With an array of young talent developing before the organization's very eyes, it's likely that the Cavaliers are going to have to wait a while before its promising players start to make some noise in the NBA.
Cleveland ranks amongst the bottom teams in the NBA standings at 4-16. That said, this season has already served as a platform for some of the squad's up and coming prospects to strut their stuff. Dion Walters and (the currently injured) Kyrie Irving both showed signs earlier in the year that with some time on the court to work out the kinks and some growing pains, something special could be brewing in Cleveland in the future.
During a campaign in which the team continues to struggle to compete, developing, discovering, and exploring the bevy of pieces available for the future should be the Cavs' number one priority.
The team in fact showed a commitment to this recently when it rewarded D-League forward Kevin Jones with an NBA call-up. After averaging a monstrous double-double for the franchise's NBADL affiliate Canton Charge to start off the season, Jones did enough to prove he warranted a shot. He made his debut on Friday night, scoring 2 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in just 8 minutes of play.
It's important for players like Jones to continue receiving the chance to hit the NBA hardwood, as it serves as a steady measuring stick as to where each young prospect stands.
Unfortunately for Cleveland big man Jon Leuer, there are no minutes to be had as of late. After playing sparingly in just five contest so far this season, the Cavs assigned him to the NBADL.
With Jones currently called up, there's an opportunity for Leuer to log more minutes with the Charge. But is this in fact the right move?
Whereas teams like the Boston Celtics (Kris Joseph and Fab Melo) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Jeremy Lamb, Daniel Orton, Perry Jones III, and DeAndre Liggins) have used the D-League more frequently for their young players so far, there's a justified reason for it. Both teams are highly competitive, and are potentially playing for something as substantial as an NBA championship. Neither team can afford playing the young guns in front of proven winning veteran players.
This is where Cleveland obviously differs. What happened to the measuring stick? Leuer needs more time against the high-level NBA competition, and there's no reason why the Cavs cannot afford to let him log some minutes.
The big man had moderate success during his rookie campaign with Bucks last season. In the lockout shortened year, Leuer still managed to appear in 46 contests, even starting in 12. He shot 51% from the field and subsequently averaged 4.6 points, while also grabbing 2.1 rebounds per game.
After having the chance to play worthwhile minutes in the NBA last season, Leuer should have already received more of the same opportunity with Cleveland this season. That being said, there are undoubtedly certain things he can work on while in Canton.
Leuer is a finesse forward with a sweet shooting stroke. He can knock down the mid-range jumper with ease, but also step out to sink a few long-range bombs from deep every now and then too. His special offensive skills for a big man clearly serve as his strength.
His strengths obvious to see, Leuer should also take a look at the player Cleveland recently called up. Jones is the type of player who likes to bang inside and muscle his way around opponents on both ends of the floor. Clearly a weaker aspect of his own respective game, Leuer will need to learn how to assert himself as an authority inside, should he want to be able to compete with other fellow NBA big men.
The minutes (and another shot with the Cavs) should come soon enough for Leuer. But as he fights to to convince the team of that, at least the big man knows what he needs to work on. Becoming a more physical and aggressive player will help Leuer make it difficult for Cleveland to keep him off the court. Versatility is the key.