With Matthew Dellavedova announcing that he’s signing with the NBL’s Melbourne United, Kevin Love is now the sole remaining member of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers on the roster. As surreal as that is, the Cavs now have a desperate need to backup Darius Garland on their roster. Even though he seldom played last season, Dellavedova was a reliable safety valve for J.B. Bickerstaff to lean on when Cleveland’s youth and inexperience caused things to go sideways on the court. So, today two beautiful writers and one ugly editor at Fear the Sword will have an open discussion for the Cavs heading into the 2021-22 season and rectify certain inequities.
How badly do the Cavs need to address their backup point guard problem?
Evan Dammarell (@AmNotEvan): Like Nick said if Cedi Osman is on the roster next year then he’s arguably the best backup point on the roster. Or if the Cavs want to get funky with it they can try Isaac Okoro as the backup point as well. Neither situation is ideal and the offense goes sideways when Darius Garland sits or his youth and inexperience flare-up. Other than finding a replacement for Lindsay Gottlieb this priority is high up there.
Mike Anguilano (@anguilanom22): Even if Delly had not up and gone to Australia, the backup point guard spot was still going to be a high priority for Koby Altman. As both Evan and Nick said, Cedi Osman is the most capable player on the roster to fill that void - not great. So the Cavaliers definitely need to solve the issue, preferably with a veteran.
Nick Trizzino (@trizweino): I’ll put it this way: I think Cedi Osman is the best backup point guard on the Cavs’ roster right now. Osman, as you may know, is a wildly streaky shooter and an often-erratic decision-maker. Those are probably the most antithetical adjectives to the ideal backup point guard. (Truthfully, I’ve always thought Cedi could be okay as a pseudo backup point. But if he’s your best option? Uhhhhhhhh—
With that said, we’ll now talk about some options for the Cavs in free agency. Are you in or are you out? Or are you out of your mind, Gobbie?
ED: With the Lakers extending a qualifying offer to Talen Horten-Tucker, it also might be realistic for Cleveland to sign Caruso since Los Angeles cannot afford both. That’s great since I personally love the fit between Caruso and the Cavs. Caruso can defend either guard position, can play off the ball, and can provide some playmaking as well. Adding Caruso would give J.B. Bickerstaff some fun bench wrinkles as well as he can pair either with Garland or Sexton too. Of all the guards on here, I think Caruso is the highest on my list. If I were running the Cavs I’d offer the full MLE for him.
MA: I think Lakers fans would be in a tizzy if Caruso left, but their salary constraints make it difficult to roster build. The 27-year-old Texas A&M product would provide immediate defensive and playmaking help for a Cavaliers roster lacking in both. Caruso’s 2.3% steal rate last season was in the 90th percentile per Cleaning the Glass and his size allows him to hang with most other guards. Offensively he can run the point and play off the ball, though he is not necessarily a shooting threat outside of around the basket. He was turnover-prone last season though boasted a career-high assist percentage per Cleaning the Glass, so he can help facilitate things to an extent. Cleveland would do well to try and steal Caruso away, but the Lakers should be doing what they can to keep him. He will certainly get a big pay raise from his $2.75 million annual salary.
NT: Mike just convinced me on this one, if only because I love to see Lakers fans in a tizzy. But really, between Caruso, Norris Cole, and even [REDACTED] (it’s Delly, sorry Delly), I’m instinctively wary of disproportionately hyped fan-favorite point guards who play with LeBron James then get PAID paid elsewhere. To be fair, Caruso’s success feels more sustainable thanks to his strength and athleticism. And even though he’s not really a shooter, I’d feel okay knowing there’s at least someone who could come on and play solid defense against opposing points.
ED: Last season T.J. McConnell averaged 10.0 points, 7.3 assists and 4.3 steals per game against Cleveland. With that in mind, it makes sense for the Cavs to sign McConnell so he can’t hurt them anymore, right? Well, I’m not so sure. I do think adding McConnell to the roster would improve Cleveland’s bench in terms of playmaking and defense, sure. But, I also just cannot get over McConnell’s height. As a fellow short king, I just think the Cavs should diversify their menu a bit when it comes to their reserve guards and add some bigger bodies to compliment Garland and Sexton. I wouldn’t hate it if the team signed McConnell but I do have some reservations.
MA: I remember the days of the Cavaliers trying to get T.J. from the 76ers a few years ago, with limited success. Now, he would still fit Cleveland’s roster like a glove. McConnell is coming off a solid season in Indiana where he displayed durability and quality shooting. He led the league in steal percentage at 3.1% and is coming off a career-best effective field goal percentage of 58.1% per Cleaning the Glass. I agree with Evan in that having a bigger guard to spell Sexton and Garland makes more sense and forces opposing teams to change their gameplan a bit, but I would not mind the Cavs giving McConnell a look.
NT: 8th-grade me went to basketball camp at Duquesne while T.J. was playing there, so color me a fan of reuniting with a former teammate. Deep personal connections aside, though, McConnell is my favorite option. He’d make a great pilot for the second unit and provide Darius Garland with some much-needed playmaking support. His defense would be immensely valuable too, but I don’t think I can overstate how badly the Cavs need additional playmakers—that’s the main selling point here. Problem is, I don’t think the Cavs will be able to afford him without overpaying. If they can, McConnell would be an awesome pickup.
