The Cleveland Cavaliers will be in an interesting situation heading into the offseason.
10 players can return to the roster during the 2023-24 season, according to Spotrac. Forward Lamar Stevens is listed with a club option for next season.
The Cavs’ options may be limited in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Cleveland currently has the No. 49 pick in this month’s draft. Cleveland has held first-round picks since the 2018 season, when they selected Alabama guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick. It continued to build its current core of youthful options around Southeastern Conference-grown talent when it took guard Darius Garland from Vanderbilt in 2019 and Auburn forward Isaac Okoro in 2020 before breaking the cycle with USC forward Evan Mobley in 2021.
Can the team restart its SEC trend even without a first-round pick?
Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor wrote Kentucky guard Chris Livingston will come in for a workout next week during a Wednesday edition of “Hey, Chris!”
“Sources tell cleveland.com that Akron native Chris Livingston, who is represented by Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports and surprisingly stayed in the draft despite an uneven freshman year at Kentucky, will come to town for a workout next week,” Fedor wrote. “Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates, once a ballyhooed prep star who started his college career at Memphis before transferring, is also scheduled to work out for Cleveland ahead of the draft.”
Should the Cavaliers target Livingston in the 2023 NBA Draft? How will he fit in a Cleveland rotation looking to add extra bench options in the offseason?
Chris Livingston is a 6-foot-6-inch guard who spent one season with the Kentucky Wildcats.
The former 5-star recruit and native of Akron, Ohio, held offers from Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, LSU, North Carolina, Ohio State, UAB, Florida, Akron and Tennessee State, according to 247Sports. He joined a 2022 Kentucky recruiting class that featured 5-star guard Cason Wallace, who played and started in 32 games for the Wildcats last year.
Livingston finished his first season in Lexington with averages of 6.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game in 34 games and 26 starts. A 10-point, 15-rebound performance highlighted his season as the Wildcats took down the Florida Gators in an 82-74 win in February.
Livingston said he believed he showed signs of improvement as the season went on during a pre-draft workout with the Indiana Pacers.
“The level of comfortability and confidence,” Livingston said when asked where he grew the most during his freshman season, via the Pacers. “Finding my role within the team. As my minutes increased, I feel like my production and my play also picked up, too.”
Livingston announced his intent to declare for the NBA Draft in April. He joined Wallace and forward Oscar Tshiebwe, a former West Virginia transfer who averaged a double-double in both of his seasons with Lexington, among others.
“Basketball means everything to me, and it was a dream of mine to be a part of an incredible basketball program like the University of Kentucky,” he wrote in an April Instagram post. “Thank you to Big Blue Nation, my teammates and all the coaches and staff for your support.”
Should the Cavs draft Chris Livingston?
Livingston could be a risky selection for the Cavaliers, even at No. 49.
He could have benefitted from some extra time in the college ranks and a Kentucky program with a knack for recruiting NBA-level talent. Livingston must iron out his overall scoring efficiency before becoming a reliable option for the Cavaliers. He made 42.9% of his shots and 30.5% of his tries from the 3-point line during his time at Kentucky.
Now Cavs-guard Danny Green chose to stick it out with North Carolina for four years before declaring for the NBA Draft in 2008. He began his college career with a 43.3% shooting percentage from the field and 35.5% from 3-point range. Though his rate from beyond the arc declined to 29.6% during his sophomore season, he improved his 3-point shot during his time with the Tar Heels before Cleveland selected him with the No. 46 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Green ended his first season in the NBA with an inefficient 27.3% from the perimeter. But he was still able to pave the way for a 14-year NBA career after spending extra time improving his defense and scoring abilities while picking up a few life lessons at North Carolina.
“You know, he’s like a father figure,” Green said when former North Carolina head coach Roy Williams retired in 2021, via All 76ers. “I became a man at school there. Four years there, he taught me a lot about stuff, not just about the game of basketball, but about life.”
Whether the Cavs should take a chance on Livingston will depend on whether they can retain their more reliable free agents and shore up their bench in the offseason.
Cleveland already began to invest in more experienced options to build around the team’s young core when they made the blockbuster trade for guard Donovan Mitchell last September. It added Green on a one-year, $2 million contract in February, bringing in the three-time NBA Champion just a few months before the team’s playoff series against the New York Knicks.
Green and guard Caris LeVert will be unrestricted free agents during the 2023 offseason. LeVert expressed his interest in returning to the Cavaliers roster after finishing the 2022-23 season with averages of 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Cleveland will have two key exceptions on its side to add some much-needed veterans on the bench.
Livingston won’t be able to solve every one of Cleveland’s most notable needs heading into the offseason.
Cleveland needs bigs who can provide valuable minutes off the bench, reliable shooters and scorers before next season. Cleveland’s bench took 28th place in the NBA after it scored 28.7 points per game during the regular season. It only took spots ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors. The Cavs’ need for bench help became more apparent when it scored 20.4 points per outing during the playoffs, good enough to put it in 11th place among teams who made the postseason.
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He may not be able to contribute right away. But the Ohio-born guard fits at least one of the five core values etched into the original version of the Junkyard Dog chain: Toughness.
The freshman guard, who was called “tough as nails” by Kentucky head coach John Calipari earlier this year, highlighted the energy he can bring to an NBA franchise during a one-on-one interview with the Pacers on Monday.
“Right now, just coming in and being a young guy with great energy,” Livingston said, via the Pacers. “High motor. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. Being locked in there, getting stops and just making the right play on the offensive side of the ball, especially in catch-and-shoot situations, knocking down open shots, things like that.”
Capilari doubled down on Livingston’s drive and overall improvement in a May tweet.
“Had a chance to watch @_chrisliv24 work out today and WOW!! He got so much better for us by the end of the year and he looks like he’s taken another leap forward,” Calipari wrote. “Chris is one of the most driven, caring, smart kids I’ve ever coached. I absolutely love him.”
The drive to improve can only get you so far in one of the highest leagues in basketball.
But the Cavs won’t be able to bring a championship back to The Land without taking at least a few risks.
Taking him with a late-second-round selection and signing him to a two-way contract can reduce some of the risk and give him some extra time to refine his craft with the Cleveland Charge. The Cavs did the same with USC forward Isaiah Mobley, who was taken with the No. 49 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft before he signed a two-way deal last July.
If he can keep building off of the talent he already possesses with NBA-level competition, he may have the chance to become a valuable part of the Cavs’ in the future.