Cavaliers Urged to Solve ‘Priority No. 1’ with Rotation Upgrade

Donovan Mitchell Cleveland Cavaliers

Getty Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the trade of the summer by acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. Ultimately, the trade will likely go down as a win-win, with the Jazz netting Lauri Markkanen, who went from a rotation big to an All-Star starter in Salt Lake City this season.

But the Cavaliers’ roster is far from perfect. As Hoops Wire’s Sam Amico pointed out, the Cavaliers’ bench has been a real eyesore since the calendar flipped to the new year.

“It’s hard to know why, but since about January, the Cavs have been getting basically nothing from the bench,” Amico wrote. “You don’t need stats to prove that. All you need is a simple eye test.”

Amico went on to urge the Cavaliers to sew up that problem as soon as the summer window opens.

“So, offseason priority No. 1 will be to fix that,” Amico finished.

Amico has a point. Since January 1, the Cavaliers’ bench has the 15th-best net rating in the league. That wasn’t always the case, however; on the season, the Cavs’ second unit has the second-best net rating.

Offensively, the second unit has struggled in the new year, posting a 52.1 rating (24th in the league), on par with the hapless Bulls and freefalling Pelicans.

Potential Cavs Targets This Summer

Outside of the Cavs’ most productive scorers (Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and Caris LeVert), the Cavs’ scoring nosedives.

Cedi Osman is the next-highest scorer at 8.7 points per night, followed by the dearly departed Kevin Love (8.5 points per game).

Cleveland also plays five players over 30 minutes per game, unsurprising with a rotation built around a lights-out starting crew and lackluster rotation. But Dean Wade, Isaac Okoro, and Cedi Osman are all in the 20-plus minutes per game range.

The easiest answer is to wait for Danny Green to continue coming along. His scoring could go a long way toward boosting that ugly offensive rating. His per-36 numbers suggest he could be a solid stop-gap scorer at 12.9 points on 9.0 attempts from three per game.

But the Cavs might still need to dip into the free-agent market this summer to find some rotation additions. After all, relying on Green and Ricky Rubio, both with serious injuries recently, isn’t going to be a permanent formula for success.

Cleveland is expected to have around $12.7 million in practical cap space next season, per Spotrac. With scorers like Seth Curry and Joe Ingles slated for free agency next season, the Cavs could look to add more shooting to the bench unit. Or perhaps Dario Saric could add some big-man muscle to the rotation when Allen and Mobley rest.

Cavs Adding Former Champ to Bench Rotation

The Cavaliers evidently don’t want to wait until the summer to try and find bench upgrades.

On Wednesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Cleveland plans to sign Sam Merrill to the roster on a limited contract.

“The Cleveland Cavaliers are planning to sign guard Sam Merrill to a 10-day contract out of their NBA G-League Charge affiliate, sources tell me and @kelseyyrusso,” Charania tweeted.

Merrill won a ring with the Milwaukee Bucks during his rookie season.

This season has been something of a renaissance for Merrill. With the Charge, the third-year guard is putting up 17.5 PPG on 43.7% from three. He’s been an integral part of the Charge’s roster, as well, with a commanding 33.8 minutes per game tally this year.

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