The Cleveland Cavaliers made their fair share of moves once the 2022-23 season came to a close.
They acquired forward Max Strus through a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat. They sent forwards Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens to the San Antonio Spurs in the trade for the former DePaul forward. Forward Georges Niang, guard Ty Jerome and center Tristan Thompson were signed to the roster as the offseason went along. Cleveland traded for center Damian Jones, the former 30th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, in exchange for cash considerations in July.
The Cavaliers have 14 players under contract for the 2023-24 season, according to sports contract and salaries website Spotrac. Cleveland announced the signing of guard Sharife Cooper, forward Pete Nance and guard Justin Powell to its training camp roster on Wednesday. It agreed to an Exhibit 10 contract, or a one-year contract worth the league minimum that can be converted into two-way contracts before the regular season begins, with guard Zhaire Smith a few days later. Forwards Emoni Bates, Isaiah Mobley and guard Craig Porter Jr. took up the three two-way spots heading into next season.
Cleveland will likely keep its final roster spot open for flexibility reasons, as Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor highlighted in a July article.
“By rule, the Cavs must enter the regular season with at least 14 players,” Fedor wrote. “The max is 15 — although Cleveland typically prefers to keep one spot open as a way to enhance flexibility and optionality.”
Even though the Cavs may not need one final player to fill out its roster before the start of the year, what is one final roster move they could make should they need to fill out its 15th spot before the start of the 2023-24 season?
Acquire a scoring small forward
Cleveland could use a third-string small forward who could provide a scoring and shooting punch when the Cavs need it the most.
Cleveland’s bench averaged 28.7 points per game during the 2022-23 season, putting it in 28th place in the NBA behind the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Miami Heat, according to NBA.com. Its 20.4 points per game in the 2023 NBA playoffs put it on pace with the Philadelphia 76ers for about 11th place among teams who made the postseason. Guard Caris LeVert, who started in 30 games of the 74 games he played for Cleveland last year, was the only player outside of Cleveland’s big four to average double-digit points for the Cavs during the regular season.
Strus and forward Isaac Okoro make up two of the potential options at the three for the Cavaliers. Okoro, the former No. 5 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, played in 76 games and started in 46 for the Cavaliers last season. Strus played in 57% of his minutes during the 2022-23 season and 53% of his total career minutes at the small forward spot, according to Basketball Reference. LeVert spent a majority of his minutes at the shooting guard last year, but he still spent 38% of his minutes at the three.
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“Max creates a dynamic offense for you, a lot of flow, a lot of movement, a lot of gravitational pull where he doesn’t even have to touch the ball,” Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said in July, via The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram Cavaliers beat writer Bob Finnan. “We got very stagnant last year. We asked Darius and Donovan to drive the offense for us. This is going to make it a lot easier for them. Just watch his movement in Miami and tell me that isn’t going to help us immensely.”
Not too many options remain before Cleveland’s media day begins on Oct. 2. and the NBA’s training camps open the next day. The Cavaliers could attempt to sign former Charlotte Hornets forward Kelly Oubre Jr., who the Cavs may have shown interest in during the offseason.
“Sources say the Cavs have shown interest in Oubre and Wood. Oubre, sources say, was the team’s Plan B if a Strus deal never materialized,” Fedor wrote in a July edition of “Hey, Chris!” “Versatile Hornets forward PJ Washington — a restricted free agent who seems perturbed with negotiations — is also still looking for clarity and the Cavs have enough expendable salary-matching pieces (Dean Wade, Ricky Rubio) to make a compelling sign-and-trade package.”
Oubre was listed on Hoops Wire’s available 2023 NBA Free Agents List and on Spotrac’s available free agents list. The former Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors forward averaged a career-high 20.3 points per game on a 43.1% field goal percentage. He hit 31.9% of his 7.1 tries from the 3-point line. Former Suns forward T.J. Warren, who averaged 7.5 points per game during his time with Phoenix and the Brooklyn Nets last year, was also on both lists. Guard Danny Green, who played in 41% of his 2022-23 regular-season minutes with the Cavs at the small forward spot, signed with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month.