Last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, and it looked like a solid get for a team that needed a few experienced players, especially at the point guard spot.
But Rubio suffered an ACL injury in December, ending his season, and he was traded to the Indiana Pacers shortly afterward in a deal that brought swingman Caris LeVert to Cleveland.
The Cavs fleeced the Pacers by eventually having Ricky Rubio, Caris LeVert, and Ochai Agbaji on the team. 😎 pic.twitter.com/v8k6Gbppe0
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationCP) July 8, 2022
LeVert didn’t play too well for the Cavs, averaging 13.6 points a game on 43.5 percent overall shooting and 31.3 percent from 3-point range.
He has one more year remaining on his contract at over $18 million, and there have been reports that the Cavs were looking to give him an extension.
However, unless LeVert greatly ups his performance, extending him would be a waste of money, as he simply hasn’t given the team what it needs.
LeVert Doesn’t Offer Much Value To The Cavs
The season before he arrived in Cleveland, LeVert put up 20.2 points and 5.2 assists per game, and the season before that he was at 18.7 points and 4.4 assists a game.
He was a significant part of a Brooklyn Nets team that was expected to contend for the NBA championship behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving until he was dealt midway through the 2020-21 season in the trade that landed the Nets James Harden.
One of LeVert’s problems has been his 3-point shooting accuracy, which has fluctuated over the years.
He shot a respectable 36.4 percent from beyond the arc in 2020, but that mark fell to 32.6 percent just the following year.
It was the only time in LeVert’s six-year pro career he shot above 35 percent from downtown.
The Cavs have a lack of above-average, let alone great 3-point shooters, and unless LeVert suddenly explodes in that department, he won’t be able to help them there.
It should be noted, however, that he played much better as a starter in 2022.
Caris LeVert stats off the bench in 2021-22:
Caris LeVert as a starter in 2021-22 with the Cavs:
15.8 PPG (+4.7 PPG)
4.2 REB (+1.8 REB)
4.6 AST (+1.4 AST)
47.3 FG% (+8.7 FG%) pic.twitter.com/f7tR7bhzpY
— 98 𝙙𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙚𝙭𝙩𝙤𝙣 (@HsgvensSon) July 6, 2022
Then there is LeVert’s defense, which leaves something to be desired.
Let’s let Josh Cornelissen of King James Gospel break down how bad LeVert was defensively this past season.
“In the 567 minutes that LeVert played in Cleveland the defense gave up an extra 7.5 points per 100 possessions,” wrote Cornelissen. “For reference, that was the difference between the No. 1-ranked defense (the Boston Celtics) and the 25th (Washington Wizards) this season. That insanely negative impact by LeVert ranked in the fifth percentile of all players; that is, only four percent of players were less damaging on that end than LeVert.
“We cited on the last slide that when LeVert and Garland shared the court the Cavs scored at a league-best rate; unfortunately, their shared defensive rating in such minutes was 116.0, which would have ranked 27th in the league, just ahead of the Indiana Pacers.
“LeVert gets caught on screens easily, he doesn’t generate many turnovers and he rarely succeeds in boxing out his man, especially when he is playing at the 3. He was barely an inconvenience to opposing scorers; when LeVert was the primary defender opponents shot 3.8 percent better than expected, overall hitting 50.5 percent of their shots against him.”
Overall, Cleveland finished seventh in defensive rating and fifth in points allowed, and it should have weak defenders such as LeVert playing significant minutes if it’s to return to the playoffs in 2023.
LeVert May Have Real Value To Cleveland In Another Way
Since he is going into the final year of his contract, LeVert could help the Cavs in an alternate way: by bringing back value in a trade.
Overall, he is a good player, and some teams could be enticed to trade for him, especially if he’s packaged with one or two other men of value.
If nothing else, LeVert’s expiring contract could be seen as valuable, as it could allow a team to trim salary by virtue of trading players with lengthier contracts for him.
The Cavs have a number of wings whose production leaves something to be desired, including Cedi Osman, Lauri Markannen and Dylan Windler, giving them something of a logjam at the position.