Cleveland, Ohio – It’s the latest version of Hey, Chris!
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Hello, Chris: Is there any traction along the Caris LeVert? – Anthony, Stu
Hi Anthony: Not right. Much of the offseason for Cleveland has been intertwined. After completing a massive Darius Garland contract extension, bringing in a pair of point guards (Ricky Rubio and Raul Neto) and adding a burly backup position (Robin Lopez), the Cavs prioritized the Collin Sexton negotiations. These are still deadlocked.
The next steps flow from what’s going on with Sexton. Includes any LeVert extension discussions.
The two play the same position. They have a similar skill set. LeVert was acquired on deadline as a short-term injury substitute, saving little playmaking in the absence of Rubio and bringing this aggressive goal-scoring attack to the team with a season-ending meniscus tear from Sexton. However, given LeVert’s age and contract status, there were also thoughts of it being a long-running play if he seemed to fit in with Cleveland’s emerging core. The Cavs didn’t really get a chance at a full rating.
Contract extension must be obtained. Regardless of the many uncontrollable factors linked to Levert’s struggles over the past few months – adjusting to a new team and a new role, after an all-star foot injury that lasted, the lack of his expected partner (Garrett Allen) and only playing the full 24 minutes alongside Garland. And Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley – it’s hard to make a decisive case for LeVert who deserves a new deal.
If Sexton and the Cavs can eventually agree to a multi-year contract — cleveland.com has reported that Sexton has been offered a three-year deal worth about $40 million — there is less urgency when it comes to LeVert’s long-term extension. If Sexton chooses to play on the eligible $7.2 million bid, becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer when the league half is expected to have plenty of room, LeVert talks will likely intensify.
There is sure to be a scenario in which both top-tier guards collide with free agency in 2023.
Hello, Chris: How can the Cavs find enough minutes for all their guards? – William, Pepper Pike
Hello, William: The situation is similar to last year, when Cleveland had an abundance of playable strikers. There were 96 total minutes available in 4/5 for the newly acquired veteran Kevin Love, Allen, Mobley and Markkanen. All of them are worth playing time. They were four of the top 8 players on the team in rotation. Realizing the predicament, coach JB Bickerstaff got creative and eventually made the unconventional decision to play – and start – Markkanen as a junior striker. This resulted in a unique, defensive-minded squad that played an important role in the team’s surprising start.
Bickerstaff will cut his business again – if Sexton comes back. But it’s a good problem.
Garland. Sexton (maybe). levert. Rubio. neto. Isaac Okoro. Ochai Agbaji. The first question is how much Rubio will play next season. He is still recovering from an ACL rupture, and although there is no set timeline, it takes about 12 months. If everything continues to progress well, that puts him on track to return in late December – at the earliest. January seems more realistic. So, let’s get Rubio out of this discussion. At least temporarily.
The next question is how many of these guards can go to 3, to serve as a reserve for Markanen. Okoro, LeVert and Agbaji could all be candidates, allowing Bickerstaff to steal minutes at a different location.
Last season, Garland averaged 35.7 minutes. Given its importance, there is no good reason to expect this number to decrease. We’ll put it at 36.
There is plenty of time before the season begins, but LeVert should be considered as a potential start alongside Garland. At 394 minutes together, the Garland-LeVert posterior region had a positive net evaluation (2.4). Although it had a smaller sample size—with Sexton adjusting for a different off-ball role—the tiny pairing known as “SexLand” had a negative net rating (-6.3). In the most recent season, Bickerstaff had already considered splitting them, almost choosing the rugged Okoro as the opening night shooting guard.
Let’s draw a pencil in LeVert for 30 minutes. That’s 66 out of 96.
In the first part of the season, the other thirty must be split between Sexton, Okoro, Agbaji, and Neto. It is also possible that the Cavs will use Sexton as the actual point guard for the second unit. Neto’s expected playing time will decrease if Sexton can tackle the role as the sixth man in the gaming industry.
Hello, Chris: Will Sidi Othman be on the list at the beginning of the season? Does he have a role in this team? – Howard, Lyndhurst
Hi, Howard: I have my doubts. Not only was it clear towards the end of the season that Bickerstaff was losing faith in Usman, but retaining Sexton would require a roster transfer. Any deal with Sexton — signing the qualifying bid by October 1 or agreeing to a multi-year agreement — puts the Cavs at 16 players, one over the cap.
Both Lamar Stevens and Dean Wade are waived and non-guaranteed deals. But kaffers love them, so cutting out one or both is unlikely – unless they’re desperate for more financial flexibility.
Osman and Dylan Wendler will be more vulnerable. In theory, the Cavs could attach a pick in the second round or two in the future and send one into the opposing team’s cover space. Both Indiana and San Antonio still have room for what could effectively be a payroll dump.
Hello, Chris: How can Cavs upgrade the 3? Joe, Rocky River
Hello Joe: Outdoor options coming out of season were limited. At this point, the position is thinner. You will likely read about some unexpected possibilities. The Cavs wouldn’t give up on what it would take to get Kevin Durant, as Brooklyn Garland or Mobley would order, if not both. This is a hard and fast “no”. New Orleans is not an entertaining discussion about Brandon Ingram. Jaylen Brown of Boston feels available only on Celtics-Nets chats. So, who else is there?
Since it’s hard to find a logical “upgrade” for a starting level, the best short-term path is to see if LeVert, Okoro, Stevens, Wade, Osman or Agbaji can provide productive minutes behind Markkanen.
In the long run, there’s a guy named LeBron James who could be a free agent next summer – a time when the Caves could have plenty of cover space. LeBron will be hard-pressed to find a better basketball position if he is looking to leave the Lakers.
This is a conversation for another day.
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