In the NBA, many undrafted free agents struggle to make their respective teams, often spending several seasons in the G League as they work tirelessly to prove to their parent team they have what it takes to contribute in the NBA.
All-time greats such as Ben Wallace and John Starks went undrafted, but certainly made their mark on the league when their opportunity came.
More recently, players like Fred VanVleet, JJ Barea and Alex Caruso went undrafted and grew to become integral pieces of their teams’ rosters.
On Wednesday night, former Penn State forward Lamar Stevens waited as name after name was called, and as the night ended, did not hear his own.
As one of the top remaining undrafted players, Stevens was quickly scooped up by the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed to a two-way contract that will likely see him spending some time in the G League before the team may decide to add him to their regular NBA roster.
Stevens’ chances of ending up on the Cavs’ roster in the coming season may be slim, as the team currently has four power forwards on its roster and added a third small forward to the roster on draft night by taking Isaac Okoro with the fifth pick.
The more likely route to the NBA for the two-time All-Big Ten First Team honoree is through the Cavs’ G League affiliate — the Canton Charge
Depending on his play during the NBA Summer League (if it actually happens), Stevens could see significant playing time on the Charge.
Stevens showed his defensive versatility in college, defending multiple positions and taking on several of the top players in the Big Ten. Stevens had a defensive win share of 7.1 throughout his career compared to a win share of 6.5 on offense, metrics used to determine how many wins a player contributed solely based on their offense or defense.
If Stevens proves his worth in the G League or in the Summer League, he could be logging NBA minutes in the near future.
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After finishing second to last in the Eastern Conference in the 2019 season, bettering the New York Knicks by only two games, the Cavs are going nowhere soon, so Stevens fits their timetable well.
With aging power forward Kevin Love on the roster and Larry Nance Jr. entering the latter half of his career at age 27, the Cavs may be looking to move on and get younger, granting Stevens the perfect opportunity to earn himself a roster spot.
On the other hand, if Love sticks around for a few more years and Stevens impresses the organization early, the Cavs may add him to the roster at an earlier time so he is able to learn from one of the better forwards in recent history.
To earn any playing time in the near future, Stevens will have to beat out two other young forwards on the team — Jordan Bell and Dean Wade.
Bell, an Oregon alum, has averaged about 10 minutes per game last season while averaging four points per game. Bell is now with his third team since the start of the 2019 season and has cemented himself as a decent role player.
Wade, a former star at Kansas State, started 29 games for the Charge last season, averaging 14.2 points, and is on a two-way contract like Stevens, allowing him to play for both the Charge and Cavs.
Given Stevens’ success at Penn State, he has the ability to beat out the aforementioned players and earn himself a spot on the roster.
Stevens has shown he has the talent inside the arc to compete at a high level, but the concern of NBA scouts entering the NBA draft was his ability to shoot from behind the arc in an era of basketball where the three point shot continues to become the focal point of the game.
If he can prove to the Cavs that he has improved that aspect of his game, Stevens could soon find himself playing minutes in the NBA.