NBA teams want to make the most of their 15 roster spots. When a team is competing for a championship, this becomes even more crucial to do. For example, one of the biggest reasons why the Golden State Warriors have won three of the last four NBA Finals is their depth.
At point guard, Shaun Livingston logged significant minutes as one of, if not the best backup PG in the league. Quinn Cook played behind Livingston and performed well for his role. Nick Young and Patrick McCaw backed up Klay Thompson, and played quite a bit even in the Finals.
Andre Igoudala was a starter-level player coming off the bench behind Kevin Durant, and replaced Zaza Pachulia when the Warriors wanted to run their vaunted “death lineup”. At power forward and center, Jordan Bell, David West, Kevon Looney, and JaVale McGee all rotated, with rookie Chris Boucher playing deep into the playoffs. This depth allowed Golden State to keep their players rested, and didn’t have to rely on only a few to win games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were essentially the exact opposite of the Warriors. On paper, the Cavs were expected to have a deep rotation of solid players, but none of them were dependable outside of LeBron James and Kevin Love. During the Finals, seven Cavaliers did not see real playing time, and that number rises to eight if you include Jordan Clarkson, who rode the bench for the entirety of the final two games.
Kendrick Perkins was on the team to provide veteran leadership and motivation. The same can be said for Jose Calderon, who was well-liked by the entire locker room. John Holland and London Perrantes were Cleveland’s two-way players, alternating between the G-league and the Cavs’ warm-up suits. Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic are good prospects, but Ty Lue wasn’t comfortable with playing them in the spotlight.
There was only one other player who wasn’t a part of the rotation. Not only did Okaro White not play in the Finals, but he never even stepped onto the court for Cleveland during any game. It’s obvious that the Cavs’ front office didn’t view White as a contributor on a championship contender. He also, to the best public knowledge, wasn’t good friends with any of Cavaliers players before joining the team, and had never been teammates with them.
That leaves just one rational explanation for the signing of White, and that has to do with his age and experience (or lack thereof): Cleveland may view Okaro White as a player they can develop during their rebuild which will start next season, when LeBron James leaves town.
White was not drafted in 2014, but played for the Memphis Grizzlies in the Summer League. After that, he played in Italy and Greece before joining the Miami Heat in 2016. In under two seasons with the Heat, White played in only 41 games, starting just four. He has averaged 2.9 on 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc in his career. White was signed to a 10-day contract by the Cavs on March 18th, 2018, and then signed for the rest of the season a month later.
White has yet to demonstrate anything that would lead a team like the Cavaliers to view him as a rotational player.
White may end up being a very good NBA player, but based on what we have seen of him thus far, that is unlikely. However, if the Cavs are indeed going to be rebuilding, why not keep White around? The small forward position will be vacated by James, leaving Cedi Osman as his likely replacement.
Okaro White could certainly get some playing time, as the Cavaliers’ primary focus should shift from winning to developing young talent. White at least has the size desired in an NBA wing, and that’s something that can’t be taught. His fluid athleticism, solid shooting stroke, and defensive intensity would be quite useful for a rebuilding team. White will turn 26 in August, so he is not the youngest player, but he is still young enough to be considered a prospect, because he has hardly seen the floor in the NBA.
White was a puzzling signing last season, but it starts to make some sense if you view the Cleveland office as being proactive and pre-accepting of a LeBron James departure. Okaro White may be a part of their future plans, at least for the short-term.