While I had heard Cleveland’s name before I have to admit I hadn’t paid him much mind. Most people seem to be impressed by his athleticism and a highlight package search does bring up a lot of lob catches but that’s not the only aspect of his game that is impressive. I also noticed that he likes to shoot off the dribble and does most of his damage in the mid-range. Currently, only Harrison Barnes really does much work in the mid-range for the Mavs so this would be welcomed on our offense. I also noticed that he has good timing on defense and uses his length and athleticism to get blocks both on and off the ball. Let’s dig deeper.
Cleveland played 4 years at Southeast Missouri State and started all 4 years. He was 5’8″ as a junior in high school before he hit a sudden growth spurt and now stands at 6’6″. His senior season at SE MO he averaged 16.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.2 ast, 1.4 stl, and .9 blk. He finished 7th in the conference in steal percentage and 9th in block percentage. He played with Portland in the summer league and was pretty quiet averaging just about 5 ppg in 14.7 minutes per. The Warriors brought him into their training camp before cutting him and adding him to their G-League team. He was averaging about 14 ppg while shooting 55% from 3 and 60% from the field before the Mavs decided he was worth a 2-way contract.
As I mentioned in my introduction Cleveland is an athlete. He’s active slashing to the basket and looking for lob opportunities. While this is what most people want to highlight about him (and it’s cool or whatever) I am actually more impressed with other aspects of his game and I expect the Mavs are too.
Shooting: Cleveland, again, was shooting 60% from the field through 6 G-League games so he was off to a hot start. His 55% from 3 is impressive but he was averaging less than 2 attempts per game. When you watch him play you’ll see that he likes to attack the basket and wants to get most of his points at the rim, however, what makes him a dangerous player is that if he is cut off he has an amazing pull-up game as well and it’s a “pick your poison” situation when he decides to attack. Because of his length his pull up jumper is going to be difficult for any guards to defend and he’s going to be able to get past many bigger defenders as well. Because of these things I think you can call him a smaller version of Harrison Barnes as far as playing style is concerned.
Defense: Another reason people like him is because of his defensive potential. He has great length and should be able to use this along with his athleticism to stick with most guards and play the passing lanes for easy steals. He also has great rim protecting instincts for a guard (think Justin Anderson) and will help out off of the weak side as well.
With Dorian Finney-Smith out for “a while” I expect that Cleveland will maximize the next few weeks and get a good look at sticking around. He’s the type of guy that is going to stick around the league for a while because of his physical profile alone. I’d make a prediction on his likelihood to stick around in Dallas but I have had trouble figuring out what our goal is anymore. It would be nice to see us retain a guard with some length since we have hoarded a load of midgets as it stands. Check out more of his highlights below.