The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to have a strong team this season, and if they aren’t legitimate contenders for the NBA championship, they will at least be a very exciting team.
But the million-dollar question throughout Northeast Ohio is who will start at the 3.
As of now, it looks like LeVert may have the inside track toward winning that spot.
“While Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has about two weeks to decide on his fifth starter for this upcoming season, swingman Caris LeVert will get the first shot,” Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor wrote.
In the Cavs’ first preseason game, which took place on Oct. 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers, LeVert did indeed get the start at the small forward spot, and he did reasonably well, scoring seven points in 14 minutes on 3-of-5 shooting and 1-of-2 from 3-point range.
Through one half of preseason play, Caris LeVert is giving you a lot of what you want out of your starting small forward for this #Cavs squad.
— Evan Dammarell (@AmNotEvan) October 6, 2022
Although the Cavs need accurate shooting, especially from downtown, it’s another facet of the game that LeVert says he’s especially focused on.
LeVert Wants To Become A Defensive Stopper
One of the reasons Cleveland overachieved last season and came within minutes of earning a playoff spot was its defense.
It ranked seventh in defensive rating, which was quite an accomplishment for such a young team.
LeVert says he wants to do his part to help the team maintain its defensive prowess.
“I have been locked in on it for the past couple of weeks, just knowing that I’m gonna have a big assignment every night on that end of the floor,” LeVert said of playing defense following practice on Thursday afternoon. “It’s something I look forward to and it’s something I like doing.”
Throughout his career, he has not been known as a good defender, and in fact, the Cavs were better off defensively without him last season.
When LeVert was on the floor, they had a defensive rating of 118.5, but without him, that stat improved to 112.0.
When one looks at the sheer number of star and superstar wings in the NBA, or just in the Eastern Conference, it becomes beyond obvious how much the Cavs could use a strong defender at the 3.
If they’re to reach the NBA Finals and have a real shot at the world title any time soon, they will have to deal with men such as Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and possibly even LeBron James.
Cleveland cannot simply rely on the outstanding shot blocking and rim protection of Mobley and Allen – it needs someone who can match up with these elite players and prevent them from getting into the rim or to the rim in the first place.
Can LeVert Improve His 3-Point Shooting As Well?
As lackluster as his defense has been, LeVert has also been an inconsistent outside shooter.
He shot only 32.0 percent from beyond the arc in the 2021-22 season, and in his six seasons in the league, only once has he made more than 35 percent of his treys for an entire campaign.
Last year, the Cavs were 15th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, and they had only three regular rotation players who shot at least 36 percent from downtown.
It looks like the team wants LeVert to play more off the ball this season, and he feels that could boost his 3-point shooting accuracy.
— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) September 29, 2022
At this point, some would say Okoro is a better candidate for the starting small forward spot, but assuming head coach J.B. Bickerstaff gives everyone a fair shot at that spot, LeVert could earn it by having a career-best effort.