Cavaliers Notes: LeVert, Roster Depth, Altman

Every game is meaningful for Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert since his recovery from kidney cancer surgery in 2021, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LeVert’s condition was discovered during a physical after he was sent from Brooklyn to Indiana in a four-team trade. An MRI on his lower back revealed a small mass on his left kidney, and after undergoing an operation to treat a renal cell carcinoma, he was able to return before the end of the season.

“Obviously, I’m grateful to still be playing basketball, to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “It was something that was super unexpected. It just gave me perspective as to how lucky I am to be doing this for a living.”

LeVert has been able to continue his career since the cancer scare, but he says hydration is more important than ever. He’s playing a valuable role for Cleveland, where he’s a candidate for Sixth Man honors, averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 63 games.

“He’s been extremely important to us because of his versatility, his willingness to sacrifice and come off the bench because he’s an NBA starter,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It changes the dynamic of what we’re able to do with our second unit. His minutes versus second-unit guys typically gives us an advantage. He’s bought into being our best one-on-one defensive player. So, he helps us finish games because we can put him in and he can play both defensive and offensive lineups.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers have a much deeper roster this season, which is why they were able to post a 17-1 stretch despite injuries to Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, notes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Additions such as Max Strus and Georges Niang provide more options than the team had when it got bounced in the first round last year. “You can never have too much talent, but I will say this: I think it’s a testament to our depth,” general manager Koby Altman said. “We knew last summer we would have to make ourselves deeper, making ourselves more explosive, diversifying our offense.”
  • The Cavs may reexamine everything if they lose in the first round again, but otherwise there’s no reason to believe Altman’s job is in jeopardy, Chris Fedor of states in a mailbag column (subscription required). Fedor argues that the team has overachieved this season considering that virtually every key player has missed time with injuries. He cites the additions of Strus and Niang, the finding of undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. and the recent signing of veteran forward Marcus Morris as positive moves by Altman.
  • Cleveland has to be ready for opponents blitzing Garland and Donovan Mitchell to force the ball out of their hands, Fedor adds in a separate story. That means other players have to be ready to exploit the advantages created by double teaming the ball-handler. “We try to take the play that is there,” Bickerstaff said. “We have enough talent on this team that if we just make the simple play then defenses are going to have to make tough choices. They came out and they were ‘hotting’ us or ‘trapping’ us in the pick and roll, so the play was to get it to the big and let the big do his thing. Our bigs are elite when they catch the ball in the pocket and are capable of making all the plays.”
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