Caris LeVert-JB Bickerstaff ‘Heart to Heart’ Led to Cavs Bench Demotion, Insider Says

When the Cleveland Cavaliers landed Caris LeVert last year via trade, his role wasn’t immediately obvious. Was he a stop-gap option made necessary in the aftermath of an injury to Ricky Rubio? Having been a starter in Indiana, his prior destination, would the same be expected of him in Cleveland? Could he co-exist defensively in a backcourt with Darius Garland?

Ultimately, the Cavs didn’t get the best sample size from LeVert last season; the guard played just 19 games with Cleveland. Thus, heading into this season, similar questions remained.

LeVert is the ultimate “middling” player — probably not quite good enough to start, but making a wee bit too much money to come off the bench.

But the latter is precisely where the Cavs have put LeVert for much of the season since November. According to Chris Fedor of cleveland.com, LeVert’s benching was the result of a serious chat with coach JB Bickerstaff.

“In mid-November, following a loss in Milwaukee that led to a lengthy heart-to-heart in the visitor’s locker room, LeVert and Bickerstaff mutually agreed a move to the bench was best,” Fedor recently wrote. “It would give him more freedom. It would keep him from hijacking offensive possessions designed for Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen — the four mainstays in the starting lineup. It would provide a little more roster balance and second-unit stability. That was the thinking anyway.”

LeVert’s production hasn’t been stellar off the bench; he’s at 11.7 points on 43% from the field since that November contest against the Bucks.

LeVert Likely Returning to Cleveland Cavaliers

Nonetheless, the Cavs want LeVert back.

“A free agent at the end of the year, the Cavs are interested in bringing him back on a multi-year deal — at the right price,” Chris Fedor reported recently for cleveland.com. “They like him. They value him. He is one of their trusted high-minute guys — a staple of Bickerstaff’s nightly rotation.”

Fedor went so far as to suggest LeVert departing in free agency would be a real shock.

“Given everything, at this point, LeVert not returning would be a surprise,” Fedor concluded.

While LeVert is far from a consistent player, he’s inarguably a luxury off the bench. He’s likely to make $17.5 million next season, per Spotrac, which would put the Cavs on the path toward the luxury tax.

But as Fedor noted, the Cavs are interested if the price is right. It wasn’t long ago that the Cavs sat on Collin Sexton‘s extension because the two sides were far apart in negotiations. Could the same happen again this summer with LeVert?

Cavaliers Urged to Bring LeVert Back in Free Agency

Even if LeVert wants a pricy contract, the Cavs could do worse than re-signing him.

According to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, the Cavs should seriously explore bringing LeVert back next season, a player Swartz deemed “intriguing.”

“While LeVert is far from a perfect player or fit on this roster that needs three-and-D wings between its talented front and backcourts, the Cavs simply can’t let his salary slot go to waste, especially after buying out Kevin Love,” Swartz wrote on March 20.

With the next CBA set to balloon players’ salaries (Damien Lillard is already on the books for $60 million by the mid-decade), perhaps an $18 million deal for a bench player won’t appear so horrible down the road.

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