ED: This one is a sneaky good idea from the big beautiful stable genius brain of Chris Manning (his words not mine). Austin Rivers offers a lot of what Caruso brings to the table at probably a fraction of the price. Rivers is a big-bodied point that can create for others and play defense. That checks the boxes for Cleveland. He looked strong during his time with the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets last season averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.8 steals. But, there’s a good chance Denver brings him back due to Jamal Murray’s recovery window and a strong playoff run could price him out for the Cavs. But, if Rivers is available and Caruso declines to sign here Rivers would be in my opinion the second-best option.
MA: I like Caruso and McConnell more than Austin Rivers, but he is a quality point guard whom the Cavaliers should definitely consider. The Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray for a while as he recovers from a torn ACL and Rivers makes considerably more sense there to fill that gap. A classic “fill the gap” kind of guy who won’t destroy your offense when he is out there and plays decent enough defense (his steal rate last season was in the 84th percentile per Cleaning the Glass) to get by. But there are better options available.
NT: Unfortunately, when it comes to Austin Rivers, I don’t have any ulterior motives. But I actually think Rivers is a sneaky-good option. He wouldn’t necessarily morph the Cavs’ offense into a San Antonio Spurs-esque passing operation, but he’s a dude who can create shots off the dribble, and the Cavs have precisely two players who can do that, and one is on the trading block! The only problem is, like McConnell, I wonder if Rivers’ playoff run has priced him out of the Cavs’ range.
ED: This idea comes from former Fear the Sword legend and unverified Cavs podcast host Carter Rodriguez. For Cleveland, adding Raul Neto would essentially be a cheap, lateral move to replace Dellavedova. He looked good under Scott Brooks’s guard-focused scheme in Washington last season - averaging 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals. But, like McConnell, Neto is a smaller guard and if you’ve been paying attention I’m not a fan of signing smaller guards and think the Cavs should diversify their depth chart. Would I hate signing Neto? No. But, as the nursery rhyme always goes... the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the Goblin and took the spider out. A lot of teams would be taking out the Cavs on the perimeter if they sign Neto. And I don’t mean to dinner like I do with Chris Manning’s mom.
MA: Put me firmly into the “I would be fine with Raul Neto” camp. He flew under the radar last season with the Washington Wizards and turned out a pretty good season! He cut down his turnovers, drilled 39% of his threes, and likely will not break the bank. He will not provide much rim pressure and he leaves a lot to be desired defensively, but he can play off another guard to an acceptable degree. But, again as Evan mentioned, a bigger guard with more defensive chops is preferred.
NT: Raul Neto is...fine. I don’t have strong feelings for him, other than that there is absolutely no convincing me he hasn’t been in the league since at least 2010. I don’t imagine any team would prefer Neto over the above players in a vacuum, so he’d have to be signing a very team-friendly contract for me to pick him as the best option. But even then, to me, a backup point guard is worth ponying up for. Find somewhere else to preserve cap space.
The Cavs trade back into the first and draft a point guard
ED: It ultimately depends on what the Cavs give up in a trade. According to sources, the New Orleans Pelicans are looking to move off of the no. 17 pick they recently acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in the Eric Bledsoe trade. Let’s say Tennessee point guard Jaden Springer is still on the board then I’d say the Cavs call up New Orleans with a trade centered on Larry Nance Jr. or Taurean Prince’s expiring contract to nab Springer. Or maybe the Cavs call up the Los Angeles Clippers or the Phoenix Suns or the Brooklyn Nets about their first-rounders so they can take a stab at Baylor’s Jared Butler, Illinois’s Ayo Dosunmu or Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi. All these guards are viable options for the Cavs but they still need an adult in the room to try and balance out the offense when things go sideways. More than anything, they should acquire an extra wing player in the draft.
MA: Give me one Jason Preston, please. Okay Chris Manning pandering aside, I would not mind trading back into the first round to get a point guard - for the right price. Moving Nance makes sense considering his overlapping skillset with Jarrett Allen and the incoming Evan Mobley, but it is not ideal. Prince and his expiring contract certainly would do the trick, but the lack of wing depth is concerning. Most importantly, I worry about having a bunch of young guys at the point and no veteran J.B. Bickerstaff can turn to in times of crisis - and there likely would be a few. If the Cavaliers are looking to fight for a play-in spot next season, which seems to be the case, trading key rotational players for a swing at a backup point guard does not make sense. I would rather they sign a veteran to stabilize things now.
NT: I guess that depends on what the package is. Trading Collin Sexton for a smattering of late firsts would be, like, ‘friendship ended with the Cavs’ material for me. Outside Sexton, who else outside the core players is enticing enough to get back into the first round? If, say, Larry Nance Jr. could fetch a pick in the area of someone like Jared Butler or Jaden Springer, I wouldn’t be vehemently opposed. But to me, the Cavs’ best option would be to splurge a little in free agency. (Just, uh, not too much.)