The upcoming NBA season will be a bit of a new experience for Max Strus, who likely grew used to life with the Miami Heat during his three-year stint with them.
But in at least one way, the experience won’t be completely foreign to the small forward.
During his time with the Heat, Strus had the privilege of playing alongside Bam Adebayo, one of the league’s best young big men and an elite defender. With the Cavs, the sharpshooter will have a similar luxury, as he’ll get to share the floor with Evan Mobley.
In some exciting news for the Cavs, Strus is already taking steps to get the most out of his partnership with Mobley.
“During Strus’ three seasons in South Beach, he built a strong on-court connection with Adebayo — the 6-foot-9 two-time All-Star center and four-time All-NBA Second Team defender who has become the linchpin of Miami’s D and a fulcrum on the other end with pick and rolls, dribble handoffs and post-ups,” wrote Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor. “In hopes of developing that same chemistry with the 22-year-old Mobley — a partnership that started blossoming during the team’s voluntary pre-camp workouts — Strus asked Cleveland’s video team to splice up some Adebayo clips for Mobley to study.”
Mobley spoke about his potential playing alongside Strus.
“I feel like it’s very similar to how I like playing [pick-and-roll] as well,” he said. “I feel like it’s gonna be really good. Just playing with him, getting to know him, me and him were good in the two-man game and pick-and-roll. He knows how to find me in the pocket when I want it, and also he’s a threat for shooting as well. That creates a lot of openings for me, and if not for me, then for him. We’ve been working on it since day one. I feel like that two-man game is gonna be getting better and better by the day.”
Strus offered some thoughts of his own.
“Evan’s a phenomenal passer and has great vision, let alone being a phenomenal scorer already,” Strus said. “As young as he is and as talented as he is, I think me and him can build a connection together. I can’t put a timeline on how long it’s gonna take. But all these training camp reps, preseason games, first couple weeks of the season, we’re gonna keep building our foundation together and keep building that connection. Hopefully, by midseason, it’s as good as it can get. I do see a good future with me and Evan in those handoffs and stuff like that.”
If the Cavs are going to take a step forward in the 2023-24 season, they’re going to need their key contributors to be on the same page. It sounds like things are certainly trending in the right direction.
“Strus and Mobley have both discussed the intricacies of a successful collaboration,” wrote Fedor. “They need to learn each other’s tendencies and footwork. They’ve got to identify each other’s comfort zones on the floor. Rhythm and timing are both paramount.”
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff recently made it clear that Strus brings more to the table than just 3-point shooting. The effort that the newcomer is putting in off the floor is already an indication that he’s going to be a valuable piece for the organization in multiple ways.
Last season, Strus averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 41.0 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc. He was a key player for the Heat during their run to the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the idea of Mobley studying Adebayo — regardless of the purpose — can only be seen as a positive. The Heat big man is a two-time All-Star and four-time All-Defense honoree. At 26 years old, he’s a bit further along in his development than Mobley.
The Cavs big man is entering his third NBA season, and he’s widely viewed as a player with a monster ceiling. Internal development is going to have to be key for Cleveland this season if the team wants to make significant progress, and there’s perhaps no better candidate than Mobley to help the Cavs reach new heights.
Cleveland will open its 2023-24 season later this month against the Brooklyn Nets. The Cavs are looking to wash away the taste of their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks last season, a meeting that ended Cleveland’s season in five games.