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Caris LeVert is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff x-factor

Here’s why the Cavs need LeVert.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A question all season for this years’ edition of the Cleveland Cavaliers is who could be the teams’ release valve off the bench to give the starting five more juice. After being designated to the bench for the sixth man role occupied by Kevin Love early on in the season it did not translate to the production anticipated. That role appears to now be Caris LeVert’s.

After some trade rumors and questions about his future, those talks have hushed after LeVert has played the best basketball of his career. While some could see this as a flash in the pan for a player that has been known to be a streaky shooter. Others could choose to see it as positive regression for a season mired in career low shooting percentages and efficiency inside the arc.

LeVert is on pace for one of if not the worst general shooting seasons in his career. Especially in what is considered to be the bread and butter, the mid-range. While the play style for LeVert normally relied heavily on high usage and mid range shooting. His role has had to morph with this years’ iteration of the Cavaliers.

When you have two dynamic guards in Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell demanding most of the on ball play and backup point guard Ricky Rubio also relying heavily on on ball opportunities it forced Caris to adapt and morph his play as seen fit by the staff.

But over his recent stretch, LeVert has morphed his shot profile to fit more in tune with the current shot profolio of the Cavs. When you look into how the season started it was the classic Caris playbook of midrange and attacking the rim, as you look to March, LeVert has morphed into a three-point-heavy player who also attacks the rim. He’s not hunting mid-range shots in the ways he used to.

The mid-range was simply not conducive to the Cavaliers offense. It bogs down a lot of the actions the offense wants and frankly needs to run, at least when LeVert took them. In the closing stretch seeing this level of production and buy-in from LeVert is very promising as it has helped buoy the efforts of a bench that as of March 1 was a bottom five unit in the league.

LeVert’s two-way play is also massive for a bench that is not filled with any other defensive options. Most of the bench options need to have strong defenders alongside them in order to not have their weaknesses exposed. Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens are not given consistent minutes to where JB may not put them on the floor in a pivotal game in a playoff series.

Dean Wade, who was penciled in a few months ago to be a pivotal piece in the rotation for the longest time has been the latest player to be thrown into the doghouse. This is a rough blow as at his best he could make the case as the most impactful defensive presence off the bench. He would allow for some more flexibility with Allen and Mobley getting more rest and playing in some taller lineups.

It has felt defensively where LeVert earned the coaches trust. To now complement that with an offensive threat is the exact player the Cavaliers need. LeVert has truly grown into a great impactful two way player who feels to be trending in the right direction.

Time will truly tell which version of LeVert we will get in the postseason. If the Cavaliers want to make some noise and have a chance of sniffing the third round of the playoffs LeVert will certainly be called on to continue this stretch of play into April and beyond. Caris has earned the chance to prove that this is more of a pattern than a fluke.