A Hungry Cavs Team Has Little Time to Regroup


48 wins. Second-round exit. What is next for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

New Year New Coach

Following a 4-1 series loss vs. the Boston Celtics, the Cavs find themselves in a period of reflection. The first domino has already fallen, as J.B. Bickerstaff was dismissed on May 23.

With the 2024 NBA Draft approaching, the Cavaliers have about a month to make a strategic decision before the June 26 event. Amongst the rumored names includes Kenny Atkinson, who has been an assistant on the Warriors for three years now. He has previous relationships with Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, both of whom he coached in Brooklyn.

James Borrego coached the LaMelo Ball & Miles Bridges-led Charlotte Hornets team in 2021-22 that won 43 games. Borrego has been serving as an assistant on Willie Green‘s staff for the New Orleans Pelicans for the last year.

James & Kenny have been the two most linked candidates so far, although other names have been reported on, such as Terry Stotts, Dave Joerger and Johnnie Bryant.

NBA Draft Focus

Selecting the right coach will be foundational for the off-season.

It will effect how the Cavs will continue building, potentially focusing on improving their 104.7 playoff offensive rating (which ranks third worst). Another asset that can help the Cavs in this process will be the 20th selection in the NBA Draft. Cleveland does not own their second-round pick this year as it belongs to Indiana.

Furthermore, the Cavaliers could choose to utilize this pick in a trade, or look to boost their core with another young talent. Let’s take a look at some prospects within the Cavs range who could be helpful additions to a team looking to take the next step.

DaRon Holmes II

  • Big | Dayton | 6’8.75″ | 236.2 lbs | 21 yrs old

  • PPG: 20.4   RPG: 8.5   APG: 2.6   BPG: 2.1   TS%: 62%   3PT%: 38%

One of Daron’s biggest strengths is his ability to get to the free-throw line, proven by his 72% FTR. Combine that with his rebounding, shooting and passing ability and you have a player who has an exceptionally high ceiling. Holmes could slide in as a backup four or five for Cleveland. His versatility and upside would compliment the rotation with or without a potential Jarrett Allen trade.

Tyler Smith

  • Wing/Big? | G-League Ignite | 6’9″ | 223.8 lbs | 19 yrs old

  • PPG: 13.7   RPG: 5.1   APG: 1.3   BPG: 0.9   TS%: 61%   3PT%: 36%

Tyler is amongst the higher upside picks at this point in the draft. With a team like Cleveland, there could be the infrastructure on both ends to allow him to thrive earlier than projected. At 6-foot-9 without shoes, Smith can provide shooting and transition play to bolster a second unit right away. There is a unique ceiling that typically is rare at this point in the draft, as long as the team is willing to be patient and put him in positions to succeed.

Pacome Dadiet

  • Wing | Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) | 6’8″ | 187 lbs | 18 yrs old

  • PPG: 6.6   RPG: 2.3   APG: 0.6   SPG: 0.5   TS%: 61%   3PT%: 36%

Pacome is one of the mystery box prospects of this year’s draft. While he did not participate in the combine, he is listed at 6-foot-8 and possesses a ton of potential as a pull-up shooter from multiple spots. Given his age and lack of experience playing significant minutes, this is certainly an upside swing for the fences. This selection would give the Cavs some optionality/shooting on the wing while still playing for the future.

Tristan Da Silva

  • Wing | Colorado | 6’8.25″ | 216.8 lbs | 23 yrs old

  • PPG: 16   RPG: 5.1   APG: 2.4   SPG: 1.1   TS%: 60%   3PT%: 39%

Tristan has shown to be one of the classes most consistent shooters (38% through four years). He also ended up with tied for second in the shuttle run at the NBA combine. Da Silva showcased a strong ability to make the right play and and compete on defense. This type of player would fit in excellently with a Cavs team desperate for shooting in the front-court.

Free Agency

The Cavaliers aren’t rich with assets when it comes to free agency this year.

Nevertheless, they still own their non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth up to $12.9 million. Isaac Okoro, Tristan Thompson and Marcus Morris are the teams notable free agents. Most of the team is largely under contract for at least another season, so finding some talent to compliment what’s in place will be the main focus (barring a trade).

Considering what the Cavs can afford to work with, let’s observe some players who would be great fits with the team.

Nicolas Batum

  • PPG: 5.5   RPG: 4.2   APG: 2.2   BPG: 0.6   TS%: 60%   3PT%: 40%

Nic Batum would be entering his age-36 season, yet he has proven he can still compete on a contending team. Batum would offer quick release shooting, veteran experience and valuable defense. Standing at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Nic would provide length the Cavs might desire off the bench.

Dario Šarić

  • PPG: 8.0   RPG: 4.4   APG: 2.3   SPG: 0.5   TS%: 60%   3PT%: 37%

Another veteran who could provide some shooting at the four or small-ball five spot. Saric, like Batum, possesses some passing chops that could be tapped into to allow some easier looks for bench units.

Jalen Smith

  • PPG: 9.9   RPG: 5.5   APG: 1.0   BPG: 0.6   TS%: 68% 3PT%: 42%

Jalen Smith is coming off an excellent season with the Indiana Pacers. While he did not see the floor much in the playoffs, Jalen got buckets all year and would be a great addition to the Cavs big man room. Another 4-5 man who can shoot and possesses a massive wingspan (7-foot-2). Jalen has a player option so the Cavs would need him to decline that. With Smith being only 24 years old, he could fit any timeline seamlessly as he enters his fifth NBA season.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, there are not endless assets to use but a plethora of paths that Cleveland’s front office could choose to embark on.

Shooting is still a clear necessity after the conclusion of the season for the Cavs. Perhaps if a Darius Garland trade materializes, then he could be used to bring in shooters or a wing creator, which could also improve an already stout defense.

Whatever happens, the Cleveland Cavaliers should bring back another group primed to contend for the 2024-25 NBA season.

About Mike Kline

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