Other than Isaac Okoro, the Cavs have a second rookie on their roster: Dylan Windler. Despite being drafted in 2019, Windler technically is a rookie coming into the 2020-21 NBA season. This is due to the fact Windler dealt with an ongoing lower leg injury all of last season, mostly due to John Beilein overworking him during Summer League play in Salt Lake City. But, now fully healthy the oft-injured Windler can finally show to everyone why the organization thinks so highly of him.
What last season was like
As mentioned above, there wasn’t really a season for Windler - at least at the NBA level. While he was recovering, Windler got the green light to rehab with Cleveland’s G-League affiliate the Canton Charge. In his two appearances, Windler posted averages of 6.5 points on 44.4% shooting to go with 4.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists and one steal per game. But, Windler, unfortunately, suffered another setback in his recovery and was forced to miss the remainder of the season — only delaying his inevitable Cavs debut.
Windler’s role this season
But, Windler is now totally healthy based on all reports from Cleveland’s side of things and is expected to carve out a huge role with the team this season. The theoretical spacing and gravity that Windler provides offensively is one of his biggest selling points when trying to figure out what exactly that role is going to be. While at Belmont, Windler connected on 40.2% of his 4.2 three-point attempts per game. His shot mechanics were fluid, consistent and was one of the surefire things in his game to translate to the NBA level.
In his NBA debut against his hometown Indiana Pacers over the weekend, Windler failed to connect on all of his three-point attempts. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s the next Luke Jackson for Cleveland but it does show that all the time removed from the game, especially with the ongoing pandemic, has had an impact on his ability to connect on his shots. Thankfully, the fluid mechanics are still there. Just give Windler some time and he’ll be connnecting on those attempts in no time at all.
Overall, Windler could beautifully fill a role similar to Utah’s Joe Ingles for the Cavs. Windler possesses the skillset to be a floor stretching forward that can also provide some solid positional defense and tertiary playmaking as well. Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff also envisions Windler being able to play two through four on the court for the team, similar to Ingles. Only weighing in at 196 pounds, Windler will need to add some bulk to his frame in order to bang with traditional power forwards in today’s NBA. But, it’s certainly possible since he’s still growing into his body at the NBA level.
Key stats to watch
Other than his three-point shooting, the key stat to watch for Windler is his ability as a rebounder. While at Belmont, Windler averaged 10.8 rebounds per game in his senior season - which is superb for someone at his position. Other than his marksmanship, this statistical anomaly makes you believe that it’s something that will translate to the NBA level. So far, it seems like it will. In his aforementioned NBA debut against the Pacers, Windler grabbed eight boards in 23 minutes of play - which was the most for his position on Cleveland’s roster that night. Windler, joining the likes of Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Love and Andre Drummond, gives the Cavs a formidable quartet of players that can only allow the team to improve statistically as well.
Windler is a bit of a wild card heading into the 2020-21 season for Cleveland. In theory, his skillset compliments what the organization is trying to build beautifully with his three-point shooting ability as well as the remainder of his versatile skillset. But, it all depends on whether or not he can stay healthy and consistent. If he is able to accomplish both, the Cavs are in a lot better place in their current rebuild. If not, Cleveland may have to take a long, hard look at what Windler’s perceived long-term value is either as a foundational piece or a trade asset that can be bundled in a future move. Hopefully, it’s the former and not the latter for Windler. As a team that’s in dire need of three-point shooting and playmaking, Windler is an answer to satiate Cleveland’s hunger.