Through sign-and-trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers received one of the most dependable role players in the league. Max Strus, who appeared in 103 matches, combined in the regular season and playoffs for the Miami Heat in 2022-23, left an indelible mark on an organization as an undrafted traveler.
The Boston Celtics waived him in October 2019 to make room for Javonte Green and Tacko Fall. I wouldn’t blame you if you asked, “Who?”
The Chicago Bulls saw him play six minutes in two games. Then Strus tore his ACL, and they cut him.
The Heat believed in him, and with White Hot, Strus exceeded the expectations of fans, fellow scribes and the team. He played so well that he priced himself out of a contending group that is worse off today after losing him and Gabe Vincent.
It’s only business, but now this flammable weapon and likable human is a Cav. Let’s examine what he adds to the Wine and Gold offense, and three ways he gives Cleveland a different dimension.
No. 1: Versatility and marksmanship
Strus is a sniper that terrorizes drop coverage on dribble handoffs. His artillery strikes give the outfit options for the starting group or reserve crew because he has logged time at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.
Having worked in a zone-heavy defense, Strus knows all the ways to dissect it. When the opponent goes to the 2-3, he is quick to find an opening on the perimeter while the defense is absorbed to the middle.
Last year for the Heat, Strus converted 240 3-pointers in the regular season and playoffs while improving his game off the dribble. At his most confident, he was breaking down opponents and hoisting away at the key and wings for trifectas or going hard to the hole. In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Mad Max unfastened the Denver Nuggets’ defenses, scoring 12 points in the opening frame.
In the playoffs, he was featured in a lineup with Vincent, Jimmy Butler, former Cavalier Kevin Love (no surprise) and Bam Adebayo. It was Miami’s second-highest scoring rotation (30.8) with a 12-5 record in under 14 minutes a game. This five-man unit dictated pace, operating a percentage below average.