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Current Cavaliers who can help solve the team’s versatility problem

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It starts with Kevin Porter.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Versatile players are going to (likely) be a priority for the Cavs in future drafts. But there are a few internal candidates to become more versatile too.

Larry Nance Jr.

Nance is the closest thing the Cavs have to a Swiss Army knife defensive player on the roster. He’s most comfortable defending power forwards, but he can defend some centers and probably bigger wings. (Asking him to chase around Joe Harris-types would be a mistake.) Per BBall-Index, his position-by-position breakdown of time spent guarding different positions looks like this with his percentile vs. other power forwards in parenthesis:

Small forwards: 19.8% (67th percentile)

Power forwards: 39% (92nd percentile)

Centers: 20.9% (72nd percentile)

A suggestion for the Cavs: dial up this next year. Every night, put Nance on whomever you feel he can do the most work. He’s probably the Cavs’ best defender at the moment, so lean into that as much as possible. Use him like Draymond Green and that type of player is used and see what happens.

Collin Sexton

Sexton’s versatility leap is going to come on offense if it comes at all — he just doesn’t have the frame to defend multiple positions.

Since coming into the league, Sexton has become a reliable off-ball shooter (44.3% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers in 2018-19 and 42.1% on 2.2 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts in 2019-20). That’s only going to be more important as the Cavs build out their roster and his place in it takes shape. For him to be part of closing units when Cleveland is good again, his off-ball shooting is going to make him a candidate to be on the floor.

The other aspect of this is where Sexton might be headed anyway as a bench scorer. Per basketball-reference, his top-four most common lineup partners were all starters, so it’s not something we’ve ever seen before. But one way to maximize what Sexton is as a scorer is to make the lead on bench units. He can be supplemented with better passers (Nance is a good option and the numbers suggest he was better with a non-ball dominant guard with Matthew Dellavedova on the floor last year) and defenders. Those lineups won’t be some of the star-plus-bench mobs that have worked for other teams, but they can work.

One key to making them work: Sexton’s playmaking improving enough to a point where he’ll set up other players most consistently. If he’s the engine of a bench mob, he at least needs something like the Lou Williams-Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll that wrecks teams for the Clippers.

Kevin Porter Jr.

Porter Jr., before the season stopped, was set to get a chance to take on a bigger offensive role. He’s barely 20-years-old and the Cavs think incredibly highly of him. Whenever the Cavs get to play real basketball next for an extended clip, he’s going to get some reps as a lead creator. How that goes will say a lot about where Porter Jr. is headed and how he can be deployed.

His defensive upside, though, is harder to gauge. He has one of the highest foul rates in the league, but the Cavs weren’t shy about throwing on elite guys like James Harden from time-to-time. He also has a frame (6’5.5”, 6’9” wingspan) where he could conceivably defend multiple positions, not to mention high-end athleticism and decent instincts for playing the passing lane. And if he adds muscle, he could maybe get to a point where he could defend some smaller fours in addition to wings and guards. But there are improvements to make first.

Cedi Osman

Osman is an honorable mention on this solely because Turkish national team Osman hasn’t ever been seen sans a moment here or there. This is like Olympic Melo for masochistic Cavs fans.

If the playmaking Osman has flashed during international play comes to the NBA in some capacity, he hits another level as a player. But he’s heading into year four now, so maybe it’s never coming.