Cavs’ Core Needs Crust


The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2020-21 season has long been over.

Although there were bright moments, this campaign was tough to watch overall. The organic growing pains of a rebuild are never easy to consume for any fanbase– this is especially true for a fanbase that had LeBron James just three years ago.

The Cavaliers have completed the third year of wandering through the post-LeBron desert (part two) without sniffing the playoffs. It’s worth noting, however, that in many ways it’s Year One considering the recent coaching carousel in Cleveland. The Cavs have been yearning for organizational stability cycling through four coaches in the last three seasons. J.B. Bickerstaff had his head coaching run last season cut short due to the pandemic.

In a new system amid a plethora of injuries, Bickerstaff wasn’t exactly dealt the best hand. The Cavs had one of the youngest rosters in the league this season and the playoffs were considered a long-shot. Cleveland did increase their win total and percentage for the previous two seasons.

While that’s encouraging, the real measure of success for 2020-21 is the development of the roster more than placement in the standings. Thus the best use of analyzing the past season would be to dissect each player’s performance and their future under contract with the team.

Core Players

Collin Sexton

Sexton is the organization’s most important player of this rebuild. The product of the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavs have poured in more resources to his development than anyone else. He ranked 22nd in the league in scoring, averaging 24.3 points while dishing out 4.4 assists per game.

Contract Future: Sexton is extension-eligible this offseason as he has only one year left on his rookie deal. Should both sides not reach an agreement, he would become a restricted free agent in 2022. The Cavs would almost certainly match whatever offer sheet Sexton signs in that scenario.

Darius Garland

The second-year point guard took a massive leap forward from his rookie season. The Cavs’ ball movement was at its best with Garland on the floor as he averaged 6.1 assists per game. If he continues this trajectory of improvement, Cleveland will have their point guard of the future.

Contract Future: Cleveland has already exercised their team option on Garland’s contract for next season and will likely do the same for 2022-23. He’s not going anywhere.

Jarrett Allen

The best thing the Cavs did all season was include themselves in the James Harden trade to acquire their franchise center. He hasn’t had many bad games since coming to Cleveland, averaging close a double-double and leading the team in blocks. On offense, he has developed a nice pick-and-roll chemistry with Garland.

Contract Future: As an impending restricted free agent, Allen has all the leverage in contract negotiations even though the Cavs have the right to match other offers. Cleveland didn’t trade for him just to be a rental. He’s one of the top young bigs in the league could command $100 million.

Isaac Okoro

Okoro turned out to be exactly what his draft profile said he would be. He led all rookies in minutes per game guarding some of the league’s best on a nightly basis. His offensive game improved as the season went along as he had his best scoring games late in the season.

Contract Future: With three years left under team control, Okoro is a ways away from a new contract. If next year he takes the type of step forward Garland took this season, the Cavs will begin to map out what his extension looks like.

Young Prospects

Dylan Windler

It’s the same story with Windler as last year: injuries. He only played in 31 games due to a variety of ailments. He had a good March when he showed top-tier shooting potential, hitting nine consecutive threes across two games. Cleveland needs him on the court as one of the worst shooting teams in the league.

Contract Future: The Cavs exercised their team option on Windler’s contract for next season and seem likely to do so again for 2022-23. His long-term future with the team will ultimately depend on his health.

Isaiah Hartenstein

Acquired from Denver at the trade deadline, Hartenstein provided a unique skill set to the Cavs. In just a small sample size, he proved to be a capable post defender and sneaky good playmaker for others on offense. Foul trouble sometimes plagued him, but his size and potential make him a prospect worth keeping.

Contract Future: A free-agent decision somewhat out of Cleveland’s hands, Hartenstein has a player option for about $1.7 million. At 23 years old, he may want to test the market for a long-term deal. If Cleveland believes his asking price is too high, it’s fairly conceivable they would let him walk.

