The Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a fantastic start to its season, and seem to have everything that a championship team needs with one exception. Which is a reliable backup point guard.
Cleveland has been in the market for a backup point guard since Mo Williams decided to retire the day before training camp. Thus far, the Cavaliers have tried several players in the role of backup point guard with Iman Shumpert and Jordan McRae getting most of the work. DeAndre Liggins and Kay Felder have also seen time at the point.
Shumpert has bounced back decently from a terrible 2015-16, in the early going. The six-foot-five combo guard is averaging 7.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists along with 1.6 turnovers in 12 games. The 26-year-old is shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from beyond the arc — both career bests. He has spent the majority of his time on the court at his natural shooting guard, though he has logged 31 percent of his minutes at point guard. In addition, he has seen some time at small forward, according to Basketball Reference.
Shumpert has reached double-figures in scoring twice this year while he has three games of three or four steals and three multi-block contests.
Shumpert can handle some minutes at the one, but he is not a true distributor or prime ball-handler in a half-court setting. The thing that makes him viable at the point is that he can shut down opposing point guards on the defensive end. Shumpert is holding opponents to 40.7 percent from the field, which is 3.3 percent below their shooting normal percentage.
McRae has appeared in seven contests, contributing 2.9 points in 10.1 minutes of action. The six-foot-six guard is shooting 25 percent of his shots (7-of-28) though he has made 50 percent of his three-point attempts (3-of-6). He has also been awful on the defensive end.
Liggins has seen very little time at the point. Of his 53 total minutes, he has spent only eight minutes at point guard. Overall, Liggins is averaging 2.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in six games. He is known for his defense more than anything.
Felder has struggled during his limited time on the court. The five-foot-nine rookie is shooting just 33.3 (4-12) percent from the floor, and has only five assists in 32 minutes of action over four games. Felder is super quick as well as athletic but his size is a negative on the defensive end of the floor. He is currently holding opponents to 35.7 percent shooting from the field.
If the Cavs are going to look for an upgrade at the backup point guard slot, it will likely be through a trade rather than the free agent market per Joe Vardon of Ohio Northeast Media Group. Vardon said that veteran NBA lead guard Norris Cole is no longer on the Cavaliers radar since he may not be available to come back to the NBA until February or later, depending on how far his team in the Chinese Basketball Association advances in the playoffs.
Vardon added if the Cavs do indeed trade for a point guard, it likely won’t occur until December 15, the date in which offseason signings are first eligible to be traded. He added that Deron Williams of the Dallas Mavericks or D.J. Augustin of the Orlando Magic could be possible targets. Both would be interesting fits and would go nicely with what the Cavs want to do, which is play up-tempo and shoot three-pointers.
Williams has battled several injuries over his career, and has missed five games this year as a result of injuries. The 32-year-old is averaging 12.5 points a game and a career-low 4.8 assists in six games. He is shooting 39.7 percent from the field, though he is making 38.7 percent of his three-point attempts.
Augustin is currently backing up Elfrid Payton in Orlando. The 29-year-old’s numbers this year are basically in line with his career averages as he is producing 9.9 points and 2.6 assists, while shooting 41.7 percent from the floor as well as 34 percent from long-distance.
Augustin had his best game of the season in the Magic’s 95-87 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, scoring 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter. He finished 6-of-11 shooting from the field along with 2-of-5 from beyond arc and six assists for the game.
Williams will be a free agent after this season. Augustin, on the other hand, is in the first year of a four-year deal.
Who would the Cavs give up in a trade?
Shumpert has been rumored to be on the way out since before the start of the regular season. McRae would also likely be involved though with his struggles, teams may not be as high on him as during the preseason. In addition, Mo Williams’ expiring contract would be included as he is still on the Cavaliers 15-man roster. A draft pick could also be part of the deal.
Quenton Albertie of Fansided believes that Mike Dunleavy Jr. would be the player, rather then Shumpert, involved in a trade.
Cleveland improved to 10-2 on the season with Friday’s 104-81 shellacking of the Detroit Pistons on Friday. It was the Cavs best overall performance of the season. The Cavaliers, a league best 7-1 at home, don’t play again until Wednesday when they host Portland.
[Featured Image by David Zalubowski/AP Images]