Caris LeVert

Central Notes: B. Lopez, LeVert, Hayes, Bulls

Bucks center Brook Lopez is in the final year of his contract, which pays him $13.9MM in 2022/23. He could become a free agent this summer, but don’t expect him to land with a new team anytime soon.

I think there’s a lot of motivation for both sides, both Brook Lopez and the Bucks, either to get an extension done during the season, or to sign a new deal in the offseason,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Countdown (video link). “Milwaukee wants Brook Lopez to finish his career there. He has loved playing there.”

In addition to leading the NBA in blocked shots per game (2.9), Lopez is also averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds with an excellent .502/.402/.800 shooting slash line through 20 games (31.1 minutes per night). He was limited to just 13 regular season games in ’21/22 due to a herniated disc which required surgery, but the 34-year-old certainly looks fully healthy again.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Like Lopez, Cavaliers wing Caris LeVert is also on an expiring contract ($18.8MM). Kelsey Russo of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at LeVert’s role with the Cavs, which has already changed multiple times about a quarter of the way through the season. The 28-year-old says it was his idea to become a reserve after opening the year as the starting small forward, and while it’s been challenging when combined with recovering from an ankle sprain, he says he’s doing it for the betterment of the team. “It’s a little difficult,” LeVert said. “But I’m someone who focuses on winning. I’ve made that the most important thing. It is what it is, especially when you talk about being in the NBA and being on a really good team. It takes sacrifice. I think a lot of people don’t really realize that when you’re talking about being a part of a special group. Everybody has to sacrifice a little bit. For me, that’s just what it is this season.”
  • As the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Killian Hayes faced high expectations entering the NBA. The Pistons guard has mostly struggled offensively during his first three seasons, but he’s played better of late starting in place of the injured Cade Cunningham, and Detroit’s patience with Hayes appears to be paying off, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Since he entered the starting lineup, Hayes is averaging 11.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals on .442/.400/.889 shooting in 11 games (29.5 MPG).
  • How can the 9-12 Bulls turn their season around? Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic tackles that topic, suggesting that more minutes for rookie first-rounder Dalen Terry would be a good place to start — he has only appeared in 10 games for a total of 33 minutes thus far in ’22/23.

Lamar Stevens Replacing Caris LeVert In Cavs’ Starting Lineup

Lamar Stevens is replacing Caris LeVert as the Cavaliers‘ starting small forward on Friday against the Hornets, according to Chris Fedor of, who hears from sources that the Cavs plan to use Stevens as a starter “for the foreseeable future.”

Stevens’ $1.8MM contract for 2022/23 is non-guaranteed and the Cavs hold a $1.9MM team option on the 25-year-old for ’23/24, while LeVert will be a free agent next summer.

Fedor writes that the move is being made in an effort to rediscover the team’s “lost defensive identity” amid a five-game losing streak. Stevens is a strong, tough and versatile defender, though he has offensive limitations — he has only made 25.3% of his career three-point attempts on low volume.

According to Fedor, forward Dean Wade would have been in contention for the starting small forward job, but he’s currently sidelined with right knee soreness. Friday marks his fourth straight missed game.

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said prior to Friday’s game that Wade’s knee was infected and he’s currently taking antibiotics to treat it, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Just kind of have to wait and let them set in and do their thing. He is progressing, but it’s not something you can control,” Bickerstaff said.

As Fedor notes, Stevens had only appeared in three of the Cavs’ first 12 games for a total of 23 minutes prior to starting in place of the injured Jarrett Allen the past couple games, but clearly Bickerstaff liked the energy Stevens brought. Allen will be back Friday, Fedor adds.

LeVert has mostly struggled since scoring a season-high 41 points against Boston on October 28, averaging just 10.3 points on .389/.281/.733 shooting over his past nine games (32.3 minutes), though he has chipped in 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per night over that span. Moving him to the bench will allow him more on-ball opportunities and let him play his more natural position of shooting guard, Fedor notes.

Cleveland holds an 8-6 record entering Friday’s home game versus Charlotte.

