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2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers Player Preview: Edy Tavares

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Cleveland’s biggest player may have the smallest role.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing typical about Walter Samuel Tavares da Veiga, who is more commonly known as Edy Tavares. The 25-year-old stands 7’3”, possesses a wingspan of 7’9” and speaks four languages. The most uncommon thing about Tavares is his basketball history. Edy grew up in Cape Verde and had not played basketball until 2009, when he was 17 years old. For comparison, most of today’s NBA draftees begin playing organized basketball by age 10.

Because of his inexperience, not much is known about Tavares’s ceiling. His defensive proficiency can be measured by the NBA Development League Defensive Player of the Year award he won for his contributions to the D-League’s best defensive team, Raptors 905.

What Tavares offers to the Cleveland Cavaliers is a respectable interior presence. Tavares is capable of erasing shots in the restricted area and paint. In the NBA D-League, he showed a natural ability to identify when his teammates were beat on the outside, allowing him to help effectively. He also properly times his jumps when defending the rim, a trait that can prove hard to learn.

Tavares is also able to defend other bigs at a high level, staying with them in space and using his incredible length to challenge or erase shot attempts. His limited mobility is hidden when he sticks with a center or a traditional power forward, allowing him to be a plus defender in these situations.

Athletically, Tavares has not shown the explosiveness one would expect from someone who blocks shots at such a high rate. His leaping ability on rebounds and alley-oops has been weak, which has not yet effected his game. He’s still awkward moving laterally on the basketball court. He has been able to use his size to recover and mask his mistakes, but the speed and skill of NBA guards may prove too much to overcome.

Tavares has displayed flashes of offensive capability mixed in with long stretches of invisibility. He shot from mid-range at a respectable clip in the D-League and is capable of finishing at the rim over defenders, but does not have the footwork or ball skills to score efficiently in the post.

The ceiling for Tavares offensively would be shockingly similar to what Timofey Mozgov showed Cavs fans in 2015. He could drain open mid-range shots and catch passes inside and dunk on mostly anyone, although his main role would be to set screens. Luckily, being 7’3” and 265 pounds makes your screens highly effective. For now, Tavares would play the same role offensively as Tristan Thompson, which limits his potential playing time.

Tavares’ non-guaranteed contract and the arrival of Ante Zizic make him one of the most expendable Cavaliers, who have to trim their roster before the start of the season. With the signing of guard John Holland to one of Cleveland’s two-way roster spots, Tavares is a probable candidate for the second two-way contract. However, it would not be surprising if the Cavaliers go another direction and increase depth at the wing, rather than add another player to their deep frontcourt.

Tavares offers that Cavaliers something that they could sorely need: serious rim protection and impressive size. It’s the reason they have brought in Mozgov, Brendan Haywood, Chris Andersen, and Andrew Bogut in recent seasons. He also offers future potential that could be had on a reasonable deal, one that could help the Cavaliers maintain future salary cap flexibility. Only time will tell what Tavares can become, but it’s unclear if he’ll get the chance to figure it out in Cleveland.