caris LeVert contract grade: B+
LeVert was a productive part of the Cavs bench and, for a while, its starting lineup during the 2022-23 season.
Though he was inconsistent at points, LeVert can help address the need for shooting and scoring off the bench. The 6-foot-6-inch guard averaged 12.1 points per game with Cleveland last season, putting him in fifth place on the roster behind the team’s big four. Having the former Brooklyn Net back could do wonders in helping boost a bench that placed 28th in the NBA with 28.7 bench points per game and 27th in the league with a 44.7% field goal percentage. LeVert found ways to make a positive impact for Cleveland even as his role shifted early in the season.
“That’s just the type of dude he is where all he wants to do is be a part of the team and help the team win and he’s been willing to do whatever it takes,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in March, via ESPN Cleveland Cavs reporter Danny Cunningham. “The thing that I think has been most impressive is he’s been a mainstay on all of our defensive stuff.
“His activity, he’s willingness to take assignments, that’s never wavered no matter what his offensive role has been. So, he’s been able to hang his hat on that and then find the spots and pick and choose on offense as well.”
LeVert proved to be a bright spot on a team that needed extra 3-point shooting after it hit 32.7% of its 3-point shots in the NBA playoffs, according to NBA.com. He made a career-high 39.2% of his 3-pointers last season, highlighted by the 41-point performance he had against the Boston Celtics in October. He hit six of his eight long-range attempts in TD Garden, hitting step-back and pull-up shots as he combined for 82 points with Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell on Boston’s home court.
The Cavaliers and LeVert expressed mutual interest in having the former first-round pick return to the roster in March.
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John Patrick Postrado ·
“I definitely want to be a part of this culture, be a part of this team. This group is a super special group and I definitely want to be a part of that. But you all know it’s a business, so we’ll see what happens this summer.”
Even after all of its signings, Cleveland still can make one more decent move before it hits the NBA’s Luxury Tax Threshold for 2023.
13 players will be under contract for the Cavaliers for the 2023-24 season, according to sports contract and salaries website Spotrac. Cleveland’s total cap figures, including the estimated amounts for the team’s free agent signings, add up to just under $161.9 million. The team is about $3.4 million away from hitting the Luxury Tax Threshold. The Cavs still have about $4.15 million of their Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception left.
LeVert won’t solve every one of Cleveland’s biggest needs from last season.
But, no matter what, having him back will only help the Cavs make another hopeful push for an extended playoff run. One can only wonder how far Cleveland will go if it makes a few more solid signings before next year.