The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have the most eventful offseason, but they still managed to make some solid moves to help their continuing rebuild. Here are the three best.
3. Signing Damyean Dotson
It’s important to remember to take the NBA preseason with a grain of salt, but it was still good to see some of the new additions making an impact in the preseason opener. One of those additions is guard Damyean Dotson, who enters his fourth season after spending his first three years with the New York Knicks. In 2018-2019, he started 40 games, averaging 10.7 points per game. He’s a very solid bench scorer, which is why it was quite odd that the Knicks decided not to bring him back, and even odder that no team other than Cleveland showed interest in Dotson. It remains to be seen just how much playing time there will be for him in a crowded backcourt, but he should be able to carve out a nice role, if for no other reason than his throwback headband aesthetic.
With Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. out for Saturday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers, Dotson handled a good chunk of the ball-handling duties late in the game, and in 19 minutes, he put up 12 points, three assists, and one steal. He was also responsible for collecting the rebound and finding Isaac Okoro down the court for the game-winning sequence. Scoring off the bench is something you can never have enough of, and Dotson will attempt to turn a strong 2020-2021 campaign into a nice payday next offseason.
2. Cavs Trading for picks
Young talent and draft picks are the only way that the Cavs will be able to make this rebuild work, and that’s why it’s so important that they add those two things however and whenever they can. Even future second-round picks can be useful, as we saw with the trade that brought Kevin Porter Jr. to Cleveland.
The Cavaliers made two separate deals that netted them second-rounders; first, they sent Jordan Bell and Alonzo McKinnie to the Los Angeles Lakers for JaVale McGee and a 2026 second-round pick. McGee’s reputation aside, he’s become a good rim protector and will provide Andre Drummond with a reliable backup. Perhaps he’ll end up starting for the Cavs over the second half of the season in the event of a Drummond trade.
The Cavs also acquired Rayjon Tucker and a 2027 second-rounder from the Utah Jazz in exchange for cash considerations (he gets traded all the time, poor guy. Hopefully he finds a long-term home to show his skills). Yes, those picks are currently 12 and 13 years old, but it’s still capital that the team acquired for next to nothing. Continuing to add future draft picks, even if they are never actually used by the team, is smart.
Taking advantage of the salary cap situations of other teams is a market inefficiency that can be played in the Cavs’ favor. Of course, it would be nice to land more first-round selections, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ in 2022 (which is now fully unprotected), but in order to run, you have to crawl first. Porter Jr. was a legitimate top-1o talent in the 2019 NBA Draft, and he cost the Cavs four future second-round picks. Cleveland can afford to play the long game with their rebuild, because that’s the only game they can play.
1. Cavs Drafting Isaac Okoro
One preseason game does not make a star, but it was nonetheless encouraging to see Isaac Okoro look like he belonged in his NBA debut. In 33 minutes, he scored 18 points on six of nine shooting and had three steals. His offensive game will be a work in progress, but defensively, he’ll make a major impact this season. It didn’t matter who he was guarding, whether it was Victor Oladipo, Malcolm Brogdon, or one of the Holidays; Okoro’s defensive prowess was evident, and he affected nearly every shot he could. His presence was more than just a minor annoyance or frustration for the Pacers, and that is a trend that should continue throughout the preseason.
Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, and other prospects will impress this preseason, and Okoro will always be compared to those players because he was chosen over them. But the Cavs wanted a defensive specialist whose offensive game could be molded and refined to pair well with their young guards, and they stuck with that plan. Okoro should not be judged either way based on what he does this preseason, but the fact remains that he was this team’s target all along, and that alone makes him the best move of their offseason.