The Cleveland Cavaliers start training camp this week, and in addition to their 13 current guaranteed roster members (RIP Mo Williams), the Cavs have added six players who will vie for a small chance at making the roster. This is a common practice in the NBA, as teams routinely give training camp invites to fringe NBA players as a chance to try out prospective D-League players, give veteran players a rest in preseason games, and in rare instances, find a diamond in the rough that can fill a roster spot. Remember: Matthew Dellavedova was one of these guys once, and that worked out pretty well.
The Cavs will be trying out post players Cory Jefferson and Eric Moreland, forwards Jonathan Holmes and John Holland, and guards DeAndre Liggins and Markel Brown. Each offers a slightly different set of skills, but all six have spent time on NBA training camp rosters before. And everyone besides Holmes have seen regular season time in the past. Here’s a little bit of information on each, ranked by how likely they are to actually make the team.
6’6” G/F, Kentucky
Previous Stops: Orlando Magic (2011-12), Oklahoma City Thunder (2012-13), Tulsa 66ers (2012-13), Miami Heat (2013-14), Sioux Falls Skyforce (2013-14, 2015-16), Krasny Oktyabr (2014-15)
The Case For Liggins: Liggins is the elder statesman of the group, having teamed with Brandon Knight on John Calipari’s 2nd Kentucky team in 2011. He’s also the best defensive player of the bunch, a rangy 6’6” swingman who can plays passing lanes well and can defend adequately on the ball. He’s more up to speed with NBA life compared to the rest of the group, and that will count for a lot on this team, as will the fact that he’s played with LeBron before, posting a higher PER than James for the ‘14 Heat, which is a real statistic of dubious validity, but complete truth.
The Case Against Liggins: He’s 28 and hasn’t stuck on an NBA roster since 2013 with the Thunder. That’s mostly because he’s of little offensive value, as he can’t finish at the rim consistently and he isn’t a consistent outside shooter either, despite a 43.4 percent three-point clip in 2015-16. Liggins also lacks the athleticism required to be a serious defensive threat at the NBA level. Those reasons, along with a future J.R. Smith signing taking away most available playing time, could push Liggins out in what is likely his last shot at the NBA.
6’3” SG, Oklahoma State
Previous Stops: Brooklyn Nets (2014-16), Maine Red Claws (2015)
The Case for Brown: He’s the anti-Liggins, in a way, because Brown might not be technically sound, but boy can he jump out of the gym:
He’s able to use that athleticism to be disruptive on the defensive end, even if he’s not always in position. He’s also still only 24, meaning his feel for the game should continue to improve.
The Case Against Brown: He’s been a very bad shooter through two NBA seasons. He’s hit 29.7 percent from three in his career, and despite hitting 57.3 percent from the rim last year, he clocked a true shooting percentage of 50.0 percent. He needs to prove he can hit threes, especially if he’s going to play for this team. He’s also not the most aware player, and can be very reckless at times.
6’9”, PF/C, Baylor
Previous Stops: Brooklyn Nets (2014-15), Maine Red Claws (2015), Phoenix Suns (2015-16), Bakersfield Jam (2016)
The Case for Jefferson: He’s big. The Cavs don’t have the requisite size with Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye as the primary center tandem, and probably can’t rely on a healthy and effective Chris Andersen for the full year. Jefferson posted a total rebound rate of 15.3 percent and a block rate of 3.2 percent in 50 games for the Nets, so he could be a passable fail-safe as a center option if ‘Birdman’ isn’t good to go.
The Case Against Jefferson: He’s athletic enough and a good enough rebounder to stick, but he hasn’t been able to, mostly because of inconsistent effort. Jefferson couldn’t command consistent playing time on the Cavs Summer League team, often failing to make any impact on the court when he did play. If he can’t do that in summer league, why expect him to do it for the Cavs?
6’9” F, Texas
Previous Stops: None
The Case for Holmes: He’s a solid effort player, a guy who should be able to defend either forward spot and has a solid role-player mentality from basically being just that at Texas. Holmes isn’t afraid to battle at the four spot despite being undersized at power forward, and that should serve him well in this training camp, as his primary responsibility will be to throw Richard Jefferson and Mike Dunleavy around to help them get in playing shape.
The Case Against Holmes: The four is crowded, and that’s probably where Holmes would play a lot of minutes. He’s not a good shooter either, hitting just 31.4 percent in four years with the Longhorns. And I keep referencing his Texas days because he missed all of last year with a labral tear in his shoulder, which kept him from even playing in the D-League. He’s behind everyone else here in that regard, which could hurt him.
6’5” SF, Boston University
Previous Stops: Roanne (2011-12), Sevilla (2012-13), Gravelines (2013-14), Besiktas (2014-15), Canton Charge (2015-16), Boston Celtics (2016)
The Case for Holland: He’s probably the most experienced player with the organization, given he was a regular in Canton last year. He averaged 16.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and two assists per game last year for the Charge in 37 games. He also earned a 10-day contract with the Celtics for his trouble. He’s also played at a high level in Europe for Sevilla and Besiktas, and has consistently been an efficient slasher, who is especially skilled at getting to the line. He’s a role-playing wing, through and through.
The Case Against Holland: See the case against Liggins. Holland is 27, isn’t a consistent shooter from outside, and will primarily play the three, where there’s plenty of players ahead of him.
6’10” PF, Oregon St
Previous Stops: Sacramento Kings (2014-16), Reno Bighorns (2014-16)
The Case for Moreland: Size helps, for the reasons mentioned with Jefferson. Moreland’s also a pretty talented rebounder, averaging 13.3 rebounds per game in his short D-League stints over the past two years. He’s long enough to potentially be a shot-blocker, and he’s a decent screen-setter.
The Case Against Moreland: Moreland couldn’t keep a roster spot on the Kings over the last two years. That’s pretty concerning if he’s trying to make the defending champs. That’s why I give him the smallest shot to make the team.