Happy Tuesday. Less than a week out from media day and, not soon after that, the season starts. Buckle up.
The first sip
Sharife Cooper is not likely to win the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball games this year. The 21-year-old point guard guard, signed to the Cavs for training camp, comes in at a position Cleveland doesn’t really need more bodies at. Darius Garland is an entrenched All-Star. Donovan Mitchell will play some point. Ricky Rubio will be back in 2023. Raul Neto is here to hold down the fort now. Barring injuries, he’s not in the plans.
So why bring in Cooper at all? It’s about the future.
Cooper will probably end up in the G League with Cleveland Charge. Maybe he ends up on a two-way deal if RJ Nembhard or Isaiah Mobley earn the 15th roster spot or the Cavs decide to swap one of them out. If he does end up with the Charge, he’ll be under new head coach Mike Gerrity (widely praised for his player development chops) and maybe have a chance to earn a 10-day later in the year with the Cavs or someone else. Maybe it puts him in play for a contract next summer when Neto’s one-year deal is up and, in theory, Cleveland could be in the market for depth.
A 2021 second-round pick by the Atlanta Hawks, Cooper was on a two-way deal for two years. His G League numbers last year were solid. His summer league numbers were, to say the least, subpar. Cooper is also someone the Cavs liked during the 2021 draft process too. He’s 6’1” and 176 pounds, so he’s on the smaller side. But he’s fast and a skilled playmaker. He could be someone who could stick in the NBA.
Is that player guaranteed to be found? No. G League reclamation projects are hard and, sometimes, they end up somewhere else before they figure it out if they figure it out at all.
But as the Cavs look ahead, taking a look at Cooper as a potential guard depth option to develop in house is smart. This is the kind of work they’ll need to do to replace players as they age out or leave via free agency. And, after the Donovan Mitchell trade, the kind of moves they’ll need to make to replace not having first round picks.
It’s not about now with Cooper. It’s about later, if it’s about anything at all.
Jackson Flickinger kicked off the FTS preview series with a look at Darius Garland. Today’s edition (up at 10 a.m.) will cover Jarrett Allen.
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