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2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers Player Preview: John Holland the insurance policy

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The Cavs’ only two-way player can fill a role when needed.

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

John Holland, at 28 years old, is not a long-term, developmental prospect. He, as the only player the Cavs have to a two-way contract, is not the team trying to develop someone without having them take up a roster space. He’s an insurance policy.

The Cavs know what Holland is. For the last two years, he played for the Canton Charge - the Cavs’ G-League affiliate - and was one of the team’s best players. On defense, he’s solid, works hard and does what he can with his six foot, five inch frame. On offense, he played off ball dominant point guards Quinn Cook (now with the Hawks) and Kay Felder (who may end up on a two-way deal himself) in a traditional two-guard role. Over two years, he averaged 19.4 points while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from three. He’s never really played in the NBA, but what he does should translate well enough in regular season filler minutes.

It surely helps Holland, too, that new Cavs assistant GM Mike Gansey - the ex-Charge GM - knows what he can offer an NBA team. As Canton’s GM, Gansey looked to sign guys who played hard every night, regardless of how early the game was and how many fans were there. He signed guys who give a damn and play hard. That’s Holland.

Per NBA rules, Holland can spend a maximum of 45 days with the Cavs. At present, the Cavs have a lot of two guards. J.R. Smith will start and play around 30 minutes a game. Iman Shumpert, at least for now, is on the team and should play. Kyle Korver re-signed this summer. Cedi Osman, at least until he develops physically, projects as a large guard and not a forward. Jae Crowder could see minutes there too, depending on what types of lineups Tyronn Lue decides to use. On paper, there is not really a need for Holland.

But injuries happen and the Cavs know this first hand. Last year, Smith broke his thumb and missed a few months. Shumpert has a fairly lengthy injury history, although he was healthy for most of last year. Korver is in his late 30s and dealt with an injury last year too. Were even one of Smith, Shumpert or Korver go down for an extended period of time, Holland can come up from Canton and eat minutes for part or all of his 45 days. Using him is better than trying to make Felder, Derrick Rose or Jose Calderon into a part time shooting guard. If Shumpert is dealt at some point, that could create an opening for Holland, too.

Holland could also be used to give players rest at some point in the season. If Lue wants to play the long game and keep everyone fresh from May and June, Holland could give Smith a game or two off during a long home stand. If Shumpert is nursing a bum ankle or hurt shoulder, Holland can fill his role for a night. Think of him as the Cavs’ equivalent of spot-starter baseball teams use when their starting rotation is hit with injuries,.

This is why the Cavs signed him over a 19 or 20 year old with no professional experience or a developed skill set. This year, with the team’s singular focus, Holland fills a role. He’ll play hard, eat minutes and be there to be freed from behind the glass if injuries happens. That’s what Cleveland wants from a two-way contract player.