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These 6 Players Are Fighting for the Last Cavs Roster Spot
- Updated: October 8, 2018
The Cleveland Cavaliers are just over a week away from beginning the team’s 2018-19 regular season, with all but one roster spot decided.
Though the team does have the option of not filling the spot, six players continue to battle for it in the hopes that Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue wants to contribute some additional depth to the team.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic offered a glimpse into the different paths that the six players have taken in their goal to play in the NBA. Some have already gotten a brief taste of that life, but remain on the bubble when it comes to permanently staying in the league. One of those players, John Holland, played in 24 games last year for the Cavaliers and averaged 2.3 points.
Holland is one of two players in this group that signed a two-way contract, spending the majority of last season with the Cavs’ G League Canton Charge. Having played in Canton for the past three years, Holland has made it a point not to get discouraged about his status.
“Obviously the lives that you live in the NBA and the lives you live in the G League, the challenge is to not go down there and get deflated and get like, maintain the same attitude and maintain the same enthusiasm about the game,” Holland said. “Every game it’s like ‘is this the game somebody sees me? Is this the game somebody calls me up? Is this the game I get my recognition for everything I’ve done?’
“It’s the kind of life where I try and embrace it.”
Point guard Isaiah Taylor signed a non-guaranteed contract for $1.5 million with the Cavs. While Taylor could make the team out of training camp, his best chance to play appears to be if the Cavaliers end up trading veteran George Hill away during the season. He played last year with the Atlanta Hawks and is ready to show the Cavaliers what he can offer.
“They said they wanted me — that’s the first thing T Lue said to me when he talked to me on the phone,” Taylor said. “I went to the University of Texas and I was a two-star athlete, so people didn’t think I should’ve been there. Proved myself there. Proved myself in Atlanta this past season, proved I’m an NBA guard. I want to prove myself at every level until somebody thinks I’m worth that multiyear deal.”
Guard Kobi Simmons played in 32 games last year for the Memphis Grizzlies and averaged 6.1 points per game. Knowing what the G League is like, he’s also motivated to stay with the Cavaliers for good, but would go to Canton with a positive attitude:
“It just makes you hungrier,” Simmons said. “Once you experience both sides, you don’t ever want to go back. If you go into like, ‘Oh I don’t want to be here, I’m better than this,’ then you won’t get anything out of it and you won’t get called back up.”
Levi Randolph is 26 years old and earned $200,000 playing in France after having spent time in the Italian professional league.
“I think I’ve settled down a lot and I’ve grown a lot,” said Randolph. “I can play with other good players. I can fill a role and without the team missing a beat. I’m a guy who can play with a lot of good players. So my goal is just to get out here, learn and show them (the Cavs) what I can do.”
Possessing a master’s degree in marketing science, Randolph will have other options once his playing career ends. Despite the fact that he’d only be making $35,000 playing in Canton, he’s willing to make that sacrifice:
“For me it’s not about the money at this point. If it was about the money, I can go get a job. For me it’s about a goal, a dream. I aspire to play at the highest level and so, that’s why I’m here. It’s not, I mean, the money, that will come. They say you can go broke before 30, that’s the best time to go broke because you have time to break it up. So right now I’m young. I’m still trying to reach my goal and my dream and that’s why I’m here.”
Bonzie Colson arguably had the most prominent collegiate career, playing four seasons at the University of Notre Dame. A small forward, he regularly collected double-doubles for the Irish, but twice broke his foot last season. That may have been the reason why he ultimately wasn’t drafted, but he’s patient about playing in the NBA:
“Being on the sidelines is all new to me. Except my freshman year, it was kind of slow, trying to evolve into a college player. But it’s the same thing now. Everything is slow. Me learning, not getting as many reps, just trying to lock in and learn. Ask questions. That’s been huge for me, just asking questions.”
One of the most intriguing players in this group is 20-year-old Billy Preston, who also signed a two-way contract, but has largely dealt with chaos over the past five years. He played at four different high schools and saw his brief time at the University of Kansas end last year after an auto accident subsequently uncovered some questions about how he had acquired the car in question. That led to him leaving to play overseas, which ended quickly after he suffered a shoulder injury.
Knowing that he still needs to develop his game, Preston is ready to pay his dues in Canton:
“That’s what it is for me, me getting used to the game, the speed of this level, being a pro. I think I’m definitely going to use my days in Canton as a learning thing for me. When I do get called up to play, I’ll be ready.”
The reality of this competition is that none of the players will see much time on the court even if they do make the final Cavs roster. Yet each of these players still have the dream of being a key piece on some NBA team’s roster, with the Cavaliers hoping that they end up being the ultimate beneficiary.