Isaac Okoro

Cavaliers Eyeing Tim Hardaway Jr.

The Cavaliers have interest in Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr., Chris Fedor of said during an appearance on Jake Fischer’s Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast. Fedor identified Hardaway as a possible target for Cleveland after Fischer discussed the team’s interest in Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic.

“I would add another name,” Fedor said (hat tip to HoopsHype). “The Cavs believe this player is available, and my sources tell me that he could be had. It’s, again, at the right price. And it’s a little bit tricky, because he’s on a team that’s fourth place currently in the Western Conference.

“Tim Hardaway Jr. is somebody that the Cavs have been watching and they’ve been keeping an eye on. And I think if the Cavs had their choice, it would be very, very close. And they’re not going to have their choice, it doesn’t work that way, but if they had their choice, it would be between Bojan and Tim Hardaway Jr.”

The Cavaliers have two All-Stars (Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell) in their backcourt, with All-Star center Jarrett Allen and last year’s No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley up front. The small forward spot is the only one in the starting five that remains a question mark, with players like Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, and Dean Wade cycling through it this season.

Fischer, having reported earlier this week that the Cavs are in the market for a defensive-minded wing who is also an outside shooting threat, likes the idea of Hardway for Cleveland, especially since LeVert would probably have to be included in a hypothetical trade (his $18MM+ salary is within $1MM of Hardaway’s). The Mavs kicked the tires on LeVert before Cleveland acquired him from Indiana a year ago, according to Fischer, who also suggested that Dallas has been seeking another shot creator to complement Luka Doncic.

Fedor believes a trade centered around Hardaway and LeVert would be a “logical stylistic swap,” though he acknowledged that there could be some obstacles. Hardaway is under contract for two seasons beyond this one, so the Cavs may be reluctant to make that sort of commitment before seeing how he fits (LeVert is on an expiring deal). Both Fischer and Fedor also agreed that the Cavs may want an extra asset as opposed to making a one-for-one trade.

Here are a few more Cavs-related notes from the podcast:

  • “I’ve been told that the Cavs are not going to trade Isaac unless they get a significant piece back in return,” Fedor stated, referring to Okoro. Fedor initially said he’s not quite sure what sort of player would fit that profile, but agreed with Fischer when he suggested Raptors forward OG Anunoby. It’s difficult to imagine the Cavaliers having enough ammo to land Anunoby even if they were willing to include Okoro, since they can’t currently trade any of their future first-round picks.
  • The Cavaliers are about $2.5MM below the luxury tax threshold and are unwilling to go into the tax this season, per Fedor. That will be a factor to watch as Cleveland consider possible deals.
  • Neither Fischer nor Fedor gets the sense that Suns forward Jae Crowder is a target for the Cavaliers, and Fedor said he also heard that the club is “not all that interested” in Magic wing Terrence Ross.
  • The Cavs won’t make a trade just to make one, Fedor said, adding that some people within the organization want to see what it looks like if Wade gets an extended shot at the starting small forward job. Wade made nine starts earlier in the season, but has been out since December 2 due to a shoulder injury.

Fischer’s Latest: Cavs, LeVert, Crowder, Okoro, Bogdanovic, More

The Cavaliers would love to add a defensive-minded wing who is also a consistent shooting threat, but doing so won’t be easy, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. After acquiring Donovan Mitchell in the offseason, Cleveland no longer has any first-round picks available to trade, so landing a wing would probably require the club to move Caris LeVert and another rotation player, which isn’t an appealing prospect.

Fischer names Tobias Harris and Jae Crowder as a couple veterans who would make sense for the Cavaliers from an on-court perspective. However, Cleveland likely wouldn’t be able to put together a package for Harris that would entice the Sixers, and the Suns are seeking a “playoff-caliber player” in return for Crowder — if the Cavs had that sort of player available, they wouldn’t be in the market for another wing, Fischer writes.

Although LeVert might have to be included in a package for an upgrade on the wing, the Cavaliers still value his “high-character presence in the locker room,” per Fischer, and aren’t looking to move him, even if they’re open to discussing him. As the Cavs consider what sort of impact any potential target might have, LeVert will be the “comparative barometer,” says Fischer.

Here’s more from Fischer’s latest story:

  • The Cavaliers are still hopeful about Isaac Okoro‘s development into the sort of two-way wing they’re missing and he has a strong desire to remain in Cleveland, sources tell Fischer. The fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, Okoro will be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2023 offseason.
  • The Cavaliers are among the teams with interest in Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, but Detroit has set a high asking price for Bogdanovic, according to Fischer. The team is believed to be seeking a first-round pick, plus either additional draft assets or a young player with upside. The Mavericks, Lakers, and Suns are among the other teams interested in Bogdanovic, Fischer adds.
  • Crowder, who is in the final year of his contract, is hoping to sign an extension similar to the three-year, $33MM deal P.J. Tucker got from Philadelphia this past summer, Fischer writes. The Suns‘ unwillingness to give Crowder that sort of deal is considered a factor in his decision to remain away from the team this season.
  • While forwards like P.J. Washington, Jalen McDaniels, and Kelly Oubre will draw interest from potential suitors, center Mason Plumlee appears to be the Hornets‘ most likely trade candidate, says Fischer. Moving Plumlee would open up more minutes for youngsters Mark Williams and Nick Richards at center.

