Who completes the new look squad for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

The acquisition of Donovan Mitchell cemented the Cavaliers as one of the best young teams in the NBA. They already had Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Garrett Allen, so Cleveland was already in that conversation. Mitchell reinforced this fact.

But there is one question that lingers for the Cavaliers as they prepare for a season with playoff predictions: Who is the fifth player?

While four of the five players in the starting lineup are set in stone, the small front position remains open. Last year, the Cavs bucked the league-wide “little ball” trend by starting three top men – Allen, Mobley and Lauri Markkanen. This worked well, as these three had a difference of +7.4, per glass cleaning. But Markkanen was shipped to Utah with rookie Ochai Agbaji, who had some potential as a winger but likely won’t get consistent playing time. This leaves the small anterior chamber thinner than it already was.

On paper, Isaac Okoro should be the one to fill that spot. He has the defensive skills that may be necessary to support Garland and Mitchell, but attacking remains a concern. He doesn’t have the green light to create for himself outside of a dwindling shooting hour or poor closing, but he can contribute as a three-point breaker and shooter. At least in theory – teams have spent two years now challenging Okoro to shoot by leaving him wide open in the corner. So far, they haven’t made him pay.

Having another capable pass in Mitchell should improve the playmaking industry, opening up more cut lanes for Okoro that were once hidden by the lack of able passersby on the ground simultaneously. As my colleague Chris Manning preaches, JB Bickerstaff should keep Okoro moving and cutting the basket to arm his speed and power. (Editor’s note from Chris: That’s right!)

Okoro attempted 58% of his shots at the rim and improved his accuracy at the rim from 58% to 63% from year one to year two, per glass cleaning. Mitchell is also an excellent driver, who should break down defenses and leave Okoro open in the corner. He took 24% of his shots from the third corner area, making 36% of them for every glass-cleaning process. The Cavs would need some higher resolution and size in that area of ​​Okoro to make it a true 3D pavilion to fill the void. But the mold is there – a strong defensive presence who can hit corner threes and find open looks by cutting through the basket.

Has anyone forgotten about Caris Levert? Coming from Indiana State last season, Levert fell off the offensive edge. After the trade ended, he shot worse at the edge (-5%) and mid-range (-1%) while having a high utilization rate and worst points per attempt according to Cleaning the Glass. Incompetence killed the Cavaliers at a time when the offense was tough, especially with Garland dealing with a back problem and Jarrett Allen breaking his finger.

Levert won’t be the second choice this time around, which helps, but if the ball isn’t in his hands, what can he offer? It’s neither a defensive stopper, nor a steady shooter from depth—particularly as a pick-and-shoot option. Opposing defenses definitely have more attention to it than Okoro, and that’s worth something. Perhaps his gameplay would improve by having a capable attacking player like Mitchell willing to pass to him? His offensive skill set may be more suitable than the bench to punish the opponent’s bench. He can keep the ball in his hands repeatedly without blocking the touches from the talented backcourt.

The Cavs are said to be in no rush to extend LeVert, making him an expired contract with plenty to prove this coming season. Right now, he seems to have been positioned as a junior striker at first, mainly because he has more offensive punches. But the defense will surely suffer, and his game industry comes and goes. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s an option nonetheless.

Everyone’s favorite Cedi Osman is also worth a look, especially with the way he played in Eurobasket. The 27-year-old averages 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on average to below average proficiency in FIBA ​​play. Here’s the story with Usman: The Cavs already know what they’re offering. Either he’s flaring hot or unplayable on either side of the ball, he’s blown defensively and the Cavs shoot out of matches. Usman was more efficient last season than he was in 2020-2021, a bit taller than Okoro and Levert. But it is not reliable. Instead, Osman offers a more capable, high-powered outdoor imaging. When he’s hot, he seems to be just the right person. When it’s cold, it can be unplayable. It’s not clear how JB Bickerstaff really trusts him.

I wrote about Lamar Stevens last season, particularly about how he slowly developed an offensive kit bag and found spots on the ground he loved to shoot from. His mid-range game showed signs of consistency and he could find the floor as a small forward leader. I’m not sure that the coaching staff is ready to start playing with him, but he is the heavy version of Usman.

Dean Wade falls into the “maybe won’t start but useful” category. He’s 6’10” and can shoot basketball, but perhaps most importantly, he lets Levert, Osman and Okoro off the bench and cement what should be a deep unit. Wade doesn’t kill you, usually, and could benefit massively from Mitchell and Garland which keep opposing defenses guesswork.

The jury is technically still out on Dylan Wendler, but it looks like this is his last chance to prove his worth. On paper, he has the active hands and shooting prowess that would come in handy on both sides of the ball besides the basic four. But health will be the deciding factor if he finds the floor or not. I bet on the latter.

Well, let’s be weird now. How about putting Evan Mobley in third and starting Kevin Love in the power forward? It solves the shooting problem by introducing dangerous love, which can benefit as a trailer when the ball is pushed up onto the ground. As an expert in picking bobs and bobs, he’ll also get plenty of looks.

Defenses who fall back to watch the ball to Mobley will be quickly penalized with a Love pop for three. Mobley and Allen will have to do a lot of defensive installs both on the inside and on the perimeter, but it’s an interesting choice (for what it’s worth, last year the Mobley-Love-Allen lineup had an offensive lineup that scored 156.5 . points per 100 possessions per clean glass). Given that Love has been pretty good off the bench, enough to earn the votes of this year’s sixth man, it’s unlikely he’ll suddenly start at 34. But the possibility is there.

Given his offensive pedigree, LeVert seems more likely to start from the small forward. If Okoro can become a constant shooting threat, he effectively provides what Usman does offensively with the added advantage of being a very good defender. That should be enough to earn consideration to start, but there may be a “proof it” period to see how crime flows with it. Osman makes sense. It will be an ongoing discussion through bootcamp and the early parts of the season to see who picks up the small starting minutes. Right now, the Cavs have some compelling, albeit not surprising, options.