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10. Jeff Green, F
Green (unofficially) leads the Cavs in preseason highlight plays, throwing down some monster dunks and showing he can be a big spark in the second unit.
His lack of outside shooting will hurt Cleveland’s spacing, but Lue can run Green in transition or feed him off backdoor cuts to the rim while surrounding him with playmakers.
He’s put up 18.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per 36 minutes this preseason and should have a guaranteed spot in the rotation.
9. Kyle Korver, SG
Korver is 36, a so-so defender and does little other than space the floor. But man, can he still shoot.
Korver has quietly led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage in three of the past four years, and he only got better during his time with the Cavs. With floor-shrinkers Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose set to receive copious minutes, the Cavaliers need Korver to counteract their lack of spacing.
Needing just a sliver of space to get a shot off, the 15-year veteran plays his role to perfection.
8. JR Smith, SG
While the signing of Wade delighted LeBron James, it created fallout with some of Cleveland’s other guards. Smith lost his starting job to Wade and isn’t too pleased about it.
“Was working hard all summer and then coming in and not even really having a chance to earn my spot, but it’s all right,” Smith said, via Vardon. “It is what it is.”
Smith has been a starter for 157 of his 164 games with the Cavaliers after playing the reserve role for most of his career. Still, Smith is being paid handsomely ($44 million over the next three years), has a championship ring and shares a locker room with James. The demotion may sting now, but we may not hear anything more about it out of Smith.
7. Derrick Rose, PG
Rose has been Cleveland’s best player this preseason, and it hasn’t been particularly close.
He’s flying all over the court, finishing at the basket and making smart reads as the team’s starting point guard. Rose is putting up 22.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 60.0 percent from the floor.
Undeterred by going from a max salary to a minimum one, the 29-year-old is clearly healthy and motivated.
“I get a chance to reintroduce myself back to the league,” Rose said, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I get to bet on myself. That was one of the reasons I came here, I get to bet on myself.”
6. Tristan Thompson, C
After just one season as the team’s starting center, Thompson will once again come off the bench following Love’s move to the 5. Lue said it wasn’t an easy decision, via McMenamin, but the big man has embraced the move.
“Tristan has been a big part of what we do. I hated having that conversation, but it was great. He was phenomenal. That’s what it’s all about. You hate having those conversations, but he was great. He was like, ‘Man, whatever you need me to do, Coach. I’ll just go for Sixth Man of the Year. I understand what’s going on.’ … When you have those talks, usually they don’t go that good. But he was great about it.”
While Lue suggests Thompson is fine with the demotion, a fellow starter-turned-reserve paints a different picture.
“We talked about it,” Smith told Vardon of he and Thompson’s move. “It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.”
Whatever issues may arise out of this shouldn’t affect Thompson’s on-court performance. He’ll continue to rebound at a high level, set screens and offer some paint defense. A whopping 17.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes this preseason helps prove as much.