Cavs Notes: Rubio, Mitchell, Okoro, Allen, Mobley

The Cavaliers still haven’t set a return timeline for veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who is making his way back from ACL surgery, but he’s “continuing to take steps,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Monday, per Chris Fedor of

“He has a doctor’s appointment coming up soon to see how everything is healing and where he is at from that standpoint,” Bickerstaff said of Rubio.

As Fedor outlines, if Rubio gets the green light from the team’s medical staff, he’ll begin to ramp up his activity. For now, he’s limited to one-on-one work, but he could progress to three-on-three and then five-on-five in the coming weeks, assuming he gets the go-ahead to move forward.

Sources tell Fedor that the Cavs have no intention of rushing Rubio back, and that they recognize there’s a significant difference between being in workout shape and game shape.

“Everything is progressing well,” Bickerstaff said. “Just a matter of proper healing and time before he comes back and plays.”

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • Bickerstaff has been impressed by how quickly Donovan Mitchell has become one of the locker room leaders in Cleveland after being acquired in an offseason trade, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “One of the things that has impressed me most is, Donovan doesn’t want to be different from his teammates. Donovan wants to be a part of it,” Bickerstaff said. “And because he’s embraced that mentality, like the guys see him as their peer, right, and it’s easy for him to say things because he’s not on the outside looking in with the group.”
  • Isaac Okoro has taken a step backward offensively in his third NBA season, averaging just 4.0 PPG on .375/.188/.821 shooting in 19.3 minutes per game. Still, the Cavs aren’t giving up on 2020’s No. 5 overall pick, according to Fedor at (subscriber link), who writes that the team has continued to reaffirm its belief in Okoro’s potential.
  • While traditional centers aren’t as valued by NBA teams as they once were, versatile big men who can defend multiple positions are still as important as ever, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes in a look at Cleveland’s duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. “You’ve seen the evolution of the big man,” Allen said. “The game has changed. Everything a big man does has evolved into something different. Teams are looking for a different type of big who can guard one through five. Like us.”

Central Notes: Bogdanovic, Okoro, Middleton, Connaughton

Forward Bojan Bogdanovic has been on playoff teams in seven of his eight NBA seasons, so he wasn’t sure what to think at first when he was traded to the rebuilding Pistons. However, a discussion with Detroit’s management made it clear that the two sides have the same goal going forward, which is why he signed a two-year, $39.1MM extension last week (the final year is partially guaranteed for $2MM).

Just talking to (general manager) Troy (Weaver) and (Pistons owner Tom Gores), they assured me that the team is going to go in the right direction,” Bogdanovic told Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link). “We got a good salary cap (situation) for the summer that we’re going to try to bring someone in … We’ve been rebuilding, so they’re trying to win, so that’s the first thing that I asked them, and that was the main reason (to extend), honestly.

As Curtis notes, the Pistons project to have roughly $48MM in cap space next summer, which is theoretically enough to sign a maximum-salary free agent. However, the list of 2023 free agents isn’t the greatest, so it seems unlikely they’ll use all of it on one player.

Though the Pistons are just 2-8 to start the 2022/23 season, Bogdanovic has excelled, averaging 20.2 points on a career-best shooting line of .500/.486/.946 (.679 true shooting percentage). Head coach Dwane Casey recently raved about Bogdanovic, per Curtis.

He’s one of the pieces that we are building with and want to go forward with,” Casey said. “We’re still in rebuilding mode, but one thing that he’s shown is his leadership, and that’s what you gotta have on a young team. You gotta have some veteran pieces mixed in there when they’re going against grizzled veterans.

He’s that piece. He fits in. He’s patient. He’s sharing his knowledge with the players, things that he’s seen over his career and his ability speaks for himself.”

Here are a few more notes from the around the Central:

  • Prior to Friday’s victory over Detroit, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Chris Fedor of (Twitter link) that he has spoken to third-year wing Isaac Okoro multiple times about his rough start to the season. According to Fedor, Bickerstaff said he blames himself for Okoro’s struggles, noting that the former No. 5 overall pick has been in-and-out of the starting lineup — and rotation — multiple times during the team’s 7-1 start. Okoro is averaging just 2.4 PPG and 1.5 RPG through eight games (16.0 MPG), and is 0-for-11 from three-point range.
  • On Wednesday, head coach Mike Budenholzer provided an update on injured wing Khris Middleton, who has yet to make his regular season debut for the 8-0 Bucks after offseason wrist surgery. According to Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link), Budenholzer said Middleton’s practice with the team’s G League affiliate went well, calling it an important step in his rehabilitation process. Budenholzer anticipates Middleton will need another practice with the Wisconsin Herd to build up his conditioning. A previous report indicated that Middleton could return at some point this month.
  • Budenholzer also gave an update on Pat Connaughton, who was expected to miss about three weeks with a right calf strain, but it sounds like he’ll be out longer than that, since Sunday is three weeks since the Bucks announced his injury. As Owczarski tweets, Budenholzer said Connaughton has yet to get 5-on-5 work in and he’ll need to pass that milestone before returning to action. The head coach wasn’t sure about the veteran wing’s timetable for return at this point.
  • In case you missed it, Pacers wing Chris Duarte is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after suffering a Grade 2 left ankle sprain. You can find our story on his injury right here.