Dean Wade

Wade improved dramatically during the season going from a two-way contract to a full-time rotation player. A floor-spacer with good off-ball instincts, he meshes well with the young core.

Contract Future: The Cavs gave Wade a multi-year contract with no guarantees and a team option. His upside and team-friendly deal assures his return to Cleveland next season.

Lamar Stevens

An undrafted rookie, Stevens gave the Cavaliers something to think about as he displayed glimpses of becoming a rotational wing. He used his athleticism to his advantage and brought consistent energy every game. His biggest issue was injuries, as he only played 40 games.

Contract Future: Similarly to Wade, Stevens has a multi-year contract with two non-guaranteed seasons followed by a team option. There’s no reason to believe he won’t at least make the Cavs’ training camp roster next season.


Taurean Prince

Acquired from Brooklyn in the Harden deal, Prince gave the Cavs a proven wing option with his shooting and defense. He had some big games in April and shot 41.5% on threes in 29 games with Cleveland. He missed a number of games with an ankle injury.

Contract Future: One year and $13 million are all that remain on Prince’s pact. The Cavs could use that contract as a trade asset for a contender or bring him back for a full season. His expiring deal gives the Cavs plenty of options for him this offseason.

Cedi Osman

One of the longest-tenured players on the Cavs, Osman put together some good games over the course of the season. However, his inconsistency cost him a rotation spot for stretches of the year. While he averaged double-digit points for the third season in a row, he had the least efficient season of his career.

Contract Future: Osman has three years left on his contract but only the next two are guaranteed. Getting dropped from the rotation is hardly an endorsement from Bickerstaff, so don’t be surprised if a trade occurs in the offseason.

Larry Nance Jr.

The son of the Cavaliers legend got off to a strong start before injuries derailed what was sure to be another good year. The versatile forward garnered interest at the trade deadline but Cleveland held onto him. His utility belt of skills were extremely beneficial to the Cavs in the 35 games he played.

Contract Future: Nance not being traded and the current front office signing him to his latest deal are signs that he should be expected back next season. He has two years left averaging around $10 million annually.

Matthew Dellavedova

Delly played in only 13 games missing a large chunk of the season with a concussion before finally playing. The 2016 champion still brings energy and playmaking skills, but his jumper is all but gone.

Contract Future: An upcoming free agent, Delly may have played his last game in the Wine and Gold. Unless the Cavs want to give him a contract and role similar to this season, his value to the team may end up being on the coaching staff.

Damyean Dotson

The fourth-year player filled an important role when the Cavs had a number of injured guards early in the season. Dotson’s three-point shooting, his biggest strength, hit a career-low 28.9%.

Contract Future: The Cavs’ contract with Dotson only has one season left worth $2 million with no guaranteed money. If the Cavs didn’t like what they saw, they can cut bait with no cost. If they want Dotson back, he would return with an affordable salary.

Kevin Love

Love gets his own category for a number of reasons the primary being his contract situation, every penny of which is guaranteed. He signed a four-year, $120 million extension in July 2018 with the intention of becoming the Cavs’ new face of a playoff team. Instead, Love became a grizzled vet irritated with the sluggish pace of a long rebuild.

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His potential departure is not as black and white as his contract suggests. He is the most established player on the team, a champion with the most history in Cleveland (not counting Anderson Varejão). The contract he signed with the Cavs also makes him extremely difficult to move. With only two years remaining, the odds of him getting dealt are greater than they were when there were three years left (which admittedly is not saying much).

That being said, his injuries and inconsistent play don’t help matters. The sooner Love gets dealt, the better for the Cavs in terms of salary-cap relief, potential recuperated assets and fully moving on to the next era of Cavalier basketball.

Follow us on Twitter @CavsLead for the latest Cavs news and insight. 

About Avi Carr-Gloth

Avi is an Emerson College graduate with a B.S. in Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @avicarrgloth to stay up to date on the latest Cavs content.

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