What Will the Cleveland Cavs' Starting Lineup Look Like?
Strus will be stepping in as the new starting small forward after playing a strong role for the Miami Heat in their unlikely march through the Eastern Conference finals and into the championship round against the Denver Nuggets. If he does what he did last season and makes another 197 three-pointers, the Cavaliers will be a better offensive team. Defensively, he may be a step down from Isaac Okoro, last season's starter. But changes happen to every NBA team every offseason, and signing Strus was the Cavaliers' big move.
Point Guard Darius Garland
Garland is a speed guard, one of the fastest players in the entire NBA. He causes matchup problems because of that speed, as most defenders simply cannot keep him in front of them. Entering his fifth NBA season, he has never played in 70 games. His averages of 21.6 points and 7.8 assists were down a click from the previous season when he was paired with Collin Sexton before the latter player was sent to Utah along with Lauri Markkanen in the Mitchell trade.
Shooting Guard Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell was the prized acquisition of last offseason, costing the Cavilers multiple future first-round picks as they outbid the New York Knicks to get him. Mitchell averaged a career-high 28.3 points and shot a career-best 48.4 percent overall and 38.6 percent on three-pointers. He is a stud, but his acquisition was expected to lead to multiple Eastern Conference championship chases. We still await the first.
Small Forward Max Strus
Strus has been in the league for four seasons, and in his fifth we are going to see if he can make the big move from role player off the bench to full-time starter. He will need to become a more efficient shooter after making them at a 41 percent clip last season. This is a bit of a risky move because the Cavilers invested the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft on Okoro, who now moves to the second unit unless he somehow convinced the coaching staff that he is the better option in the starting five.
Power Forward Evan Mobley
Mobley, a top option to win DPOY by most Ohio sportsbooks, was the third overall pick of the 2021 draft and is an accomplished 22-year-old who averaged 15.0 points as a rookie and 16.4 points last season with strong blocked shots and steals totals as a terrific two-way player. His rim-protecting defense alongside Jarrett Allen makes the Cavilers a tricky matchup for every opponent aside from Minnesota, who the Cavaliers play only twice.
Center Jarrett Allen
Allen is an elite shot-blocker who the Cavaliers were fortunate to acquire when the Brooklyn Nets were going all-in on James Harden and traded away several of their best young players. Tip of the hat to Koby Altman for making that trade. Entering his fourth season in Cleveland, he will need to stay healthy. He played 56 and 68 games the last two seasons. He is on the board at Fan Duel at +4500 for Defensive Player of the Year after his blocks per game average dropped to 1.2 last season, his lowest total since his rookie season.
Who Will Be on the Cleveland Cavs' Bench?
Again, the big change is at small forward as all eyes will be on Strus to see if he can make the jump from bench player to starter and handle the increased responsibility and workload without the Cavaliers losing too much defensively.
The other four players on the starting rotation are known commodities in Cleveland and around the NBA, and newcomers Niang and Jerome are trying to find a home where their contributions will help them stay in the league for another half-decade and keep them from finishing their careers in Europe or China.
The Cavaliers' first-round exit was not what was anticipated wen they acquired Mitchell, and the goal here is an Eastern Conference finals appearance. But getting there means getting past some combination of the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks, which is a tight top six in which the competition has more experience.
But it is not out of the question because the Cavaliers can give everyone matchup fits. For Cleveland, it may just come down to their playoff matchup. Last season, the Knicks had them figured out in the first round. This season, will a four seed get them the same matchup? Or are they good enough to be a No. 3 seed, especially with James Harden trying to get out of Philadelphia.
The East is very competitive 1-6 and abysmal from 13-15. Cleveland has a lot riding on the Strus addition, but let's not forget that Mitchell will either taken them to higher heights or to another season of "We miss LeBron."
Who Is the Cavs 6th Man?
LeVert is the guy, and the oft-injured 28-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance during his stops in Brooklyn, Indiana and Cleveland. Appearing in 74 games (30 of them starts) last season marked the most playing time LeVert has seen since 2018. He was a 20-point scorer in 2021 for the Pacers and is an instant offensive injection who should work well with Niang as a floor spacer. He is on the board at FanDuel at +2600 for NBA Sixth Man Award odds. Only nine players have shorter odds.
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Get to Know the Cleveland Cavs' Front Office
Who Is the Cavs' Head Coach?
Bickerstaff is entering his fifth season as head coach, and his next playoff series victory will be his first. He was knocked out in the first round last season, just as he was in 2016 when he was coaching the Houston Rockets. Bickerstaff, the son of former NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, enters the season with a career head coaching record of 207-256. His dad works in the front office as an advisor, and it is safe to assume he is on the coaching hot seat following last season's 4-1 playoff loss to the New York Knicks in which observers credited Tom Thibodeau with outcoaching Bickerstaff.
Who Is the Cavs' General Manager?
Gansey was a very good high school, player who finished runner-up to LeBron James for Ohio's Mr. Basketball at Olmsted Falls H.S. He played in the D-League and in Summer League for the Heat and Clippers but never made it to the NBA. He was G-League Executive of the Year for the Canton Charge in 2017 before joining the Cavaliers' front office, where he was promoted to GM a year ago under president of basketball operations Koby Altman.
Cleveland Cavaliers Depth Chart FAQs
Dan Gilbert, who made his fortune in the online mortgage industry, has been the Cleveland Cavaliers' primary owner since 2005. Rapper Usher is a minority owner.
Koby Altman is president of basketball operations. From Brooklyn, he's been in the Cavaliers' front office since 2012. He is credited with making the trades that sent Kyrie Irving to Boston and brought Wade to Cleveland. His draft picks have included Garland, Collin Sexton, Okoro and Mobley. The brains of the operation, he engineered the deal for Mitchell and was the driving force behind this summer's acquisitions of Niang, Strus and Jerome.
That list starts with LeBron James, of course, but the Cavaliers have had seven Hall of Famers on their roster: Shaquille O'Neal, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Dwayne Wade, Nate Thurmond, Ben Wallace, Lenny Wilkens, and Jim Chines, along with coaches Chuck Daly, Wilkens and Bill Fitch.