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.

Cavs Exercise Options On E. Mobley, Okoro; Waive Five Players

The Cavaliers are exercising their 2023/24 rookie scale options on Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro, sources tell Chris Fedor of (Twitter link). The team has officially confirmed the moves (Twitter link).

The news was expected, as both 21-year-olds are key members of a young Cleveland squad. Mobley will earn $8,882,640 in his third season, while Okoro will make $8,920,795 in his fourth. Exercising Okoro’s fourth-year option also makes him eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer.

Mobley was the Rookie of the Year runner-up in ’21/22 after averaging 15 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.5 APG and 1.7 BPG in 69 games (33.8 MPG). The 7’0″ big man was the third overall pick in 2021.

Okoro was the fifth overall pick in 2020. The 6’5″ wing is an impressive athlete and strong defender, but needs to develop his offensive game. He’s averaged 9.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG and 0.9 SPG over his first two seasons (134 games, 31 MPG).

In unrelated news, the Cavs have waived Mamadi Diakite, Sharife Cooper, Nate Hinton, Jamorko Pickett and RJ Nembhard, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. The team officially confirmed the roster cuts (via Twitter). The Cavs now have 14 players on standard contracts and one two-way spot open after waiving Nembhard.

The Cavaliers plan to keep their 15th standard roster spot open to start the season, according to Fedor (Twitter link), who adds that Cooper, Hinton and Pickett are expected to join the Cleveland Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate. If they spend at least 60 days with the Charge, they could each receive a bonus worth up to $50K due to their Exhibit 10 contracts.

Diakite had a strong preseason showing for the Cavs, and Fedor wondered last night if they might keep him around. Obviously he won’t receive the final standard roster spot right now, but there’s a chance they could re-sign him to a two-way contract if he clears waivers. He was on an Exhibit 9 training camp deal, which cannot be converted into a two-way deal.

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: Okoro, Bucks, Giannis, Stewart, Knox

The Cavaliers clearly have four of their starting roles set, with All-Star guards Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell sharing the backcourt alongside Evan Mobley and All-Star center Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt. For the small forward gig, it appears that Isaac Okoro is making a case for himself, writes Chris Fedor of

The 6’5″ wing was selected by Cleveland with the fifth pick out of Auburn in 2020. Okoro has started 128 of his 134 career NBA games thus far. Through two seasons, he is averaging a fairly modest 9.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 0.9 SPG, but the Cavaliers will be looking for defense more than offense at the three.

The competition has boiled down to Okoro and Caris LeVert, writes Fedor, noting that LeVert – who has earned praise from head coach J.B. Bickerstaff in camp – has started most of the team’s 2022 preseason games.

“I’m always being myself,” Okoro said. “I know what the coaches want me to do. I’m gonna do that and it’s ultimately up to J.B. to see who starts. I’m fine either way. I’m gonna go in and play my role.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks had a relatively quietly offseason that saw them sign veteran small forward Joe Ingles and draft wing MarJon Beauchamp. They’re betting that continuity on a roster that won a title in 2021 will help the club return to the NBA Finals in 2023. John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at how the 2022/23 season could play out for Milwaukee, predicting a 53-29 finish.
  • All-NBA superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is not concerned that the Bucks just wrapped up their preseason with a 0-5 record, though he would like to see more from the team, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. “It doesn’t worry me,” Antetokounmpo said after a 107-97 defeat Wednesday to the Brooklyn Nets. “What worries me is our habits and building good habits…. Right now, we’re not vocal enough. We’re not urgent enough. We’re not hungry enough. But at the end of the day, it’s the preseason. We have the whole regular season to find ourselves.”
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart has been given the green light to launch three-pointers, and Keith Langlois of writes that Stewart has appeared fearless during the team’s preseason. He connected on 4-of-10 shooting from long range during a 126-111 preseason loss Thursday to the Grizzlies. Langlois notes that, should this trend continue into the regular season, it could affect how Dwane Casey opts to use Stewart as a stretch four option in Detroit’s frontcourt. Langlois also discusses new forward Kevin Knox, a Knicks lottery pick in 2018. Langlois thinks Knox’s size and shooting touch could eventually help him crack the team’s rotation.

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.