During the offseason, GM Koby Altman has added premium wing depth. They brought over Jae Crowder from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade. Cleveland signed Jeff Green during free agency. Dwyane Wade will be around too. The Cavaliers also are bringing over their draft-and-stash prospect Cedi Osman.
Ideally, this means Richard Jefferson plays fewer minutes than he has in past years due to the youth that’s ahead of him on the depth chart.
Jefferson just celebrated his 37th birthday, which likely means that his best days are far behind him. Last season, the Cavaliers’ forward appeared in 79 games, scoring 5.7 points and grabbing 2.6 rebounds on 45 percent shooting. He was the primary backup to LeBron James, which became a major issue in the NBA Finals.
The former Arizona star was playing heavy minutes against Golden State, often accepting the challenge of guarding Kevin Durant. There aren’t many players in the league that can stay in front of Durant, but it was a near impossible task for Jefferson at his advanced age.
While he was a pivotal part of the championship team in 2016, his role in last year’s NBA Finals showed that Jefferson belongs on the end of the bench. A great locker room guy that’s running out of gas on the court.
His outlook for this season seems bleak with the additions of Crowder, Green and Osman. The ex-Celtics’ forward will be the first player off the bench. He will likely be James’ primary backup during the regular season and find a lot of playing time alongside LeBron in the playoffs. Crowder will take a lot of the minutes that Jefferson got these past few seasons.
Osman is still young and inexperienced. The best comparison for him is a 6’8” Matthew Dellavedova. If Tyronn Lue wants to continue a youth movement alongside James, Osman will certainly find minutes ahead of Jefferson. While there are clear deficiencies in his game, his effort and energy will find him some time on the court.
Green has underwhelmed thus far in his career, but has always had the talent to succeed in the NBA. Hopefully being around LeBron will allow him to unlock his full potential and find another level in his game.
With these players coming into the fold, Jefferson’s minutes are sure to shrink this upcoming season. Last year, he played 20.4 minutes per game, but I would expect that number to be significantly reduced this season.
In the perfect world, Jefferson assumes the James Jones role and takes on a leadership role in the locker room. He’ll get a lot of minutes in garbage time, but his days of playing in meaningful minutes might be behind him.
During the 2016 Championship Parade speech by James, he thought Jefferson was the best backup he had and could finally trust the guy behind him. I think that situation significantly improved this season, meaning Jefferson will start to see less time on the court. His three-point shooting and defense might come in handy at times, but don’t expect to see Jefferson get off the bench very much this season, at least until the Cavs need him.