A Cleveland Cavaliers insider believes it would take a “massive upset” for Max Strus to not be a starter when the 2023-24 NBA season begins next month.
“Even though training camp and preseason will determine which direction Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff ultimately goes with his starting lineup, the 27-year-old Strus was signed to a four-year, $62 million contract this offseason because of his potential impact alongside Cleveland’s core four — Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen,” wrote Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “The Cavs believe Strus is an ideal fit and are excited to see what it will look like with three legitimate shooting threats around Allen and Mobley.
“Bottom line: Strus was signed to start — and it would be a massive upset if Bickerstaff were to go another direction.”
He was one of several important transactions the Cavs made this offseason. They also signed Georges Niang (another player they reportedly had near the top of their wish list) and re-signed Caris LeVert as part of their productive summer.
Strus has increased his scoring average in each of his four NBA seasons and posted a career-high of 11.5 points per game last season. He felt “wanted” by the Cavs this offseason after playing a key role for the Heat in reaching the 2023 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Denver Nuggets.
The DePaul University product received a nice contract as part of the sign-and-trade transaction, which also sent Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens from Cleveland to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Cavaliers have four solid starters with Garland and Mitchell in the backcourt and Mobley and Allen up front. In the 2022-23 campaign, each of them started at least 68 regular season games and all five games in a first-round playoff loss to the New York Knicks.
Isaac Okoro was next on the team with 46 games started during the regular season, but he provided little offense, which could make Strus a more attractive alternative at the beginning of games.
A lack of consistent shooting was a key reason the Cavs fell to the Knicks in the playoffs. Cleveland shot 44.9 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from 3-point range in the series, both drops from the regular season. Strus has plenty of postseason experience, having started 41 playoff games for the Heat over the past two seasons.
But first, the Cavs have to get back to the playoffs after qualifying last season for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign. They are considered an up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference, and with Strus and Niang added to the roster, they are aiming to improve on the 51 wins they recorded last season.