The Cavs are probably going to add a player between now and the start of the season, but the roster is largely set as is. Here’s a way too early look at the rotation.
Projected starters: Collin Sexton, Darius Garland
Rotation locks: Jordan Clarkson
Jockeying for minutes: Matthew Dellavedova, Brandon Knight
Let’s be clear about one thing: we have no idea what John Beilein’s plan is for playing Collin Sexton and Darius Garland together. One would assume that it’s going to happen at some point, and at a large clip, so the franchise can figure out if they are working with their own Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum or their own Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis. And since there isn’t an expectation of playoff contention next year, why not start them together from day one? If someone is going to come off the bench, Garland would seem likeliest to do it since Sexton started for so much of last year, despite the whispers that some in the organization think Sexton’s future might be as a bench scorer.
Clarkson is a lock for two reasons. No. 1: He’s (gulp) the Cavs’ best perimeter scorer at this point in time. No. 2: He’s someone Koby Altman and co. are likely to dangle during the season to a team that, like the Cavs two years ago, think they can use what Clarkson provides. It’ll be interesting to see what he looks like in Beilein’s system
At the end of the rotation there are two veterans in Dellavedova and Knight. They provide some different things - Delly is more of a three-and-d type, Knight commands the ball more, but can still spot-up. Both are on expiring contracts and could be flipped. Considering the other guards on the Cavs’ roster, Dellavedova is a better fit to see the floor.
Projected starters: Cedi Osman
Rotation locks/jockeying for minutes: Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr.
The Cavs - who have not signed a single player in free agency — sign another player in free agency, it’ll likely be on the wing. Nik Stauskas would make a lot of sense considering his price point and familiarity with Beilein. Sources tell Fear the Sword that the Cavs and Stauskas have talked about a new deal, but there’s nothing imminent.
All three of the players on the roster now, though, will play. Osman enters the year as the vet of the group with a total of 3,116 career minutes. He’s likely to draw the opposing team’s best wing scorer night in and night out and likely will slide up the four when/if Cleveland will go with two wings or multiple guards. Offensively, the hope has to be that his three-point shot evens out after it was a bit streaky last year.
How the Cavs approach Windler and Porter Jr.’s playing time is going to be fascinating. Windler has his skillset — his three-point shooting and deep range - as a reason to play him from day one. He’s also three years older than the 19-year-old Porter. On the other hand, Porter Jr. has higher upside as a prospect, but needs some seasoning and development time before he’s ready to play. If he’s not in the rotation early in the season, perhaps some time with the Canton Charge could make sense for him, if only to get him reps instead of not playing at all?
Odds are, though, all three will play — there’s not enough depth otherwise. Stauskas or another wing with NBA experience is the only thing that could create more competition for minutes. If they go younger here, undrafted rookie, and summer league stand-out, Yovel Zoosman would be a candidate. Jaron Blossomgame, on a two-way deal last year, is another option.
Projected starters: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
Rotation locks: Larry Nance Jr.
Jockeying for minutes: Ante Zizic, John Henson
Depth pieces: Dean Wade
Something has to give here. Love is a lock to start and be the focal point of the offense. Thompson, historically, has been great when paired with Love and provides some defensive cover up front. Nance Jr. is the primary backup at both spots and could start in place of Thompson. (This assumes that Love is on the roster at the start of the year, which seems likely at this point.)
What happens with Zizic and Henson is what would seem to shape the frontcourt rotation. Henson has yet to play for the Cavs due to being hurt when acquired and is on an expiring contract. There’s surely some value in getting him on the floor and seeing how he looks to see if that helps his value. Zizic, meanwhile, is the only offensive-oriented five on the Cavs’ roster. He was inconsistent last year, and maybe doesn’t fit the modern game perfectly, but there’s something to his game. His numbers are solid and he has some decent mobility. Also of note for Zizic: this is the last year of his contract before Cleveland has to decide if they want to pick up his rookie option or not.
It’s just unclear right now if Beilein plans to play two bigs. If he does, one of Henson or Zizic would benefit, but not both. And again, trades could make all of this moot.
Wade showed some interesting skills in summer league, but he’s a depth piece and is primarily going to be with Canton. 2020-21, barring trades and him re-signing since he’s only on a one-year deal, seems to be the earliest he pushes for a rotation spot. If he gets the Cavs’ other two-way slot, Marques Bolden’s fit would work the same way.
This feels like a roster that is going to change during the season - the question is how much. Beilein’s preferences are also unknown and likely will be into the regular season. For now, here’s a best guess.
Projected starters: Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson
Main bench: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr.
Seeing regular playing time: Matthew Dellavedova, Dylan Winder, Kevin Porter Jr.
On the outside looking in: Brandon Knight, John Henson, Ante Zizic, Dean Wade (two-way)