Cavaliers Notes: Mitchell, Knicks, LeVert, Garland

The Cavaliers knew they were getting a star when they traded for Donovan Mitchell, but so far he’s been better than anyone anticipated, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Mitchell had 38 points and a career-high 12 assists Sunday night as Cleveland won its fifth straight game, topping a Knicks team that spent much of the summer trying to acquire Mitchell from the Jazz. Even though he’s a three-time All-Star, Mitchell is exceeding expectations.

“We already had such a great group, but I think he just elevates us to another place,” Kevin Love said. “A guy that has experience, a guy that is a star in this league is playing some really great basketball right now. … We don’t see any signs of him slowing down.”

Through six games with the Cavs, Mitchell ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 32.2 PPG and is in the top 10 in assists at 7.3 per night. Both numbers would be career highs by a wide margin if he can sustain them for an entire season. Mitchell doesn’t feel like he’s a different player since the trade, but says he was often overlooked in Utah.

“We were in Mountain time. No one really watched us, so you kinda fall under the radar,” he said. “I feel like I’ve just been doing this nonstop, and I just continue to get better and more efficient. … I think this has been my best stretch in my career, but I gotta keep going.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Mitchell, who at one point during the offseason was convinced he was going to wind up in New York, told Steve Popper of Newsday that he wasn’t trying to deliver any kind of message to the Knicks in Sunday’s game. “It’s easy to point to the summer and say that [it was payback], but I’m pretty much friends with everybody on that team, so it’s always good to play against your guys and I have nothing but love for them,” Mitchell said.
  • Caris LeVert impressed Mitchell with his 41-point outburst in Friday’s win at Boston, per Chris Fedor of LeVert won the competition for the starting small forward slot, but is currently being used at shooting guard while Darius Garland is sidelined with an eye injury. “I played against Caris in Brooklyn and nothing against him last year, he had the injuries, but I think this is the Caris we all know,” Mitchell said. “He looks healthy and looks different. He was due. He’s been an animal. He led us by example.”
  • Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the swelling in Garland’s eye has gone down and the team is waiting for him to become more comfortable with his vision, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.

Central Notes: Okoro, Bogdanovic, Pistons, LaVine, DeRozan

Isaac Okoro‘s stint as a starter for the Cavaliers in the absence of Darius Garland was short-lived. After starting the team’s second and third games of the season, Okoro was moved back to the bench for games four and five, with Dean Wade joining Caris LeVert, Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley in the starting five.

Given that the Cavaliers spent much of last season starting three big men, Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter link) wonders if the team could go back to that look even after Garland returns, keeping Wade in the starting five in place of LeVert. However, Chris Fedor of (Twitter link) said he wouldn’t count on that, even before LeVert went off for 41 points in Boston on Friday night.

Okoro’s role, meanwhile, will be worth keeping an eye on. The former fifth overall pick has struggled so far this season, recording more fouls (11) than points (8). He played just five minutes in the Cavaliers’ dramatic overtime win in Boston on Friday.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Pistons are tied for last place in the East with a 1-5 record, but they’ve gotten all they hoped for so far from Bojan Bogdanovic, who has been a leader both on and off the court, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The veteran forward is averaging a team-high 23.0 PPG with a scorching-hot .517/.511/.923 shooting line through six games.“He’s very knowledgable about the game, and he shares his knowledge,” Cade Cunningham said of his new teammate. “He doesn’t hold it to himself. He makes sure that all of us are on the same page. He talks to us a lot. It’s fun to play with a guy like that, one who has a high IQ and cares about winning.”
  • Sopan Deb of The New York Times takes a broad look at the Pistons‘ rebuilding process, or what general manager Troy Weaver calls a “restoration.” As Deb writes, the team is laying promising groundwork, but still has a ways to go before becoming a contender. “Every morning, you want to drink a cup of urgency, and at night you want to drink a cup of patience,” Weaver said. “You’ve got to let it organically happen. And I think a lot of teams, they shortcut the process. They get impatient with process. We won’t do that.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine missed his third game of the season on Friday due to “management” of his surgically repaired left knee, but intends to play on Saturday, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. As Cowley relays, head coach Billy Donovan said on Friday that Chicago’s medical staff seems to be getting a better grasp of LaVine’s situation and how to handle it.
  • The Bulls‘ loss to San Antonio on Friday was a disappointing one, but DeMar DeRozan reached an impressive milestone in the game, recording his 20,000th career point, notes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Caris LeVert Lands Cavs’ Starting Small Forward Job

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

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.

