Aside from the starting spot at small forward, the Cavaliers starting point guard position is as set for the season as possible. Kyrie Irving proved in the NBA Finals what many in Cleveland had already believed: the 24-year old is an elite-level talent, and one of the top point guards in the league.
As for those who will spell Irving off of the bench, that is a bit more fluid.
Even championship teams have holes in the NBA, and the Cavaliers thin at the backup point guard spot. The situation developed even further with the news on the morning of Media Day when General Manager David Griffin announced that Mo Williams planned to retire. That news came five days after Williams announced on Twitter that he planned to return to the team.
Williams was really the third option at point guard for the majority of the 2015-16 season behind Matthew Dellavedova, who departed for Milwaukee after spending his first three seasons in the Forest City.
On September 26th, the Cavaliers find themselves with two young players that will have to occupy the time behind Irving.
Second-year guard Jordan McRae averaged nine minutes over 22 games between Phoenix and Cleveland in his first year, but has played a helping of those at the off-guard position. The team also spent their lone draft pick, one they purchased from the Atlanta Hawks, on second rounder Kay Felder out of Oakland.
Despite the youth, Griffin said the team is happy with their current standing.
“The versatility we have in our lineup to absorb that, we have other people that can guard the position,” he said. “Because of LeBron, we have additional people that can play the position offensively. And frankly, we’re very excited about finding out what some of the young players on our roster can do.”
The majority of Griffin’s remarks revolved around McRae, who now has championship experience, and helped lead the Cavaliers to an over-achieving run in the Summer League tournament. But Griffin did not read a whole lot into what McRae was able to do at that level, though he lauded the guard’s abilities with the ball in his hand, as well as the work he put in in the off-season.
“What we didn’t get to see him do in summer league, because he wasn’t playing with the other types of players with, call it the varsity if you will, is he didn’t get to play off the ball,” Griffin said. “What we need to see Jordan do is play the actual role that he would actually have on our team. We put him in a bit of an unfair position this summer. He really excelled in it, but it’s difficult to build a lot in terms of expectations of Jordan based on that because the fit is so different from what he will do with this group.”
The development of the backup spot is even more important than the normal need for depth because of the non-stop schedule for Irving after two trips to the NBA Finals, rehab from a broken kneecap last summer, and an Olympic Gold Medal run this off-season.
Irving recognized that need after what he called the “longest year of (his) life.”
“We have to just develop Jordan McRae and Kay Felder as much as possible,” Irving said. “Until we can find a solution for kind of giving me minutes on the sideline, but that’s kind of what this summer has been about, just developing our young guys and being ready to play.”
The off-season will admittedly be a different one for the All-Star, who will more than likely have his minutes monitored even into the regular season.
“Me talking to T-Lue and our medical staff as far as the amount of games and the amount of pounding I’m doing in training camp,” he added. “So for me, it will be about me leading with my voice, as well as showing up early, of course.”
Griffin and the Cavs still have options in the free agent market, should they decide to add depth in that fashion. That list begins with two former teammates of LeBron James in Miami, Mario Chalmers and Cleveland State product Norris Cole. Former Cavalier Andre Miller is also available, but is 40-years old and the Cavaliers are already long in the tooth.