A quick breakdown of what to expect from Cleveland's bench
During the 2016 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers ranked 31st in the NBA in bench scoring, at just 27 points per game. This season, the Cavs’ bench hasn’t fared much better, scoring 29.2 points per game, good enough for 28th in the league. As we’ve seen recently, the Cavs are struggling when their starters are not on the court. Tristan Thompson has been injured and hasn’t played for the first time in his career. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving’s workloads have been very burdensome, and the team has been involved many overtime contests recently. Having solid depth is a must if the Cavaliers hope to return to the NBA Finals, but have they really fixed the problem of a lack of bench scoring with their additions?
Kay Felder won’t get much time in the playoffs, as he’s an inexperienced rookie who would be a defensive liability against bigger guards. In 9.2 minutes per game this season, Felder averaged 4 points. He showed potential to be an Isaiah Thomas-lite bench scorer, and will continue to develop as a solid backup to Irving.
Deron Williams is still transitioning thus far for the Cavs, but he really stepped up against the Heat on April 10th, while starting in place of Kyrie Irving. Williams finished the game with 35 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists, albeit with 10 turnovers. Williams will play a key role in the playoffs, facilitating the offense for the second unit while providing a scoring threat off the bench, and must continue to play at a high level in order for the Cavs to be successful. He has shown glimpses of great basketball playing alongside Kevin Love, and his ability to find shots and actively defend have given the Cavs consistency while Irving and James sit.
Iman Shumpert averaged 7.4 points, and Kyle Korver scored 10.9, both getting around 25 minutes a night. Korver is a defensive liability however, so his time may be limited by necessity. Shumpert has cooled off after a hot start to the season, but still provides solid offense with great defense, and he’s able to guard anywhere from the 1-3, which makes him very versatile defensively. He is able to hit the 3 when open
James Jones will not play hardly at all, as he is strictly a morale booster. The same goes for new (re)addition Dahntay Jones, who will only see action when games get scrappy and physical, in order to send a message to the other team.
Richard Jefferson, in 20 minutes per game, scored less than 6 points. Despite being a key contributor last playoffs, Jefferson has taken a step back this season. That’s not to say he can’t still play a meaningful role however, and should see a good amount of action, at least earlier on in the playoffs.
Derrick Williams is the wildcard. He has the size and athleticism to not only play the 3 and 4, but to also guard both those positions. He is capable of hitting an open jumpshot, but his bread and butter is slashing to the rim and scoring inside, whether it’s off of a putback, and offensive rebound, or otherwise, Williams is a very valuable offensive weapon.
At center, Edy Tavares has replaced Larry Sanders for the playoff run. Sanders was unlikely to be able to provide meaningful minutes, due to his extended absence from the league. Tavares spent most of the season playing for the Toronto Raptors’ D-League team, and is a 7’3” rim protecting defensive enforcer who is unlikely to provide much scoring potential.
All in all, the Cavaliers have multiple players on their bench who are capable of scoring well, and they need to perform at a high level if the Cavs hope to have a deep playoff run.