Central Notes: Bulls, Mobley, Cavs, Diakite, Pacers

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan says he’s still tinkering with different lineup combinations and hasn’t decided which player will start at power forward, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Certainly, the rest of this week and going into next week, we’ll do that,” Donovan said when he was asked about experimenting with different looks and combinations.

Cowley writes that the Bulls are trying to determine whether Patrick Williams‘ development would be aided more by starting or coming off the bench. Javonte Green is his primary competition for the starting job.

Donovan has said “several times” during training camp that the power forward spot could fluctuate during the season, and it’s not clear if he’s prioritizing performance or matchups, according to Cowley.

2022/23 will be an important season for both players. Williams will be eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer after the Bulls exercised his fourth-year option, while Green will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers rested several key players in Friday’s 114-108 loss to Orlando, but Evan Mobley looked good, and more importantly healthy, in his preseason debut after dealing with a sprained right ankle, writes Chris Fedor of Last season’s Rookie of the Year runner-up will be a huge piece of the puzzle for the Cavs if they hope to return to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
  • Both Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert made a strong case for the Cavaliers‘ starting small forward job in the loss to the Magic, Fedor adds in the same piece. Okoro finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and added three rebounds, while LeVert had 15 points (on 5-of-12 shooting), four rebounds, three assists and four steals.
  • The Cavaliers preferred to keep their 15th standard roster spot open to maintain flexibility, but Fedor wonders (via Twitter) if Mamadi Diakite might be forcing their hand after a strong preseason performance. According to Fedor, Diakite has intrigued with his mix of activity, energy and productivity. He’s on a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 deal after playing for the Bucks and Thunder the past two seasons.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic previews the Pacers, projecting them to finish with a 27-55 record, 14th in the Eastern Conference. Though he expects them to be bad, Hollinger thinks the Pacers will be entertaining to watch and notes that they have a lot of interesting decisions to make, including potentially dealing away veterans and exploring ways to utilize their $29MM in cap space.

Central Notes: LeVert, Bagley, McGruder, Dragic

The Cavaliers haven’t decided on their starting small forward, but Caris LeVert appears to be the favorite to win the job, according to Chris Fedor of LeVert has put together a strong preseason, and he gives Cleveland a third dynamic scorer to team with Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.

“He’s been as selfless as you can imagine, just trying to make it work,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of LeVert. “Sometimes to a point where we want to push him to do more, and that’s going to be a matter of time. When you’re playing with Donovan and Darius, he understands that he’s going to do more facilitating at times, but he also is going to recognize that we want him to play to his strength.”

When training camp began, Bickerstaff said six players had a chance to claim the final starting spot. Dylan Windler has been out for the past week with an ankle injury, Lamar Stevens hasn’t played much in the preseason and Cedi Osman is struggling with his shot. Fedor believes the battle is down to three players, with Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro as LeVert’s main competitors.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • After a disappointing start to his career in Sacramento, Marvin Bagley III welcomed a second chance with the Pistons. In an interview with Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype, Bagley talked about the trade that sent him to Detroit and the new contract he signed this summer. “I came in with an open mind. I didn’t know what to expect when I got traded here,” he said. “When I got here, I played my game and was able to be myself. Coach (Dwane) Casey helped me out a lot. The guys on the team welcomed me when I got here. I feel like I caught up pretty quickly and was able to go out, play and be a part of the games towards the end of the year. To start off the season with the team and go through a full training camp is exciting.”
  • Rodney McGruder is enjoying his role as a veteran leader on a young Pistons team, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News. That role factored into Detroit’s decision to re-sign the 31-year-old guard, Curtis adds.
  • At 36, Goran Dragic is savoring the latter part of his time in the NBA, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “This means I just want to enjoy basketball,” said Dragic, who signed with the Bulls in August. “I’m probably close to the end of my career. I just want to enjoy it and win games. I think this is a really awesome group that I’m a part of. Everybody is such a nice guy and having fun. And of course, now it’s all on us to start winning and it’s going to be much easier.”

