This was a quiet summer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs went out of their way last summer to lock up Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson long term, and Kyrie Irving's max extension is just kicking in. With LeBron James and J.R. Smith likely to sign at some point before the start of the season, the team was capped out and just about locked in. The Cavs are also short on trade assets. While you might think of the Cavs lack of cap space or trade assets is a problem, you could look at it the other way. Had the Cavs season ended differently (the Cavs defeated the Golden State Warriors on the road twice and closed them out behind a LeBron James block and Kyrie Irving dagger in Stephen Curry's eye to win the NBA championship) the team would have had great trade assets. Instead, you want to keep the team together.
So the status quo, which is a great status quo, was going to be the play. And outside of Matthew Dellavedova leaving, and Kay Felder entering through the draft, that's pretty much been the case. Except, perhaps, one important addition: Mike Dunleavy.
Now, Mike Dunleavy turns 36 a few weeks before training camp starts in earnest. He's never been the most athletic guy. He played just 31 games last season. So why a bit of excitement for Dunleavy? Let's take on the concerns.
"He's always hurt"
Nope. Over the three seasons preceding last season, Dunleavy averaged over 73 games per year. He did have back surgery a year ago, and it affected him more than people expected it might. According to him, though, he got it worked out:
"Obviously, I hated missing the games earlier in the season, but I got my back right," Dunleavy said. "I felt good when I came back; still feel good. Obviously, I would have liked to have been more involved. But it is what it is. We didn’t get the job done. So, like I said, disappointed in not being able to compete in the tournament."
Perhaps he ends up missing time again due to back issues. But over the past few years he's been available to play with some consistency. This isn't a player who has been injury prone.
"He's not athletic enough to play real minutes"
Mike Dunleavy, in all likelihood, will be logging most of his minutes off the bench. The Cavs have a few athletes that can balance out his limitations in these groups. LeBron James, for example, has some athleticism. So does Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson. If you load up lineups with Dunleavy, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Kevin Love, then you might have some issues. Of course, those guys might just shoot teams off the floor.
With Shumpert, the Cavs don't need to ask Dunleavy to guard the most athlete wing on the floor. With Thompson, the Cavs can put Dunleavy on 4's that lack elite athleticism. And again, these are bench units Dunleavy is likely to be matched up with. You aren't asking him to guard Kevin Durant on a consistent basis. And even if you do ask a lot of him, Dunleavy will be able to rotate and defend in a smart way. He's been in the league for years and is a coach's son. He knows where to be.
"He's going to be 36"
He's got one guaranteed year left on his deal. His age isn't likely to be something that ties down the Cavs for a long period of time. If you don't think Dunleavy can play, sure, it'd be nice to use roster spots on young guys with upside. But the Cavs are trying to win titles now. Tyronn Lue is going to lean on guys who have been there before in the playoffs. And Dunleavy still has a big time NBA skill: shooting. He makes secondary passes, and adds a bit rebounding. He can help.
It's also worth noting that it's yet another adult in the locker room. The Cavs have, by their own admission, lost focus at various points over the last two seasons. With Frye, Dunleavy, Jefferson, and James Jones, the Cavs have no shortage of cerebral basketball minds to help keep the locker room in a good place.
So let's talk about that shooting
Over his last five seasons in the league, Mike Dunleavy has shot 40.2% from three point range on 1447 attempts. This is not Shawn Marion, and it gives the Cavs another option with Richard Jefferson that can knock down drive and kick attempts at a high rate. Dunleavy is also a master of hitting threes as a trailer in transition.The Cavs don't push it in transition very often, but as a weapon in isolated situations, it figures to be helpful.
No one is saying Mike Dunleavy is a gamechanger for the Cavs, but in this NBA, collecting shooters always makes sense.