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#CavsRank: Jordan McRae starts the season at No. 12

The potential is there for Jordan McRae to take a leap this season.

Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers

Our #CavsRank previews march on with Jordan McRae, who slides in at the #12 spot. For now.

I say “For now” because McRae has the most immediate upside of any Cavaliers player. Almost every current Cleveland Cavalier is either at their peak or past their prime, save for the near-peaking Kyrie Irving, rookie Kay Felder, and McRae. Just by looking at the names on the roster, McRae’s No. 12 ranking makes sense; on a roster of established NBA veterans, the guy who was in the D-League six months ago should be near the bottom. However, McRae’s skill set, and the state of the Cavs’ backcourt, could mean that McRae ends up being much more important than he appears.

McRae was picked up by the Cavs on a 10-day contract last year in late-February, and he signed a contract for the end of the season at the end of that. He mostly played in garbage-time in his 15 regular season games, but he faired well, averaging 4.1 points per game on 53.7 percent true shooting. He did get to have his moment in the sun, however, exploding for 36 points, four rebounds and seven assists in the last game of the season against the Detroit Pistons.

McRae is a scorer, first and foremost, as he likes to put the ball on the floor and get try to get to the rim when he gets his chances. He also has solid point guard skills, and a nice frame for a combo guard at 6’6” and 185 pounds. His athleticism compliments his size and skill set, as he’s able to get a good first step against NBA defenders when one-on-one and he does a nice job of finishing through contact. His outside shooting can be streaky, and he struggles with consistency in finishing, but he’s able to get in spots where he can get good looks, which is a nice skill. Defensively, he’s a solid off-ball defender, as he’s adept at playing passing lanes for steals, and his length helps him close out well on shooters.

McRae is certainly an NBA-caliber player, and the Cavs are fortunate to have been able to find him and retain him on a cheap contract. And given the state of the Cavs’ backcourt, that value could be much, much higher than anticipated. Mo Williams might retire, and might not be healthy enough to be effective even if he does stick around. J.R. Smith remains unsigned, and while that’s probably not going to be an issue in late-October, it’s concerning until pen hits paper. Throw in Kyrie’s injury history, Shump’s inconsistency and now-looming DUI arrest, and the fact that elder probably won’t be an NBA rotation player in October and things could easily go sideways quickly.

And that’s the main benefit of having McRae around. Like Matthew Dellavedova before him, McRae has pieces of your traditional point guard and shooting guard skill sets, and that should allow him to fill in wherever he’s needed. If Williams and Felder can’t cut it, McRae can give backup point guard minutes, acting as either a distributor or isolation scorer when Irving sits. He’s good enough defensively to fill in on the wing as well, and should be better shooting the ball with more looks coming off the catch. So if Smith or Shumpert misses time, McRae can offer some value if he gets minutes there, as well.

Now, McRae isn’t going to approach the same level of play as Smith, or Shumpert, and might only offer equal on-court value to Williams. But it’s the ability to fill in for so many different spots that makes him more valuable than his talent level would suggest. In a perfect world, McRae won’t have to play too many minutes, reserved to only getting significant time on back-to-backs, and filling 5-10 minutes per game otherwise. But things probably won’t go perfectly, and that’s why the player we ranked No. 12 on the Cavs might end up being far more valuable than that ranking suggests.

Voting Breakdown

10th place votes: 3

11th place votes: 2

12th place votes: 4

13th place votes: 1

14th place votes: 3