Caris LeVert has successfully adapted to a different role with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, so much so he is aiming to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.
“Of course, I want to win it,” LeVert told Cleveland.com Wednesday night. “Of course I do. If I’m going to come off the bench, I want to be the best at it. That’s something that would be cool. But I think that is a team award more than anything else. If our team performs well, I think we will have a lot of people who get rewarded because of that. I’m just trying to play a good team game.”
The 29-year-old re-signed to return to the Cavs this offseason, and his decision to turn down other offers is paying off for both the player and team. He is averaging 18.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in 10 appearances (one start) to open the 2023-24 NBA campaign.
Even though he is coming off the bench, he is averaging more than 33 minutes per game, which would be a career high for his eight NBA seasons. The No. 20 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, LeVert was traded to the Cavs by the Indiana Pacers during the 2021-22 season.
He started 30 games among his 74 appearances for the Cavs last season, when he averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
The Cavs upgraded their rotation this offseason with the additions of Max Strus and Georges Niang, and it was uncertain what role LeVert would have.
With injuries to starters Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland disrupting the Cavs’ expected depth early in the season, LeVert has remained a reserve and is turning into one of the best in the league.
“I’m comfortable starting, coming off the bench, whatever,” LeVert said. “But I think for us this season, the goal was kind of to keep me in the same. Obviously, if Don (Donovan Mitchell) and D.G. are out, I would probably start. But I think just for me in terms of getting my rhythm, we kind of discussed that it would be better for me to have one role — to come off the bench all season.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. (Dallas Mavericks), Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks), Chris Paul (Golden State Warriors) and Cam Thomas (Brooklyn Nets) are among the betting favorites for the Sixth Man honor along with LeVert. Malcolm Brogdon won the award with the Boston Celtics last season but was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason.
Cleveland is back home after ending a four-game road trip with a win at Portland on Wednesday and will play the Detroit Pistons on Friday and defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets on Sunday. The Cavs play seven of their next eight games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which is a good opportunity to improve on a disappointing 5-6 record to start the season.
When fully healthy, the Cavaliers should be strong contenders to make the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2018. In addition, if LeVert continues to play at a high level, he should be in line for a chance to win a significant NBA award.