Dribbles: So, Who Starts for the Cavs at Small Forward?

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers and their biggest position battle …

1. We already know all about the Cavs’ Fearsome Foursome — All-Stars Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen, and super soph Evan Mobley. But who will be the most-fitting fifth?Caris LeVert

2. That appears to be the question, as training camp is underway.

3. The candidates? Everyone from Caris LeVert to Isaac Okoro to Dean Wade to even Cedi Osman. Or so they say.

4. Some members of the organization believe LeVert has the inside track. That includes two teammates who were asked by Hoops Wire on media day. 

5. Others think it’s no sure thing — that the spot is truly up for grabs and nothing is close to determined. Everything will be decided on the court, at practice and in games, they say. Some even theorize it will be an ongoing process, that who starts the season at small forward may not finish there.

6. Of course coach J.B. Bickerstaff has his own ideas. And make no mistake about it, he will be the man who makes the final call. Naturally, Bickerstaff addressed the topic after the very first of the Cavs’ two-a-day practices.

7. So, coach, what do you say? “We’re looking for who fits the best,” Bickerstaff said. “What we try to do is put together the best five-man units that we possibly can.”

8. OK, that makes sense. But it doesn’t really tell us anything. And guess what? That’s a good thing. Bickerstaff clearly wants the competition for the spot to continue. As they say, that will only bring out the best in everyone.

9. More Bickerstaff: “We feel like we are a deep team, and your first unit, second unit, third unit once you make your rotations — we’re trying to create as strong of units as we possibly can. It’s not something where we’re gonna rotate it or anything like that.”

10. In other words, so much for the theory that the Cavs intend to have a revolving door of small forwards. Clearly, the plan is to pick a winner and go with him all season.

11. There are pros and cons for nearly every candidate. LeVert is taking part in his first Cleveland camp and like Garland and Mitchell, is capable of scoring bushels of baskets in a matter of moments. He’s also an underrated facilitator and defender. 

12. But perhaps those qualities would serve the Cavs best in reserve.

13. Meanwhile, Okoro has show flashes in his first two seasons, but can too often seem like he’s just sort of running around out there. Then again, a lot of people were saying the same about Garland after his first two seasons. He erupted in Year Three, and perhaps Okoro can do the same.

14. Granted, the Cavs don’t need Okoro to become Garland or LeVert or even a young Andre Iguodala. They just need Okoro to become the best version of himself, and based on NBA history, he deserves another year to do just that.

15. Or how about Wade? Yes, he’s the least glamorous of the three, and perhaps least consistent. But he’s also 6-foot-10 and was coming around nicely before being derailed by a knee injury last season. His size would allow the Cavs to keep a “Triple Tower” starting lineup, with Wade replacing Lauri Markkanen (traded to the Jazz as part of the Mitchell deal).

16. Then there’s Osman, the longest of the long shots. If you remember, he was actually benched for part of last season, his inconsistency clearly driving his coach crazy. That said, when Osman is good, he’s very good. The rest of the time, though, you just never really know what to expect. And that’s the family version.

17. On top of all that, you can throw in Dylan Windler and Lamar Stevens, giving the Cavs six guys who are “in the mix,” according to Bickerstaff. But Windler and Stevens would be true Cinderella stories if either won the job.

18. Again, sources say Bickerstaff already has someone in mind, as he tries to get the maximum out of Garland and Mitchell and Mobley and Allen.

19. But again, that person still has to prove he is a fit. This is the time of year the coach is open to trials and changes.

20. Oh, and I know you might be asking, “What about Kevin Love?” Granted, he’s not a small forward, per se, but in an NBA that’s become positionless, perhaps Love and Mobley could start, with each playing the “three” based on matchups.

21. Here’s the short version: That’s not likely to happen, because the Cavs love what Love did off the bench last season. And he really seems to like that role, too.

22. So, who starts at small forward? Bickerstaff made it clear, the answer is whoever proves to be the best fit. And oh, by the way, whoever starts may not always finish.

23. The coach with the final word: “It’s something that we want to put together so guys have an understanding of who they are and where they fit and when their minutes will come. Whoever can help that group be the best on both ends of the floor, that’s the group we’ll put in. That doesn’t always mean that’s the group that you finish games with. I think there can be two separate groups here.”

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