The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their work cut out for them when they attempt to strengthen the bench enough to comfortably reinforce the starting five and address some of the more glaring needs on the roster.
Cleveland’s total salaries, including the estimated amount by Spotrac for guard Darius Garland and three non-guaranteed contracts, add up to just under $127 million. The NBA’s salary cap is projected to rise by 8.4% to $134 million in the 2023-24 season, while the tax level is projected to increase by 7.8% to $162 million, according to NBA.com and The Athletic.
The Cavaliers hold the No. 49 pick in the NBA Draft. Cleveland selected forward Isaiah Mobley, now a two-way player for the Cavaliers, with the No. 49 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Though he didn’t see much time on the floor for the Cavs last year, he ended a statement season for the Cleveland Charge with averages of 21.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in 22 games played and started.
“He is a very good rotational piece on a team,” Bickerstaff said in an April postgame press conference. “He’s even better with better players. He just has a knack for the game, an understanding for the game. He’s continued to work on his shooting, he’s improved in that area. But, similar to Evan (Mobley), they have elite IQs and have a high understanding of the game.
“Credit to their pops for teaching the game the right way. They understand it. They get it.”
Who could the Cavs look out for with their No. 49 pick? Will they be able to find a player with the potential to break the rotation later in the second round?
Cleveland’s bench will have to find scorers off the bench during the offseason.
The Cavs’ bench ended the year with 28.7 points per game, putting it at 28th in the league and in front of only the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers. Only one player outside Cleveland’s big four, guard Caris LeVert, scored in double figures for the Cavaliers last season.
Bates, a 6-foot-9-inch forward out of Eastern Michigan, was once a 5-star recruit with offers from Michigan State, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. He transferred to the Eagles after one season at Memphis, where he ended the 2022-23 season with 19.2 points per game. The figure was good enough to put him at 39th in the country and third in the Mid-American Conference.
Bates will have to improve his shooting efficiency after he shot 40.5% from the field and 33% from the 3-point line. Should he not need to spend a year or two refining his craft with the Charge, he could provide a reliable boost off the bench in limited minutes.
Terrence Shannon Jr.
Shannon, a former 4-star recruit from Chicago, Ill., led the Illinois Fighting Illini and placed sixth in the Big Ten as he scored 17.2 points per game. The 6-foot-6-inch guard’s season was highlighted by a 29-point, 10-rebound performance against the UCLA Bruins in November, where he hit nine of his 13 shot attempts and eight of his nine 3-pointers as he led Illinois to a 79-70 win over UCLA in T-Mobile Arena.
Though he was inconsistent during his time with Illinois, Shannon provided the scoring needed to get the Illini to a 20-13 overall record and an 11-9 record against conference opponents.
He can add experience to a young Cavaliers roster after playing for three years at Texas Tech and one year with Illinois. He can be a reliable reserve guard for a Cavs team in need of experienced scorers whether the Cavs decide to bring back Danny Green or let him walk in free agency.
The Cavs will need to find a way to add a backup center.
They can turn to free agency and try to sign a reliable backup with either the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level or the Bi-Annual exceptions or a potential trade to make a hopeful run at another playoff spot.
The Cavs’ options may be limited in the second round, but they can turn to it as a last resort.
Bona won’t be able to solve every one of Cleveland’s issues on the interior. Still, he can provide a solid paint presence for a team that finished with 9.7 offensive rebounds per game in the regular season and 9.2 during the NBA playoffs, according to NBA.com.
The 6-foot-10-inch center from UCLA averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 offensive rebounds per game during his lone season with the Bruins. He grabbed as many as five boards on offense on four occasions, including a 10-rebound and two-block performance in a 60-58 win over the USC Trojans in January.
Forward Coleman Hawkins, Shannon’s Illini teammate, led Illinois in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game and three assists per contest. His versatility proved invaluable for an Illinois offense that ranked third in the Big Ten conference with 74.3 points per game.
Hawkins ended a 73-44 win over Syracuse 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, good enough to notch the fifth triple-double in program history.
“He would rather make a pass than a shot,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said, via the Associated Press. “And yet, he’s a very good shooter. He’s very unselfish that way.”
The 6-foot-10-inch forward could be a solid glue piece for the Cavaliers with his well-rounded skillset, using his limited reps to keep the team’s offense rolling at a steady pace.