Cavs Urged to Make Major Caris LeVert Decision as Team Eyes Win-Now Wing Upgrades

Caris LeVert Cleveland Cavliers

Getty Caris LeVert #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

By all indications, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine. Sure, the Cavs are riding a four-game skid, but prior to that stretch were sitting pretty at 23-10. Barring some catastrophic event (like the injury concerns that derailed a feel-good season last year), the Cavs will be well on their way to making their first LeBron James-less playoffs in franchise history.

Given the strong season so far, the Cavs don’t necessarily need to make any moves, as Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report noted. But, Bailey did make room for a trade involving one player: Caris LeVert.

“For the sixth season in a row, LeVert is posting a below-average effective field-goal percentage, per Basketball Reference—and he’s really not close to average in any of those campaigns,” Bailey wrote on January 2. “And for a team that plays a lot of minutes with both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the floor, shooting from the other three spots is crucial.

“LeVert doesn’t provide that, which is why the team’s offensive rating and effective field-goal percentage both dip when he’s on the floor.”

For much of the season, LeVert has fit like a square peg in a Finals-bound hole. Despite being one of the more experienced members of Cleveland’s rotation, he’s failed to carve out a place for himself in the starting five. In his stead, the Cavs have to wing by committee, giving LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, Cedi Osman, and Dean Wade time in the lineup.

But with none of those players looking like the clear future in Cleveland, the team is unsurprisingly targeting a stop-gap option on the wing.

Cavs Searching Trade Market for ‘Short-Term Wing Option’

Light on much in the way of draft capital, the Cavaliers are likely turning to quick-fix options on the wing to bolster their playoff hopes.

“League sources expect the Cavs to search the trade market for another short-term wing option,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote over the weekend.

Read Lowe’s report as involving a player that a) is on an expiring deal and b) is likely not looking at re-signing with their current team.

As Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report noted, the list of players that fit that bill is likely long.

“There should be a number of wings on expiring deals that become available between now and Feb. 9, a list that could include Eric Gordon, Jae Crowder, Josh Richardson, Kyle Kuzma, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Terrence Ross,” Swartz wrote.

The Cavs Have Expressed Interest in Crowder

The Cavs’ issues on the wing are hardly new. Back in September, Joe Vardon of The Athletic noted that the Cavs were trying out various options at the position with no one standing above the rest.

“If, however, you prefer to make the case that the Cavs are one player away from serious championship contention, the evidence is at the small forward spot. It’s why Cleveland is said to have interest in trading for Jae Crowder from the Suns, who is available and is a proven 3-and-D big body who could bang against the Kevin Durants and Jimmy Butlers and Jayson Tatums of the East,” Vardon wrote back in September.

If Cleveland makes the playoffs it will find itself in an unusual spot–the team has failed to make the playoffs in four years. But though they have little collective playoff experience, the Cavs are ready to win now.

Adding a bully-ball type of wing should make that transition smoother, as Vardon noted. Cleveland will inevitably play one of Durant, Butler, or Tatum in the playoffs; if the season ended today, they’d have a first-round matchup against Joel Embiid and James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Though far from the short-term, easy-peasy deal mentioned by Lowe, the Cavs could still strike a dream trade for OG Anunoby, giving Cleveland the most complete starting five in the NBA.

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