Following a disappointing 4-6 start, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a clear problem with bench depth. The Cavaliers bench ranks among the worst in the NBA offensively, sitting at 29th in offensive rating among reserve groups. Cleveland’s bench is currently scoring 28 points per game, which ranks 24th in the NBA.
Defensively, Cleveland’s bench is solid, ranking third across the NBA in defensive rating. The team as a whole though, still has given up 110 points or more in six of their 10 contests. Bench scoring and depth are clear problems for the Cavaliers. Last season the team’s lack of depth noticeably cost them in their playoff series versus the New York Knicks.
Outside of Caris LeVert, the Cavaliers are struggling to get consistent scoring out of their reserve unit. LeVert is currently boasting a league-best 19 points per game among reserve players. Cleveland’s next highest bench scorer is Isaac Okoro who sits at 9.5 points per game, almost 10 points per game less than LeVert.
If their bench is unable to get it going, the Cavaliers could look to free-agent help to bolster their reserve scoring ability. Let’s look at four possible free-agent targets for Cleveland’s bench:
Over the last several seasons, Cleveland has been linked to Terrence Ross free-agent and trade rumors numerous times. The Cavaliers have reportedly had interest in Ross for some time and could look to finally make a pursuit.
Ross, 32, appeared in 63 games last season, averaging a solid 8.3 points per game, shooting 38% from behind the arc. Terrence Ross last played for the Phoenix Suns and gave them valuable minutes off the bench down the stretch of the season.
Ross would fit Cleveland’s bench wonderfully, stepping in seamlessly as a catch-and-shoot threat with high defensive upside. Could this finally be the season Ross becomes a Cavalier?
Nerlens Noel has been around the Cavaliers’ rumor mill a couple times over recent seasons. Cleveland’s second group is in serious need of a strong paint presence.
Noel last played in Brooklyn for the Nets but saw very limited action down the stretch of last season. In his latest valuable role, Noel gave the Knicks very valuable minutes off the bench in 2021. The 29-year-old big man averaged 5.1 points and 6.4 rebounds serving as a key reserve for New York’s bench.
It has been some time since Nerlens Noel has seen a valuable role for a playoff-ready team but a signing to Cleveland could offer a career revival for the former lottery pick. Noel could offer the Cavaliers solid minutes as the team’s backup center.
Kevin Porter Jr.
Could we see a reunion in Cleveland? Kevin Porter Jr. was drafted by the Cavaliers in 2019, and showed tremendous promise as a rookie in Cleveland.
Porter Jr. was eventually cut following some locker room concerns before being signed to Houston, where he was a key starter for the Rockets for several seasons. In three seasons in Houston, Porter Jr. averaged an excellent 17.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Kevin Porter Jr. would see a reduced role from being a starter with a second stint with the Cavaliers. Cleveland has a set back court but a reduced role off the bench could see Porter Jr. regain interest from teams. A reunion with the Cavaliers could benefit both sides.
Will Barton would be an excellent match for the Cavaliers for a number of reasons. Barton has seen his role decrease exponentially over the last few seasons but his versatility could do wonders for Cleveland’s bench.
In his stretch in Denver, Barton was a key piece to numerous playoff-contending Nuggets teams. In eight seasons in Denver, Barton averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists, playing a number of roles for them. Barton saw time as a bench player and as a starter and was more than servicable in both roles.
Barton’s versatility and experience could do wonders for a young Cavaliers team. If Cleveland does decide to dip into free agency, expect Will Barton to be at the top of their list.
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