Larry Sanders hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014-15, but the 6-11 center is reportedly working out with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In addition to the posts on Sanders’ Instagram story where it shows him arriving in Cleveland, ESPN’s Chris Haynes said that the Cavaliers have him showing up for a workout that’s “centered on testing and evaluation physically.”
Cleveland's workout of Larry Sanders today is a solo setting centered on testing and evaluation physically, league sources tell ESPN.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 22, 2017
Sanders stepped away from the game for some time after losing the love he had for it, and he also checked himself into a hospital around the same time to help him in his battle against anxiety and depression, according to The Players’ Tribune. Before all of that, the VCU product had multiple injuries and served a couple of suspensions that limited his time on the court. When he did play, however, Sanders was a force on the defensive end.
He made his money being a feared shot blocker and a relentless rebounder, and that’s something that the Cavaliers are desperately needing. During his first five years in the league, Sanders averaged 1.8 blocks a game in just 19.8 minutes, and the 2012-13 season with the Milwaukee Bucks was a tease of what he could do if he were able to stay on the court.
In 71 games with the Bucks, Sanders swatted 201 shots which worked out to an average of 2.8 a night, good for third and second in the NBA, respectively.
Should he sign with Cleveland, they get a much-needed anchor on defense and have another body to work into the rotation. With Kevin Love out until around the start of the playoffs, a thin Cavaliers bench is needed to play extra minutes with a focus on manufacturing points during Love’s absence.
Tristan Thompson is a great rebounder, but I wouldn’t consider him a rim protector. He holds opponents to a decent clip of 51.9 percent inside of six feet, but a feared shot blocker like Sanders forces smaller players to rethink their drive to the basket. That’s a dimension the Cavaliers are lacking, and their average of four blocks a night is good for 27th.
The trade-off is that Sanders is a below-average offensive player and was a liability from the free throw line (55 percent for his career). Almost all of his points come from rim runs or tip-ins, which isn’t a bad thing; he’s also a target for lobs out of the pick-and-rolls. Essentially, the Cavaliers have a clone of Thompson that’s a couple of inches taller.
It’ll take Sanders some time to get his conditioning back to NBA-level, but Tyronn Lue won’t need for him to be out there for long stretches. Getting 20-25 minutes would be more than enough to see some improvements on defense, and that’s where Cleveland is at their worst.
Start a conversation with me on Twitter