CLEVELAND, Ohio — Scribbles in my Cavs notebook. Some of these came from a well-known NBA executive from another team about the Cavs’ offseason moves. Because the manager’s comments are about players not on his team, the comments are not linked to his name (manipulation rules, etc.)
1. The executive said the Cavs “made their big move last year with the (Donovan) Mitchell trade. You have to let it play out. There are also salary cap considerations. They couldn’t be big players in free agency. They made smart moves to solve shooting – a big weakness for them.”
2. The director also emphasized that it is “time for the big players to play well.” He meant in the playoffs players like Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Mitchell. The Cavs traded Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji and three future first-round picks for Mitchell to take them to a higher level and be a factor in the postseason.
3. The manager likes the “big lineup” with Jarrett Allen and Mobley and wouldn’t have traded Allen. The two young big men deserve more time to play together. Their size is why the Cavs have such a good defense.
4. Having a pair of 7-footers in Mobley and Allen allowed the Cavs to exchange for Max Strus. He then signed a four-year, $63 million contract. With Allen and Mobley, the Cavs can play the 6-foot-5 Strus at small forward. Strus was primarily a shooting guard for Miami.
5. The director of the 27-year-old Strus: “He is smart and cool. Ostriches are more athletic than you think. He suits them very well. The more you see him, he grows on you. That’s why Miami played him a lot (started 41 games in the last two years) in the playoffs.”
6. More on Strus: “His shooting is a little streaky. He makes enough shots that other teams have to defend him even if he’s missing. That’s huge for the Cavs.”
7. His critics dwell on Strus having a terrible shooting streak in The Finals vs. Denver: (23%, 19% on 3-pointers, 5.8 ppg). But in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. In Boston, he shot 42% (34% on 3-pointers) with an average of 9.4 points.
8. A few more playoff statistics on Strus: In the second round vs. New York he shot 48% (35% on 3-pointers), with an average of 14.7 points. In the first round vs. In Milwaukee, he shot 46% (41% on 3-pointers), averaging 6.4 points.
9. I look at the 14.7 points Strus averaged in Miami’s playoff series vs. Knicks. Would have looked good for the Cavs. A big factor in that series was New York’s decision not to defend Isaac Okoro, even though he made a couple of corner 3-ball shots. Okoro was 4 of 13 vs. Knicks. The Strus shot 45% on those corner 3-point shots. He earns enough to demand defensive attention.
10. The director also praised the signing of the 30-year-old George Niang to a three-year, $26 million contract: “He can really shoot and that fills another need. It’s like Strus — that’s the kind of guy the Cavs should sign.”
11. Niang is a career 40% shooter on 3-pointers. Above 37% is good; 40% is excellent. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Niang averaged 8.7 points, shot 44% (40% on 3-pointers) in the last two years for Philadelphia, averaging 8.8 points in 21 minutes a game. Niang was a 52% shooter on corner 3-pointers last season.
12. Niang’s nickname is “The Minivan.” He gave it to himself when he played in Utah with Mitchell. He told Utah radio station KSL News: “I’m not a Ferrari. Just like you (Mitchell and others). I need a few laps around the block to get up to full speed like a minivan.”
13. The executive agreed that the Minivan name fits Niang “because he’s not that athletic. That could be a factor in the playoffs, his lack of athleticism. But I consider him a good role player.”
14. One quiet move that could help the Cavs is the signing of point guard Ty Jerome. He signed a two-year, $5 million deal. He is a third point guard, behind Garland and Ricky Rubio. He could be more than that if Rubio doesn’t improve on his 2022-23 season. He was never 100% physical after his second ACL knee surgery.
15. Jerome is 6-foot-5, which gives the Cavs backcourt some size. He was average 6.5 points, shooting 49% (39% on 3-pointers) in 45 games for Golden State. He has been in the NBA for four seasons and has also played for Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. He has also spent some time in the G-League. He has never appeared in a postseason game.
16. The executive on Jerome: “Like Strus, he’s a tough, smart player. He’s not very athletic, and that could be a problem in the playoffs. I really like him as a third point guard that can help in the regular season season. He’s a pretty good shooter.”
17. The executive said the Cavs “really helped themselves” with their offseason moves, including bringing back Caris LeVert. But the season will ride on the improvement of their young core players. Mitchell, Allen, Garland and Mobley are all 26 or younger.
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