Other than Luke Kornet and Justin Anderson, who can the Cavaliers sign under the NBA's new hardship exception?

Cleveland is required to add three players to their roster due to multiple players sidelined due to the league's health and safety protocols.

To receive my articles directly via email, please subscribe. Like what you're reading? Please share Right Down Euclid with your friends!

With a rampant increase in COVID-19 cases around the league, the NBA said in a memo to teams that it will allow them to sign one replacement player for each player under contract who tests positive. The memo also stated that two-way players, who initially had a 50-game limit, will also now have no limit on the number of games they can compete in. This new rule is effective immediately through January 19 but, according to league sources, will likely be extended as the omicron variant continues to grow stronger.

The memo also informed teams that they will now be required to sign one replacement player when they have two positive tests on the roster, two replacement signings required for three positive tests and three replacement players for four or more positive tests. The salary of each replacement player signed via COVID-19 hardship will be excluded from a team's salary cap and luxury tax threshold as well.

This is a dramatic shift from typical hardship exceptions granted by the NBA. The original hardship exception is a temporary roster spot that must be granted by the league. It allows a team to exceed the 15-man maximum roster when it has at least four players who are sick or injured for longer than two weeks. Each of the four sick or injured players must miss at least three consecutive games during their two-week absence. An independent physician, not the team’s doctor, must decide whether each player is required to miss two weeks.

The newly-formed hardship exception is more streamlined with COVID-19 in mind. Players who test positive cannot return to practice until they either wait ten days or have two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart. This is helpful for a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have seven players currently sidelined due to the league's health and safety protocols. COVID-19 running rampant through Cleveland's roster is why the league had to postpone their game on Sunday in Atlanta against the Hawks.

Technically, the Cavaliers could have played due to having the minimum amount of players required. But, this is the likely rotation Cleveland would have trotted out against Atlanta:

  • Darius Garland, Kevin Pangos
  • Ricky Rubio, Cedi Osman
  • Lauri Markkanen
  • Dean Wade, Kevin Love
  • Ed Davis

Again, technically, the Cavaliers could have played against the Hawks. But, it would have been at a severe competitive disadvantage. That, and with the disease currently running rampant through the team, they also could be at risk of spreading the virus to Atlanta as well. So, it's for the best that the league postponed this game.

It's also in Cleveland's favor that the league introduced a new hardship exception immediately as well. According to sources, the Cavaliers plan on signing G Leaguers Luke Kornet from the Maine Celtics and Justin Anderson from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants under the new policy. Kornet, a 7-2 big man who went undrafted in 2017, is averaging 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.6 blocks this season for the Celtics. Anderson, a 6-6 wing who went in the first round in 2015, meanwhile, is averaging 14.3 points, 6.5, 2.9 assists and 1.0 steals per game for the Mad Ants this season.

Kornet gives some depth for Cleveland at the five behind Davis and possibly Markkanen. He can also possibly allow head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to play big with the former Commodore's ability to take, and make, three-pointers as well as some tertiary playmaking. With Anderson, the Cavaliers are able to get some much-needed depth on the perimeter. Seriously. A lot of it comes from beyond the arc with Anderson providing some perimeter scoring and perimeter defense as well as some relief for Osman too.

Enjoying what you're reading? Don't forget to subscribe to Right Down Euclid, where we're changing the way that Cleveland sports, news, entertainment, and culture are covered forever.

South Bay Lakers guard Mason Jones, who is averaging 7.3 assists per game this season, could be a final hardship exception option for the Cavaliers.

But, Cleveland still is required to sign one more player due to the league's new hardship exception rules. With depth in the middle and on the perimeter covered, perhaps the Cavaliers look at some depth behind Garland and Rubio? Sure, Pangos can provide serviceable minutes in bursts but he also isn't physically equipped to be the primary guard off the bench as well. That's why Cleveland should look to find more depth at the guard position.

Unfortunately, Saben Lee, arguably the G League's best overall point guard is signed exclusively with the Detroit Pistons. But, that doesn't mean everything is lost for the Cavaliers either. Mason Jones, who is averaging 18.2 points and 7.3 assists this season for the South Bay Lakers, could be a place to start. Jones is a big-bodied guard that can provide a combination of defense, scoring and playmaking off the bench for Cleveland.

For what it's worth Jones was the SEC co-player of the year for the 2019-20 season. He averaged 22.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the Arkansas Razorbacks and was a first-team all-conference selection and the league’s only player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. But, if Jones doesn't pique Cleveland's fancy, or he's signed by another team, there are plenty of other options as well.

There's West Chester Knicks star Brandon Goodwin, who is a bit on the smaller side but is leading the G League in playmaking with 7.9 assists per game. Speaking of smaller guards, there's also Motor City Cruise point guard Derrick Walton Jr. – who is averaging 13.8 points and 7.5 assists per game this year. Finally, if they want a guard in a similar vein to Pangos there's also Fort Wayne guard Keifer Sykes, who is averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 assists per game for the Mad Ants this season.

If none of these options make sense for the Cavaliers in the short term, they could always go with players the organization is more familiar with. Former Cleveland guard Brandon Knight, who is averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.2 steals for the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season could be an option. Ditto for former Cavaliers guard Nik Stauskas, who is ninth in the G League in scoring at 18.1 points per game for the Grand Rapids Gold. Finally, Cleveland could always take another stab at Kyle Guy, who was on the team's training camp roster this year and eventually joined the Cleveland Charge.

Clearly, there is talent available for the Cavaliers at the G League level to help maintain some semblance of normalcy as coronavirus runs its course on the roster. Once the new year begins in a few weeks, this will all feel like a distant memory and the team can go back to winning. But, until then, Cleveland needs to finalize and figure out who they sign to their final require roster spot so that they can get back to their winning ways.

If you missed any of this week's stories, be sure to subscribe to Right Down Euclid so you know right away when they publish! It's always free and just requires your Facebook account or email address. Premium subscribers get certain, exclusive benefits and perks as well!

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top