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Cleveland Cavaliers notebook: Lamar Stevens’s upside, Gordon Gund and more

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The Cavs making a bet on Stevens makes all the sense in the world.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

This week in my Cavs notebook: some words on Lamar Stevens and his new contract, the chances Cleveland embraces youth and the Gordon Gund news from earlier in the week.

Lamar Stevens is worth a longer look

On Wednesday, the Cavs announced they had signed Lamar Stevens to a multi-year deal, bumping him up to a full-on roster spot from a two-way deal. Stevens, 23, doesn’t have a lucrative deal — it’s like Dean Wade’s in that it’s team friendly and includes non-guarantees — but it a) locks him into a higher base salary and b) allows for Cleveland to develop him internally. The deal also contains a team option for the last year.

Stevens has had some flashes in his first NBA season but has been out of the rotation as of late. But at 6’6” and 230 pounds, he has good size to play wing in the NBA with some ability to guard some smaller fours. (J.B. Bickerstaff also handed him the Zion Williamson assignment for a bit last week.) For a team like the Cavs that needs to hit more on developmental guys, locking in Stevens makes sense.

Defense has been Stevens’s most interesting attribute so far. Per Cleaning The Glass, he has a 1.4% block percentage (94th percentile of wings) and a 1.4% steal percentage (59th percentile among wings) in games played.

Offensively, he’s not helpful — teams treat him like a big and ignore him when he floats out to three-point line. He has potential as a slasher who has a knack for sliding into open space at the right time, but any semblance of a developed three-point shot would be a huge for Stevens’ chance of sticking. Right now, he still works more like he’s playing at Penn State as a lead option than a developing three-and-d wing. The bulk of his shots coming in the mid-range and in.

This offseason will be important for him. Role players can dabble in mid-range, but it can’t be the bulk of their shot diet. It also makes sense that this will be a major adjustment for Stevens as he moves from college to the pros without a normal preseason, season or offseason due to COVID-19.

He does show some pop in punishing sloppy closeouts. There are ways this can maximized in an effort to help make up for his lack of a three-point shot.

e’d be a good guy to get into Summer League to get more game reps. Stevens would also benefit from a more normal NBA calendar where the Cavs get to practice. Some time with the Charge may have done him good too. But there’s a guy worth a bet here. Speaking of which….

Do the Cavs fully embrace youth towards the end of the season?

Here’s something to consider as the Cavs head into the last stretch of the season: Who will J.B. Bickerstaff give minutes to? Or, to be more specific, who will he give the majority of the minutes to?

There are a few guys locked in: Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen, Larry Nance Jr. Those guys are the clear top seven on the roster. Beyond that, Cleveland has choices it can make at a few different spots.

On the wing, there are two pure developmental players (Stevens, Brodric Thomas), a struggling/injured first-round pick (Dylan Windler), a young veteran who has had a brutal season (Cedi Osman) and a vet who has dealt with injuries and will be an expiring contract next year (Taurean Prince). Matthew Dellavedova could also be lumped in here if Cleveland wanted to give extra minutes to another wing vs. playing him with Garland or Sexton.

Depending on how Bickerstaff and his staff approach it, they could go all-in on getting younger players minutes or just keep going how it’s been going. You can bridge the gap a bit, perhaps by resting Prince on some nights to give minutes to others. Maybe Windler or Osman will play themselves into consistent minutes with a string of good play. But how minutes are dolled out will be interesting to watch as the Cavs likely slip away from the playoff and play-in races.

Also worth watching: will Bickerstaff play five bigs regularly or will one of Dean Wade and Isaiah Hartenstein get stuck to the bench with Allen and Nance back?

Record wise, the Cavs are in the hunt, but there’s not a projection that gives them a good shot at making the playoffs. Even the play-in tournament is an uphill battle. The Ringer’s model gives the Cavs a 3% chance of making the play-in tournament. As of Friday, the Cavs are 2.5 games back of the Bulls for the No. 10 seed and 1.5 behind the Raptors and Wizards, the 11th and 12th teams in the conference.

From there, Cleveland would need to win two games in a row to make it into the actual playoffs and likely be slaughtered by the likely top-seeded 76ers. If the Cavs want a real shot at making it, they probably need to beat the Bulls — who will be without Zach LaVine due to health and safety protocols at least for Saturday’s matchup — twice in the next week.

Is one way right or the other? Not necessarily. It just might offer some insight into where the Cavs think they are, health permitting. The grind of the season may dictate this more than anything else.

About Gordon Gund

Sort of out of the blue, the Cavs announced Wednesday that Dan Gilbert had bought the remaining team shares owned by Gordon Gund. It’s unclear how many that exactly was, but it was reported way back in 2016 by Bloomberg that Gund was looking to sell the last 15% he owned.

“On a very personal level, Gordon was a dedicated and caring leader that brought integrity and civic pride to the forefront as an organizational imperative, while infusing a business acumen and team strategy that allowed the franchise to position itself well for the decades to come in downtown Cleveland,” Gilbert said per the statement.

This move really doesn’t change anything in how the Cavs work right now. Gilbert has had majority control for years. All this really does is increase that some and, if he and/or his family ever decides to sell the team, increase the amount of money he could make in said sale. Recent estimates have the Cavs worth around $1.7 billion. Gilbert, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is worth $38.5 billion. The only NBA owner higher on the list is Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.