Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert has won the competition for the team’s starting small forward job and is slated to remain a starter for the “foreseeable future,” sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
Third-year wing Isaac Okoro and fourth-year forward Dean Wade were LeVert’s primary competition for the role, according to Fedor, who notes that Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens and oft-injured Dylan Windler were also vying for the job.
The Cavs think LeVert brings the best blend of offense and defense to complement their young core starters in Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Fedor writes that LeVert had a “transformative offseason” as far as conditioning goes, giving him a leg up on the competition.
According to Fedor, the Cavs also “strongly believe” that LeVert, who’s not known for his defense, is capable of defending the top perimeter scorer on rival teams. LeVert has mostly played shooting guard in the past, but has also played some point guard and small forward.
There was some concern that Okoro, who also had a strong offseason and reworked his shot, wouldn’t be enough of an offensive threat, and the hope is that he’ll play with more freedom as a reserve, Fedor adds. LeVert’s ability to break down defenses could make life easier for Garland and Mitchell, though his shooting is a little shaky.
Wade, who suffered a sprained right ankle during preseason, says he’s recovered from the injury and ready to play in tonight’s season opener at Toronto, Fedor tweets. Wade signed a three-year, $18.5MM extension last month to remain with the Cavs until 2026.
Cleveland acquired LeVert from Indiana in February ahead of the trade deadline, giving up a lottery-protected first-rounder (it didn’t convey in 2022 and is still lottery-protected this season) and swapping an early second-round pick (used on Andrew Nembhard) for a late one (the Cavs selected Luke Travers, who’s being stashed in Australia). The Cavs also gave up Utah’s 2027 second-rounder in the deal.
2022/23 is a big season for both LeVert and Okoro. LeVert is in the final year of his contract and will be extension-eligible until the end of the league year, while Okoro is eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer.