Cavs projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 season

Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Max Strus (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Max Strus (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Cavaliers starting small forward: Max Strus

The Cavs addressed a sizable area of need with Max Strus. A, he’s a volume 3-point shooter. The Cavs’ 3-point shooting outside of the Mitchell-Garland-LeVert triumvirate last season was less than desirable. B, Strus is a proven postseason performer. Not the highest bar necessarily, but the Cavs had roughly four playable players in the Knicks series. Strus immediately becomes the fifth.

At 6-foot-5, Strus is a bit small for this role — especially when factoring in the undersized nature of the backcourt. That said, the Cavs have two of the most all-consuming defensive bigs in the NBA. Allen and Mobley can cover more ground than most frontcourts on defense. Meanwhile, Strus’ offensive contributions will be invaluable.

The regular season numbers with Miami last season weren’t anything to write home about — Strus averaged 11.2 points on .410/.350/.876 splits in 28.4 minutes — but as with any shooter, perception and volume matters more than percentage. Strus moves constantly and he draws the defense’s attention behind the 3-point line. He averaged 7.0 attempts per game from deep and the Cavs will benefit from the frequency of his jumper as much as anything else.

Defensively, Strus is positionally solid. He’s not going to provide a ton of versatility but he’s strong enough to battle most wings and he operates well within a team context. What he lacks in elite athleticism, Strus makes up for with I.Q. and old-fashioned #HeatCulture toughness. He was exceptional during Miami’s Finals run and Cleveland will hope he can unlock some of the same magic in Northern Ohio.

Primary backup small forward: Isaac Okoro

Isaac Okoro still has a strong case to start, as he did for much of last season. The former No. 5 pick was the closest to a reliable rotation wing that Cleveland could muster in the playoffs, with the exception of a couple red-hot LeVert games. The major drawback with Okoro is his lack of a jumper, but he’s Cleveland’s best perimeter defender and he will demand significant playing time accordingly.

The Auburn product can bottle up ball-handlers with his 6-foot-8 wingspan or absorb blows to the chest with his strong 225-pound frame. He’s the only player on Cleveland’s roster truly equipped to defend the NBA’s top wings. He also shot 36.3 percent from deep last season. The jumper isn’t completely unworkable — it’s now a matter of increasing his volume from 2.3 attempts per game.

Other players who could receive minutes at small forward: Caris LeVert, Georges Niang