Central Notes: LeVert, Pangos, LaVine, Terry, Bone

Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert knows he has to play strong defense to win the starting small forward job, per Chris Fedor of LeVert isn’t known as a strong defender, but it will be required of him due to the team’s defensive identity.

That’ll definitely be something I’m gonna have to lock in on. I have been locked in on it for the past couple of weeks, just knowing that I’m gonna have a big assignment every night on that end of the floor,” LeVert said following practice on Thursday afternoon. “It’s something I look forward to and it’s something I like doing.”

LeVert started Cleveland’s first preseason game, posting seven points (3-of-5 shooting) and three assists in 14 minutes against Philadelphia. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff says he likes what he saw out of the 28-year-old, Fedor notes.

I think he’s a threat,” Bickerstaff said. “You watch the way that teams play him, and people respect him because of his ability to score. He didn’t get a lot of looks early, but that didn’t stop him from making unselfish moves and unselfish plays. I think he finished with like three assists and could have like five or six if guys would have made the shot. I think from that standpoint, offensively, he did a really good job of fitting in, and still we’re learning where he can find his moments to attack. Then defensively I thought he did a great job. I thought he was active. He was in the right spots. He put pressure on the offense.”

LeVert’s $18.8MM contract will expire at the end of the 2022/23 season, so he’ll be a free agent next summer unless he signs an extension.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Even though he struggled in his first NBA foray after a long and very successful career in Europe, Kevin Pangos has nothing but good things to say about his time with the Cavaliers in ’21/22, writes Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. “It was awesome, I really enjoyed it. I loved my time in Cleveland, the organization was great, and the team and players were awesome. I learned a ton. I’m happy to be here now this year and play for Milan,” Pangos said. The 29-year-old appeared in 24 games with Cleveland last season, averaging just 6.9 minutes per contest. He signed a two-year contract with Italian club Olimpia Milano as a free agent this offseason.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan says he hasn’t noticed a change in Zach LaVine‘s behavior after he signed a five-year, $215MM contract as a free agent this summer, calling him “a really grounded guy,” according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. However, Donovan says LaVine’s knee injury limited him on defense last season, and says “there’s another level he needs to get to” on that end of the court, per Cowley.
  • Donovan likes Dalen Terry‘s energy and competitiveness, but he’s not sure if he’ll have a spot in the Bulls‘ rotation, Cowley adds in the same piece. Donovan didn’t hesitate to play rookie second-rounder Ayo Dosunmu last season, so he seems to be quite fair about allotting minutes based on merit rather using a prescribed rotation, so Terry, Chicago’s first-round pick this year, could have a chance at playing time if he performs well.
  • The Bucks‘ G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, recently acquired the returning player rights to Jordan Bone from the Delaware Blue Coats in exchange for the rights to Rayjon Tucker. Our JD Shaw was the first to break the news (via Twitter). The 57th pick of the 2019 draft, Bone played 24 NBA games on two-way deals with the Pistons and Magic from 2019-21. He spent last season in Spain and Turkey.

Cavs Notes: Mitchell, Garland, Small Forward, Okoro

New Cavaliers backcourt mates Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland showed off instant chemistry in their first game together on Wednesday, writes Chris Fedor of

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game that he wanted the two guards to look for their opportunities in the flow of the offense instead of taking a “your turn, my turn” approach, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN, and Bickerstaff was pleased with what he saw vs. Philadelphia.

