The Cleveland Cavaliers have four preseason games remaining, but Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the Cavs have zeroed in on four players to battle for the team’s final two roster spots.
Cleveland has 10 players currently with fully guaranteed contracts and are sure bets to make the team. Rookie point guard Kay Felder and veteran forward James Jones – both of whom have non-guaranteed deals – also are reportedly assured of a roster spot. Meaning that the Cavs have 12 of their 15 roster slots spoken for, leaving eight players to battle for the final three spots in theory.
According to Vardon, Cleveland really only has two open spots left as the Cavs are keeping a spot open for free agent J.R. Smith, who they are expected to re-sign at some point possibly before the regular season begins on October 28. Vardon added that Jordan McRae, DeAndre Liggins, Dahntay Jones, and Toney Douglas are the four players still competing for the 14th and 15th spots with McRae and Liggins being the favorites.
McRae is having an excellent preseason so far. The six-foot-five shooting guard has put up 20 points, six rebounds along with 4.5 assists through the Cavs’ first two preseason games. He has made 14-of-27 shots from the field, including three-of-four from beyond the arc. McRae also has converted 9-of-12 free throw attempts.
McRae played in 22 regular season games in 2015-16 and made an appearance in two postseason contests for the Cavaliers last season. The 2014 second round draft choice averaged 4.5 points and 1.1 assists while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.
While McRae is more suited for the two-guard position, he has seen some time at the point – which is an area of needed depth for Cleveland. Currently, the Cavaliers only have Kyrie Irving and Felder on the point guard depth chart.
Liggins is a six-for-six combo guard. He started at the point in the place of Irving in the preseason opener against the Orlando Magic, tallying six points, doling out three assists, and committing three turnovers. Liggins is not a huge threat offensively, but he can guard all three perimeter positions. Liggins is averaging 4.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block through two preseason games.
Liggins has played in 57 career NBA games over three seasons. He has posted career averages of 1.6 points and 1.2 assists while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from long-distance. Liggins has played for the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat.
Douglas is more of a true point guard than either Liggins or McRae and has considerable more experience than either one. The 30-year-old has seen limited action over the first two preseason games, producing two points on 1-of-6 shooting from the field overall and is 0-of-3 from long-distance.
“On this team, it’s not about overthinking,” Douglas said. “It’s not like, ‘oh, I’ve got to play so well.’ This is a veteran team. Certain guys fit on this team. Sometimes it’s the little things you do. It’s like, if I’m not having a good offensive night, my people in the stands may not see it, but here in the film room the coaches may say I had a hell of a game because of the way I defended and pressured the ball, get deflections, stuff like that. All the little things that help the team win. That’s what I’m able to bring, especially if I’m not (playing well) on the offensive end.”
Douglas averaged 8.7 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.3 caroms while shooting 41.1 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from beyond the arc last season for the New Orleans Pelicans. For his career, the six-foot-two point guard averages 7.8 points along with 2.3 dimes, and 2.2 rebounds in 370 games. Douglas has also played for the New Yok Knicks, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, and Miami Heat.
Jones is the old man among the four players contending for a spot on the 15-man roster. The 35-year-old saw action in 16 games last year for the Cavs with 15 coming during the postseason. The six-foot-six shooting guard has played in 12 career seasons, averaging 5.4 points and 1.3 rebounds while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor along with 33.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Jones brings energy, leadership, and toughness to the floor every game. He has appeared in one preseason game thus far, contributing four points along with one assist and two rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
Markel Brown, John Holland, Cory Jefferson, and Jonathan Holmes are the other players in camp for the Cavaliers. Brown put up seven points, on 3-of-3 shooting, in 10 minutes of action against the Sixers after going scoreless in seven minutes versus the Magic. In the meanwhile, Holland has not seen time on the court this preseason.
Jefferson or Holmes could also conceivably make the team as the Cavs are kind of light of bodies in the front court.
Jefferson has hit the boards hard this preseason, grabbing 16 boards in 39 minutes of action. The 25-year-old is also averaging 7.0 points, on 37.5 percent shooting, along with 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks.
Jefferson appeared in eight games for the Phoenix Suns a season ago, tallying 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 6.3 minutes of playing time. In 58 career games, the six-foot-nine forward averages 3.5 points as well as 2.8 rebounds in 10.0 minutes of action.
Holmes went undrafted out of Texas in 2015. The six-foot-nine forward has shown his ability to stretch the floor this preseason, knocking down 3-of-11 shots (27.2 percent) from three-point range. He is averaging 8.5 points and 2.5 caroms in 30 minutes of action.
Cleveland plans on holding out their normal starters for their October 10 preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks, per Joe Gabriele of the NBA. Gabriele tweeted that Felder, Dahntay Jones, James jones, Jordan McRae, and Cory Jefferson are slated to begin the game on the floor. Brown, Holland, Holmes, Douglas, and Liggins should see a ton of action as well.
For guys fighting for one of the few remaining roster spots, these final preseason games are huge.
READ ⬇️ https://t.co/JOvFOqjtmT
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) October 10, 2016
Brown, Holland, Jefferson, and Holmes are candidates to end up with the Canton Charge, if they are waived.
[Featured Image by Tony Dejak/AP Images]