Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Dylan Winder’s lost season. Follow the whole series here.
Dylan Windler’s left lower leg stress reaction is a real sliding doors moment for the 2019-20 Cavs. He would have been a 23-year-old rookie who could come in, played right away and provided spacing on the wing. Had he not been hurt, there’s a chance Kevin Porter Jr. never gets his shot to play. Maybe Cedi Osman would have been moved to the bench — a role that might fit him better — as some in the Cavs organization think of Windler as a starter.
Would Windler have changed the Cavs’ season in the meaningful way? It’s doubtful. The John Beilein hire obviously didn’t work and wouldn’t have worked even a player he liked in Windler had played. Something was just off with the Cavs’ formula this year. But it’s hard to imagine that this guy wouldn’t have helped in some way, or at least made the season less of a slog:
Thinking about what Windler will be in his delayed rookie year is also a fun thought exercise into what the Cavs will look next season. With Porter Jr.’s encouraging start, Osman settling in as a useful role player and another wing (or wing-adjacent player like LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes) likely to come via the draft, Cleveland will, on paper, have a modern-looking wing rotation. What Windler provides is different than any player the Cavs can provide because he of good a shooter he projects to the be. On paper, he’ll be the team’s best shooter this side of Kevin Love the moment he’s healthy and able to play. That’s going to help the team work better.
Remember: The Cavs are committed to three bigs in Love, Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. The three-big lineup is a nice gimmick amid a weird season, but they probably need to be able to go small and space around them vs. leaning into the size.
Say the team’s starting five next year involves Drummond at the five, Love at the four and the same Collin Sexton-Darius Garland backcourt. Osman filled that role this year and was a fairly good, if inconsistent, three-point shooter. If J.B. Bickerstaff swaps out Osman, moving his playmaking to the second unit to supplement Porter Jr., and puts Windler in the starting five, there’s a world where there’s more space around Drummond and Love post-ups. There are other versions of this — say Windler as a starter with Osman with one Sexton and Garland going to the bench — but the general effect is the same.
The bummer, though, is that Windler could have helped this year. Minutes for Windler — even if it was 20 a night — would have been more interesting than the random Brandon Knight minutes early in the year or the Matthew Dellavedova minutes. Again, maybe it doesn’t improve the on-court product all that much. But at the very least, trying out Windler now would have given the Cavs a better idea of what might be yet to come. A 6’6” wing who can shoot like Windler is worth a look.