NBA Scout Breaks Down Cleveland Cavaliers' New Additions, Young Talent
For better or worse, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to look quite different this season.
Culminating with the trade of Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, nearly half of the Cavs roster will have turned over since June's NBA Finals. The changes haven't been restricted to the locker room, either.
New general manager Koby Altman is in. He's a David Griffin disciple who replaces his old boss at the top of the front office. It's been Altman and majority owner Dan Gilbert who have pulled the strings on this summer's acquisitions.
Starting with re-signing veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver to a three-year, $22 million deal, the Cavs have added Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Jose Calderon and Ante Zizic.
They've also lost five players (but only three last names) in Irving (trade) Deron Williams (free agent), Derrick Williams (free agent), Dahntay Jones (free agent) and James Jones (named VP of basketball operations of the Phoenix Suns).
To examine if the Cavs have gotten better, Bleacher Report talked to a current NBA scout about these additions along with the rise of some of Cleveland's young talent.
Kay Felder, PG, 22
Felder (second-round pick in 2016) now stands as the team's fourth-string point guard behind Thomas, Rose and Calderon.
He did lead the summer-league team in scoring with 15.8 points per game, but he showed more of a tendency to put his head down and attack rather than run the team. Felder averaged just 3.5 assists in 26.4 minutes per game while competing against lottery picks Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks.
With so many veterans in front of him, Felder may be in danger of even making the team. Less than half of his $1.3 million salary is guaranteed this season, making him a cheap cut if needed to trim the roster from 17 to 15.
"I don't see him being a starter now. I was high on him, too—had him ranked in the first round when he was coming out and scouted him quite a bit. I really liked his ability, but...I felt like this in the summer-league games too. He still looks lost trying to run the team."
"In terms of his NBA skills to score the ball, he can do that. I think his ideal role is a third point guard, possibly backup combo guard because running a team—I don't know that it's a thing you can learn, you know?
"It's a lot tougher, and with his natural instinct to score the ball, maybe just utilize that and keep it simple for him. [Tyronn Lue] needs to say, 'When you're in the game, we need you to score.'"
Edy Tavares, C, 25
As the 2016-17 G-League Defensive Player of the Year, Tavares is a 7'3" throwback center who protects the paint and challenges shots with his size alone.
Unfortunately, that only gets you so far in today's NBA. He averaged just 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in the summer league and carries a non-guaranteed contract into this season. If Cleveland needs a roster spot, he'll likely be the first to go.
"He can't play against [the Warriors]. They're just too fast getting up and down the court. He's going to be too slow getting up the court, getting to rebounds, getting to shooters.
"There can be some random regular-season games he can eat some minutes up just to save minutes on Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson. With the NBA going to small ball and fast pace, it's tough to play guys like him or even an Andre Drummond, who's still young and has promise.
"It will be strictly matchups with Tavares. He might be the first guy gone for those reasons."
Cedi Osman, SF, 22
Cleveland lacked a true hustle guy after losing Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency in 2016. Inconsistent effort plagued the team all year and contributed to a disappointing 51 regular-season wins and a second-place finish to the Boston Celtics.
Osman should help change that. He's a high-motor guy who will fight to earn minutes as a slasher and finisher around the rim. Cleveland's bench has plenty of forwards already with Jae Crowder, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, but Osman should still get regular-season opportunities to showcase his abilities.
"I've scouted him quite a bit. ... I was a real big fan. A 6'8" Matthew Dellavedova is a real good comparison. That guy is Johnny Hustle. He plays his ass off, he'll run the floor dead sprint. Defensively he's very active. And offensively he's going to be sporadic, kind of like Dellavedova. He can make shots, but not consistently, and it's going to show in the pros.
"His role is going to be bringing energy, hopefully playing good team defense. That's going to be his calling right away. If he doesn't do that, he won't get significant minutes.
"Right now, I would say he's trade bait, but he could easily prove me wrong. What I loved about him coming into the draft is that he plays with nonstop energy, and that will take you far in the NBA. With Richard Jefferson and Jeff Green, he'll get a chance to prove himself in the regular-season rotation. Obviously, you'll know by the postseason if he's ready to contribute then."
Ante Zizic, C, 20
Zizic likely won't get much run as the team's fourth or fifth big man, but he gives the Cavs some options.
He's now Cleveland's youngest member at just 20 years old, a rookie who can bang down low and hit the mid-range jumper. The Cavs can use him with the Canton Charge of the G-League to work on his development into a future rotation piece or dangle him as trade bait for veteran help.
Zizic should beat Tavares for a roster spot given his ability to run the floor and play more of a modern game.
In 20 games with Darussafaka Dogus of the EuroLeague, Zizic averaged 14.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes of play for head coach David Blatt.
"One guy that sort of comes to mind is [Steven] Adams from Oklahoma," Blatt said when asked to find an NBA comparison, via Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. "And he's certainly turned out to be a pretty fine player. That's the first guy that sort of jumps out at me when I think of a comparison."
Bleacher Report NBA Draft Expert Jonathan Wasserman
"NBA role is pretty clear. Physical presence, rim-runner, high-motor offensive rebounder. Soft hands, good instincts—will give the Cavs' guards a high-percentage target off rolls and dives. Not a ton of upside, but likely an energizer-enforcer role player."
