An NBA roster can only be as strong as its 15th player.
The Cleveland Cavaliers bench took 28th place in the 2022-23 regular season with 28.7 points per game, 28th with 12.5 rebounds per game and 19th with 7.1 assists per game, according to NBA.com. They saw a few of their backup options at the small forward in Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens depart for San Antonio during the sign-and-trade for forward Max Strus. Guard Danny Green, a former second-round selection for the Cavaliers and a 14-year NBA veteran, signed with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month.
The Cavs acquired and retained a few players who could strengthen its bench during the 2023 offseason, including centers Damian Jones and Tristan Thompson to back up center Jarrett Allen at the five. Forward Georges Niang and guard Ty Jerome were brought in from the 76ers and Golden State Warriors, adding extra shooting help to a roster already on pace with the Indiana Pacers for about 11th place in the league with a 36.7% 3-point percentage during the regular season.
Which players on the Cavaliers bench must contribute the most during the 2023-24 NBA season?
LeVert, who the Cavs re-signed to a two-year contract during the offseason, had a productive year for Cleveland during the 2022-23 season. He averaged 12.1 points per game during the 2022-23 regular season and 15 points per contest during the Cavs’ 2023 playoff series against the New York Knicks. He took a starting role for Cleveland during Games 3, 4 and 5 of their first-round playoff series.
“That’s just the type of dude he is where all he wants to do is be a part of the team and help the team win and he’s been willing to do whatever it takes,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in March, via ESPN Cleveland. “The thing that I think has been most impressive is he’s been a mainstay on all of our defensive stuff.
“His activity, he’s willingness to take assignments, that’s never wavered no matter what his offensive role has been. So, he’s been able to hang his hat on that and then find the spots and pick and choose on offense as well.”
LeVert must continue to provide a much-needed scoring punch off the bench for the Cavs to take the next step and become a playoff contender in the 2023-24 season.
This season could be an important one for the 22-year-old forward.
Okoro had a solid season on the defensive side of the floor. He finished the regular season with a defensive rating, or “the number of points per 100 possessions that the team allows while that individual player is on the court,” of 109, according to NBA.com. The figure put him on par with Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams, now-Dallas Mavericks forward Grant Williams and a Cavs teammate in forward Evan Mobley.
Though he improved on offense throughout the 2022-23 season, he will still need to work on his scoring and shooting going into next year. The former Auburn forward earned high praise from Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell after he hit a game-winning 3-point shot against the Brooklyn Nets in March.
“The trust is there because we see him work on it,” Mitchell said, via Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor. “That’s why I have a lot of respect for him, especially at a young age, to continuously work on something that obviously was a glaring thing for him last year and to see him not only not lose confidence, but continue to believe in himself even more, that’s what makes this season great the way we play.
“That’s so uplifting. That does so much for not just his confidence, but us as a group. It’s huge.”
Quenton Albertie ·
Okoro did end last year with a 49.4% field goal percentage and a 36.3% clip from the 3-point line, but must show more strides on offense as the Cavs enter the 2023-24 season.
Niang, a seven-year veteran for three NBA franchises, hit 40.1% of his 3-point attempts during the 2022-23 season. The former Iowa State forward has a career 3-point percentage of 40.3%, peaking at the 42.5% he shot during the 2020-21 season.
“I don’t want to give away too much. But the spacing on the floor becomes different,” Bickerstaff said when asked how the signings of Niang and Strus will alter the team’s playing style in August, via Fedor. “The attention that goes to those two guys because of Georges’ career 40% 3-point shooting and Max Strus’ ability to make shots off the move, defenses have to make different decisions now than they had to last year.
“Those are different dynamics that we added. Our offense can improve and be more dynamic and difficult to guard — even though we were a top 10 offense in the regular season. You learn from the playoffs about how to become more difficult to guard in that setting. I think there is a more dynamic nature that we can have offensively. Those are things I’m studying now and we will implement this coming season.”
Niang will be a much-needed shooting option for a Cavs roster that finished last year’s playoffs with a 32.7% 3-point percentage, putting them in 12th place among teams that made the postseason, according to NBA.com.