Can the Cavs find Kevin Love’s replacement and add to their frontcourt depth with the No. 49 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft?

CLEVELAND, Ohio — When the Cavs agreed to a buyout deal with veteran Kevin Love in February, it was in some ways a vote of confidence for young, unheralded do-it-all forward Dean Wade — a big floor spacing. man in the same love mold, minus the Hall-of-Fame resume.

Cleveland’s decision was regrettable.

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Wade—a portrait of the organization’s player development program who went from unsurpassed free agent and two-way player to rotation mainstay and fill-in starter—couldn’t handle the pressure of replacing a franchise legend. His productivity plummeted. His confidence seemed shaken. He stopped making shots. Was even temporarily moved out of the rotation in a telling move. By the time Cleveland’s first-round series against the New York Knicks arrived, Wade was a shell of the guy who had bumped Love from the lineup and earned more consistent playing time.

After an alarming seven-minute stretch in Game 1, Wade only received about four total minutes the rest of the series, leaving the Cavs one player short in their postseason rotation, without a reliable backup power forward.

Cedi Osman – whose contract will become fully guaranteed on June 29, a no-brainer move for the organization given his age, role, experience and contract – got extended minutes in a small-ball look against the Knicks. Heavy-handed, defense-first forward Lamar Stevens — who has a team option attached to his contract that the Cavs, sources tell, plan to pick up — didn’t get a real opportunity until Game 5.

So much of the summer talk has been about Cleveland improving on the wing — a positional bugaboo since the departure of LeBron James in 2018. But as the playoffs became the focus, there are other holes that need to be patched.

Even though the Cavs made a big investment in Wade last season, giving him a three-year, $18.5 million contract extension, the months after Love are hard to ignore. And as the Cavs enter a critical summer, they need to think about boosting the weak front line behind pillars Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

If only Wade’s miserable stretch wasn’t an anomaly. Just in case he’s still not ready to step into a bigger role. Just in case the Cavs consider moving him – and his team-friendly contract – in an offseason sign-and-trade.

Thursday’s draft is the first opportunity to improve the roster. Cleveland has the No. 49 pick — unless it maneuvers back to round one, which is still under consideration, sources say.

If the Cavs are flat and some of their high wing targets are off the board, it would be worth looking at another position of need – the backup 4.

Clemson’s Hunter Tyson is a logical fit. He even has some Wade similarities.

A top-25 scorer in North Carolina State high school history, Tyson was a three-star recruit who chose Clemson over Michigan, Wake Forest, Tennessee and Davidson, among others.

After playing sparingly off the bench in his first three years, the late bloomer finally broke through in a pandemic-impacted 2021-22 campaign, averaging double figures for the first time in his career. He then received an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 — and took advantage of it, boosting his stock and getting on the draft radar by averaging 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds. Tyson earned First Team All-ACC honors and then received an NBA Draft Combine invite where he played well in Chicago and moved up the rankings.

Sources say Tyson didn’t work out for the Cavs ahead of Thursday’s draft because he believed his stock had improved enough to be off the board at 49.

There is nothing flashy about his playing. He’s not an explosive athlete and doesn’t have much burst, so getting all the way to the rim on offense can be problematic at the NBA level. There are also questions about his ability to stick on the defensive end, especially after shifts.

But the Cavs have enough defense-first players. Time to find more offensive firepower.

At 6-foot-9 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and 8-foot-9 standing reach, Tyson has good size, moves more like a wing than a big and can shoot. With a high, consistent release point, Tyson hit 40.5% of his 3-pointers this past season at pretty good volume (six attempts per game). He also showed the ability to knock down shots from screening actions and movements. Already 23 years old, Tyson is mature and seasoned, with 140 games of college experience that could speed up the development curve a bit — a good thing for a team with playoff hopes.

Combine that with a versatile skill set that makes him a classic stretch 4, and Tyson is the kind of theoretical big man the Cavs need alongside non-shooters Allen and Mobley — if Tyson can quickly develop into a useful NBA rotation player and spacer after some time in the G League on a two-way contract.

That’s about all a team can expect with the 49th pick.

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