Jose Calderon, PG, 35
Perhaps in desperation after Deron Williams' horrendous play in the NBA Finals, the Cavs pounced on Calderon well before agreeing to terms with Rose.
The 35-year-old is insurance at this point and should do nothing to move the needle either way for Cleveland. One has to hope that Felder will eventually beat him out for minutes, based off athleticism and quickness.
"Calderon will play over Felder because he's still able to get guys in sets, although he's starting to lose it. Over the last few years, he's lost a lot as far as speed and quickness goes and the ability to get by people.
"Defensively, he's really going to hurt you. Kay will too, but you could probably get a little more from him because he's quicker and will at least be able to stay in front of some people. Both options aren't great right now."
Jeff Green, 31, F
Green enjoyed his best years with the Boston Celtics under then-assistant coach Tyronn Lue, and he's still a capable defender when locked in. Cleveland needs someone—anyone—who can slow down Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson for stretches and give LeBron James a break. Green could be that guy.
After a terrible year with the Orlando Magic, Green this time chose winning over a fat check and could become a great bench piece for the Cavaliers and crack a playoff rotation.
"I think he's a major sleeper for the Cavs. Playing with LeBron will make him focus more, and he's still a very, very talented player. Now with the pressure on him and with him playing meaningful games all the time, I think he's going to step up.
"It's simple things, but all these guys with huge egos aren't used to being bossed around by a teammate or called out by a teammate. NBA players view that as a coach's job, but LeBron demands them to be this way. It worked with Kevin Love, so if it works with Jeff Green, you have got a steal there."
Jae Crowder, F, 27
In all of the worry about Isaiah Thomas' hip and the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected 2018 first-round pick, lost in the shuffle is just how well Crowder fits in with the Cavs.
He could easily be the first player off the bench, seeing time at both forward positions and bringing a defensive motor that not many Cavaliers (if any) carried with them last season.
Crowder gives the Cavs another body to throw at Kevin Durant in a Finals rematch. He's an upgrade over Richard Jefferson, who was Cleveland's best option for the job.
Expect to see a lot of LeBron James and Crowder together, as they can mix and match forward positions and defensive assignments as necessary. Owed just $22 million over the next three years, Crowder could be a crucial rotation piece at a bargain price for seasons to come.
"[Crowder's] a tough competitor and very solid two-way player. He can make spot three-pointers but not much off the bounce. His help will come mostly defensively when saving LeBron James from defending certain players."
Derrick Rose, PG, 28
When Isaiah Thomas can return to the court, keeping Rose in low-minute situations off the bench could be the best thing for his career.
The 28-year-old has averaged just 38 games over the past six years with knee injuries and topped out at 66 contests in 2015-16. In those years, however, the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks never let his minutes average drop below 30 per game, something the Cavs should now have the luxury of doing.
Rose will probably never become a three-point shooting threat (21.7 percent last season, 20.5 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts), but he has gotten smarter with his shot selection. He's decreased his three-point attempts from 5.3 a game in 2014-15 to just 0.9 last season, resulting in an overall shooting increase from 40.5 percent to 47.1.
While he's started all but one game in his career, Rose could now carve out a role as a top sixth man.
"Rose is the same guy he's been over the past few years. Still quick and explosive even though he's lost a few steps. With the knee injuries, I think it's mainly in his head at this point.
"He's not a strong three-point shooter or shooter in general. He will have to get to the rim and finish or set up teammates, which he's capable of doing. It also depends how much he trusts his knees to hold up."
Isaiah Thomas, PG, 28
On the surface, a 28-year-old second-team All-NBA point guard would be the crown jewel of the offseason acquisitions.
For the Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas now becomes the X-factor.
We don't know how bad his hip is, but it doesn't look good. According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, "If recovery from various hip ailments, including a bone bruise, does not proceed smoothly, there is at least a slight chance Thomas would miss most of the 2017-18 season."
This would be terrifying for the Cavs, as they'd be forced into a Derrick Rose-Jose Calderon combo to lead their floor-general depth chart, even if LeBron James does most of the ball-handling.
A healthy Thomas gives Cleveland one of the top offensive players in the league, assuming he can work his way back to that form in the one year remaining on his contract. Even if he doesn't, Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer notes the Cavs may not have even done this deal for Thomas as the primary target:
"Thomas' health is what held up the deal, but according to multiple league sources with knowledge of Cleveland's thought process, the unprotected Nets pick and Crowder were the pieces that Cleveland valued the most—those were the assets that got the deal done, not Thomas. The perception of the trade was that the Cavaliers and Celtics swapped franchise point guards, but for the Cleveland front office (and its owner), Thomas was the icing, not the cake."
With his defensive liabilities, Thomas isn't a good matchup against the Golden State Warriors, but the Cavs may need his impressive offense to have a chance at a second title in three years.
"I think Kyrie is better than [Thomas], but I don't think it's by a wide margin.
"[Like Kyrie], he can score in many ways. Has all the finishes at the rim, gets in the paint at will. He can break the defense down to set up teammates. Tough competitor. He'll still struggle defensively, mainly due to his size."