Cavaliers become less gun-shy, add shooting early into free agency

Perimeter shooting is something the Cavaliers needed to add this offseason. They got exactly that in Georges Niang and Max Strus.
shooting cavaliers niang strus
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 08: Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball against Georges Niang #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center on May 8, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Heat 116-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

During his exit interview, Cleveland Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman continuously hammered home that the team needed to add size and three-point shooting this offseason. After losing Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji and Collin Sexton, all shooters, to acquire Donovan Mitchell, shooting was an Achilles heel for a Cleveland team that liked to play a more antiquated, bigger style of basketball. Sure, that style works on the defensive side of the ball since the Cavaliers were the best defensive team in the NBA. But Cleveland needed a splash of modernity from the perimeter to have things flow properly on offense.

In their first offseason move, the Cavaliers came to terms with in-house free agent Caris LeVert to keep him in Cleveland. After that, the Cavaliers went shopping for shooting, coming to terms with free agents Georges Niang (three years, $26 million) and Max Strus (four years, $63 million) shouldn’t surprise many. Outside of Kyle Kuzma and Austin Reaves, both Niang and Strus were the best-available options for Cleveland to bolster their perimeter attack. Last season, Niang connected on a scintillating 40.1% of his nearly 5.0 three-point attempts per game for the Philadelphia 76ers. Strus meanwhile, hit 35.0% on a staggering 7.0 three-point attempts per game with the Miami Heat, which was tied for the twenty-sixth-most in the NBA.

Last season, Niang connected on 154 three-pointers while Strus hit 197 shots from beyond the arc. When comparing it to how the Cavaliers fared last year, Strus would have made the second-most three-pointers for Cleveland, only behind Donovan Mitchell (245), while Niang would have made the fourth-most, just behind Darius Garland (169). On paper, the Cavaliers are a lot less gun-shy compared to the slightly above-average percentage they finished with last season. After showing flashes of becoming the NBA’s most-complete team on either end of the floor last season, Cleveland has the components to make it a reality.

Of course, it’ll take time for things to click for these new additions, but thankfully, they’re roleplayers and won’t require much maintenance. Thankfully, Niang did play with Mitchell for three seasons with the Utah Jazz so there’s already some on-court familiarity. Strus and Niang should be consistent members of the rotation but now will give head coach J.B. Bickerstaff more fluidity from a rotational standpoint. Niang can slide between small forward and power forward, giving spacing for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to work down low. Strus, meanwhile, can float around on the rotation and act as a safety valve for Mitchell and Garland. If opposing defenses turn up perimeter pressure on either, Strus can be the one that flips the defensive script.

Clearly, Niang and Strus will help unlock things on offense for the Cavaliers. But what else do they bring to the table individually besides perimeter scoring? Considering that the money spent to acquire Strus matched what Right Down Euclid reported Friday, resulting in a sign and trade, what else does either bring to the table to mitigate some of what Cleveland lost? Thankfully, the Cavaliers only had to give up Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens to acquire Strus. In their time with Cleveland Osman was a streaky shooter and a defensive liability while Stevens wasn’t a perimeter threat and a stout defender. But the Cavaliers are still a somewhat imperfect team who needs to patch a few more holes on their roster.

MIAMI, FL – JUNE 7: Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat celebrates a three point basket during Game Three of the 2023 NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets on June 7, 2023 at Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, those holes might not be patched by their new acquisitions. Besides shooting, there’s not much that either Niang or Strus bring to the table. Sure, Niang is a bigger body that can help slow down teams like the New York Knicks from crashing the glass whenever they want. But, with a career average of 2.1 rebounds per game, Niang isn’t going to be an immovable object most nights either. The same can be said for Strus, who is slightly better than Niang, averaging 2.7 rebounds per game in his career. It’s also worth noting that neither player is known for their stout defense, which seems like a trend away from what they’re typically used to for a team like the Cavaliers.

But again, Niang and Strus aren’t superstars for Cleveland – they’re roleplayers being brought in to support the existing star power. For a team that needs a touch of modernity within their offense, the Cavaliers sacrificed one defensive leader in Stevens to acquire perimeter shooting. The move won’t shake up Cleveland’s core identity too much, and since Niang and Strus are roleplayers, the acquisition won’t rock the boat on either end of the floor.

As things advance, there are still some moves that the Cavaliers can still make. They currently have ten players under contract and have $4.1 million remaining in their mid-level exception and their $4.5M bi-annual exception to work with. Despite yesterday’s flurry of transactions, Mason Plumlee is still available and could slot into one of Cleveland’s remaining exceptions. There’s also veteran guard Eric Gordon still available, a player the Cavaliers are monitoring, according to Action Network’s Matt Moore.

Cleveland still has plenty of time to address the rest of it all. But they did stick to Altman’s message of adding shooting to their rotation and clearly made it a priority in the opening moments of the offseason. Adding reliable perimeter shooting will do wonders for the Cavaliers from now on, and it’ll be interesting to see what other moves Altman and his staff have lined up. Considering that they have some financial options to work with, along with some trade pieces in Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade and Ricky Rubio on their roster, don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last we hear from the wheeling and dealing Cavaliers.

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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