Trading for Donovan Mitchell a few weeks prior to training camp left the Cleveland Cavaliers with little depth and a mismatching supporting cast. Caris LeVert was at the center of both issues as easily the best player on the team outside of the core four while also being forced into a role he wasn’t acquired to be in.
This resulted in a rocky start to the season as LeVert was yanked in and out of the starting lineup which further muddied his roles. When saddled with a below average bench unit, LeVert was often asked to be the primary or secondary creator both for himself and others. He also often closed games with the core four which left him as a tertiary playmaker/connector while mostly being completely off-ball. All the while, he was the center of trade discussions until the deadline.
LeVert finished his first full season in Cleveland averaging 12.1 points and 3.9 assists per game with .431/.392/.722 shooting splits leading to an inefficient 51.3 effective field goal percentage. Those numbers were dragged down due to only converting 46.2% of his two point attempts. This is due to shooting an atrocious 32.7% on midrange shots which consisted of just shy of a third of his shot diet. This is on top of converting a suboptimal 61.4% of his attempts in the restricted area (34th percentile among wings).
Those frustrations inside the arc can obscure how well he played when he wasn’t taking ill advised twos. LeVert had his best season as an outside shooter on 4.4 threes per game. This included connecting on 39.3% of his catch and shoot threes on the season.
The most encouraging aspect of the season for LeVert is how he seemed to grow into his role. This showed through most after the deadline. Over the final 23 games of the season, only 21.2% of his shot attempts came in the mid-range while 48% of them came from three-point territory leading to an effective field goal percentage of 60.3%. Prior to the deadline, 32% of his shots came from the mid-range and only 37.5% from three adding up to an effective field goal percentage of 48.2%.
LeVert also proved to be the best Cavalier outside of Darius Garland at getting the bigs and other teammates involved. While the raw assist totals aren’t overly impressive, he assisted on 18.1% of team baskets (90th percentile) while he was on the floor while boasting a good assist to usage rate.
LeVert also made strides as a defender. Outside of a few gaffs while fouling three-point shooters, LeVert showed that he was adequate at staying in front of the opponent’s best wing scorer when needed to.
All in all, this allowed LeVert to be apart of the Cavs’ best lineup in the regular season and playoffs. The Cavs outscored opponents by 16.2 points with an outstanding 101.5 defensive rating in the regular season while outscoring the New York Knicks by 3.2 points in the playoffs.
LeVert isn’t the cleanest fit with the rest of the Cavs’ starting lineup, but he’s also far and away the fifth best player on the team and a good enough fit to make it work. The ideal wing fit would be a higher volume three-point shooter who is a more fluid off-ball threat. But moving LeVert for someone who fits cleaner and isn’t a talent downgrade is easier said than done. This is the Caris LeVert conundrum.
LeVert is neither the problem nor the solution for the Cavs. This shown through in the playoffs. LeVert was apart of their best five-man lineup and was one of the few players who played up to their skill level during the series, but his shooting and playmaking wasn’t enough to open up the offense much for his teammates.
Lack of depth and lineup versatility is the biggest issue plaguing the Cavs in the short term. LeVert is one of the few players who isn’t a liability on both ends of the floor and should be productive in nearly every playoff series regardless of the matchup. There are very few Cavaliers you can say that about.
LeVert showed over the final stretch of the season and in the playoffs that he can be a good option on the wing. While it will always be tempting to float LeVert’s name in trade rumors, parting with LeVert has the potential to cause more immediate problems than what are actually being solved due to the lack of depth, ballhandlers and players who can truly be trusted in high leverage situations.
At least in regards to LeVert, the Cavs need more serviceable role players as opposed to different ones. It’s safe to assume the Cavs will pay what is necessary to keep LeVert in his home state in the coming months.