“I thought it was pretty seamless the way they played together, the way that the ball moved and everybody got involved,” Bickerstaff said, per Fedor. “As long as we play in the same style we want to play where it isn’t just based on one guy, but it’s based on the team, I think it’s gonna work out well for us.”

While more time will likely be required to ensure that the two high-scoring guards are firing on all cylinders, Mitchell was pleasantly surprised with how quickly he and Garland meshed.

“I think we did a lot of things well,” Mitchell said. “You walk up the floor and it’s like, ‘He’s got it.’ But it’s not like, ‘He’s got it in isolation.’ It’s like, ‘He’s got it, make a play, create.’ I said in the locker room, we really didn’t call a lot of plays in the first half and it just speaks to our ball movement, playing together and trusting each other. It looked better than I anticipated.”

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Caris LeVert got the first chance on Thursday to start at small forward alongside Mitchell, Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, but the team is still evaluating which player will be the best fit at the three, as Bontemps outlines in an ESPN story. Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro are among Cleveland’s other possible options at small forward. “It’s just going to be truly about the fit, and that’s going to be who makes those four guys better,” Bickerstaff said. “Who helps them on the offensive end of the floor? Who helps them on the defensive end of the floor? Who can protect guys in certain situations defensively? How does it help our matchups? Offensively, how does it help us space the floor? Those are all things we’re taking into consideration.”
  • Okoro spent the offseason focusing on his ball-handling, shooting, and finishing around the basket, as the defensive stalwart aims to become a more complete offensive player, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic believes the Cavaliers may still be one year away from taking a big jump forward, but believes they’re capable of another step in the right direction in 2022/23, projecting a 47-35 record and a sixth-place finish in the East.

Cavs Notes: Mobley, LeVert, Mitchell, Wade, Gibson

The Cavaliers will open the season with three 2022 All-Stars – Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Darius Garland – on their roster, but it’s a fourth player who may ultimately determine how far the team goes, in the view of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

As Kelsey Russo of The Athletic details (via Twitter), Bickerstaff identifies second-year big man Evan Mobley as a crucial ceiling raiser for the franchise. As Bickerstaff explains, among the Cavaliers’ core players, Mobley is the one who still has the most room for growth.

“Without trying to put too much on him, he is the guy who can help take us to the next level,” Bickerstaff said. “We understand the value of the guys who have done it, right? Darius has been an All-Star. Jarrett was an All-Star. Donovan has been an All-Star. (Caris) LeVert, Kevin (Love), like we understand and have an appreciation for those guys.

“… His skill set and tools can help take us to the level where we want to go. And the expectation that it happens overnight, probably not. But I expect from year to year, and month to month, you’re going to see improvements from him because that’s who he is.”

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Caris LeVert feels as good as he has in years, following a “transformative” summer that saw him reevaluate everything from his diet to his workout regimen, per Chris Fedor of LeVert said he battled some nagging injuries last season and during the summer, but finally feels fully healthy entering the fall. As Russo writes for The Athletic, LeVert wants to prove to the Cavs that his down year in 2021/22 was a fluke.
  • Improved conditioning and an attention to detail are keys for Donovan Mitchell as he attempts to show this season that he can be a reliable defensive player, Russo writes in a separate story for The Athletic. “It’s not the ability,” Mitchell said this week. “I can play defense. I know that for a fact. I haven’t shown that and that is what I’m looking forward to doing here.”
  • Dean Wade‘s three-year, $18.5MM contract extension features cap hits of $5,709,877 in 2023/24, $6,166,667 in ’24/25, and $6,623,456 in ’25/26, Hoops Rumors has learned. Wade’s third-year salary is currently only partially guaranteed for $4,623,458, but that figure will increase if Wade meets certain performance-based criteria in the next three seasons — he can boost the third-year guarantee by up to $666,666 per year, based on three separate achievements worth $222,222 apiece.
  • Former Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson will be working this season with the Cleveland Charge, the team’s G League affiliate, tweets Chris Fedor of Gibson’s exact title and role are unclear.