Central Notes: Wade, Jerome, Cavs, Nesmith, Middleton

After an injury-plagued 2022/23 season, Cavaliers forward Dean Wade is feeling healthy and confident entering ’23/24, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required). However, after the Cavs signed Georges Niang to a three-year, $25MM+ deal, Wade’s path to a rotation role is less clear than it was a year ago.

Still, Wade is happy to have Niang in Cleveland, referring to the veteran forward as “a difference-maker with his energy and how well he shoots the ball.” Wade is focusing on making his case this preseason for regular playing time. His performance in Thursday’s preseason game – 14 points and six rebounds while making 4-of-6 threes – was a step in the right direction.

“We’ve had a lot of love for Dean for a long time,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Dean has size. He has shot-making ability. He can guard multiple positions. He can move his feet, keep people in front of him and switch onto smaller guys. It’s our responsibility and his teammates’ responsibility to continue to foster his confidence. But he is an asset for us, and he is someone who can help us play the style we want to play.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a mailbag for Cleveland.com, Fedor takes a closer look at the Cavaliers‘ potential rotation, noting that the team views newcomer Ty Jerome as its backup point guard. Still, it’s unclear how much Jerome will play, Fedor notes, since Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert are also comfortable stepping in as primary ball-handlers when Darius Garland sits.
  • After spending significant time at power forward last season, Pacers wing Aaron Nesmith worked this offseason to tweak his game to prepare for a move to small forward, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required). “I knew I’d be playing a lot more three this year and there are minutes to be had,” Nesmith said. “The biggest difference is the ability to make those reads, to play above the break more, being able to get downhill and do those things. … It’s spacing and making the right reads and making life easier for others. Creating problems.”
  • Although forward Khris Middleton has been the Bucks‘ second offensive option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo for years, he’s happy to take a step back to allow recently acquired guard Damian Lillard to play the role he’s accustomed to, he tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “I mean, you’ve seen how good that guy is,” Middleton said of Lillard. “It would be selfish to try to compete with him for shots and touches when a guy like that wants to come and help us win. Everybody knows that I’m about winning, so I have no problems with putting my pride to the side, sacrificing a couple things for the team to succeed. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
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