The Cavs will likely be one of the three worst teams in the East barring major improvement from their young backcourt. However, unlike most teams at the bottom of the standings, they will have at least 13 players who will be expecting consistent minutes. J.B. Bickerstaff will have his hands full in determining the bench rotations on a nightly basis.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the bench is going to shakeout this season.
Most on the Line: Kevin Porter Jr.
Chris Fedor from Cleveland.com has reported several times this offseason that Porter is viewed as the most promising young piece on the roster. Last season Porter was able to take his time and fly under the radar given where he was taken in the draft. That won’t be the case this season.
Porter hasn’t handled that new pressure off the court well considering what came out last month. The Cavs and Coach Bickerstaff still appear committed to him as a player and a person, but that commitment to him will be tested on and off the court this season.
It sounds weird to say, but this could become the most pivotal season of KPJ’s career. The Cavs clearly believe in him, but this season has gotten off on the wrong foot already. A few more missteps or inconsistent play could mean that the Cavs and other teams could reach the conclusion that Porter isn’t worth the gamble sooner rather than later.
Porter was one of the most exciting storylines of last season. He has the skill, athleticism, and body to be an All-Star in this league. Whether or not he ever reaches that full potential here or elsewhere remains to be seen. Either way, this season will go a long way in determining which path his career goes down.
Biggest Wildcard: Dylan Windler
The front office hasn’t made their confidence in Windler a secret even though he missed all of last season. While those inside the organization expect a lot from him, it’s hard for those of us on the outside to project who Windler might be this season.
The 24 year-old rookie will be given an opportunity to show what he has this season. His positional versatility will help him fit into the bench rotation no matter who Bickerstaff decides to play. However, that still doesn’t leave us with a good idea of what to expect. We’ll just have to wait and see how he looks once the season gets started.
Projected MVP: Larry Nance Jr.
This was a no-brainer. Nance has one of the most unique skillsets in the league. He has the height and strength to guard multiple positions and the athleticism to finish at the rim over anybody. The Cavs just need to find the best possible way to use his unique skillset.
One of my biggest impressions from watching the bubble playoffs last season was that Nance would fit perfectly on any playoff team. The league is moving away from putting specialist type players around their stars. Teams are valuing versatile defenders who have a variety of offensive skills more than ever before. Nance is the only player on the Cavs who you can confidently say fits that description. He will be the anchor of this eclectic bench unit.
Biggest Storyline: How J.B. Bickerstaff uses the bench
Bickerstaff will have some tough decisions to make with his rotation. Damyean Dotson, Kevin Porter Jr., Dylan Windler, Dante Exum, Isaac Okoro, Thon Maker and JaVale McGee either should or could all expect to get regular minutes in the rotation. The problem is, you can’t really play a 13-man rotation in the NBA.
Many times rotation issues solve themselves naturally through trades, cuts, or injuries. I would expect much of the issues here to be solved in that same way. Things will probably still be unpredictable at the very beginning of the season though.
It’ll be interesting to see how Bickerstaff handles this to start the season. Playing on a below average team is tough as it is. It’s even tougher when you aren’t getting the consistent playing time you think you deserve. We’ll see how Bickerstaff and company handle this potential problem.