The Cleveland Cavaliers made multiple moves this offseason that should enable them to build off of their success last season, as they went 51-31, earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff berth without LeBron James on the roster in over 20 years.
However, the best move that Cleveland made this offseason doesn’t involve a newcomer, but veteran wing Caris LeVert. LeVert, who’ll turn 29-years-old in late August, re-signed with the Cavs for two years and $32 million.
Why the Cavs needed to re-sign Caris LeVert
Throughout the 2023 offseason, the talk of the town was that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be targeting a starting quality small forward in their efforts to shore up their main positional need. Myriad names were floated around, from the embattled Miles Bridges to the still unsigned Kelly Oubre Jr.
However, the Cavs opted against going either route, and it could be argued that the contract Caris LeVert signed to remain with Cleveland was the type of deal that one would have expected for a starting-caliber forward.
With that in mind, when assessing the players that could be slotted across from Donovan Mitchell on the wing, LeVert is not only the most talented option but the most proven. Especially after the Cavs traded away a longtime rotation player with starter-potential in Cedi Osman.
Of course, the Cavs could opt to go with Dean Wade or George Niang at small forward, giving Cleveland an archetypal 3-and-D presence alongside three potential on-ball volume scorers in Mitchell, star point guard Darius Garland, and promising power forward Evan Mobley. Yet, with Garland needing to make sure the entire team gets involved and Mobley still working out the kinks to his offensive game, having more of an on-ball scorer at that position could be better for the balance of their starting lineup.
Passing, including the ability to function as a point guard, is among Caris LeVert’s best attributes. It’s also one of the most important heading into the 2023-24 season, given there’s reasonable doubt about how floor general Ricky Rubio will perform next season.
While being another year removed from his ACL injury should help Rubio both physically and mentally, the veteran will be 33-years-old in October and in his 13th NBA season with two seasons of international play since being drafted fifth overall in 2009. That said, no matter how talented of a facilitator Rubio is, his physical health will be the ultimate factor in how well he plays.
7 assists to only 1 turnover for Caris LeVert last night
Bickerstaff started the game using him as a funky point forward next to DG and Spida. LeVert’s new high-energy, unselfish playstyle he’s displayed this season unlocks so many different possibilities for Cleveland’s offense pic.twitter.com/8delNoKdIb
— Brayden Todd (@Bray__NBA) October 20, 2022
However, with LeVert appearing as healthy as he’s ever been, he should be in line to get point guard reps — or at least be the primary facilitator — in the second unit if Rubio isn’t up to the task. At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, having LeVert as an option at point guard is great for the Cavs anyways, as the league has been keen on adding taller point guards over the past few years.
Break In Case Of Emergency
Every fan, player, coach and front office executive has seen a team’s potential success derailed by injuries to key players, and that’s what makes Caris LeVert even more important to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A player with enough talent to at least be the second option on many teams, having LeVert as a safety net in the event of a significant injury to a star like Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell could be what keeps the Cavs not just in games but in playoff contention.
LeVert is capable of scoring every which way, with a great combination of shooting touch, scoring instincts, footwork, ball-handling, and athleticism. With his size and skillset, Cleveland has what’s arguably an underutilized tool at their disposal, but one that they can grab in an emergency situation.