Undrafted rookie Tyler Cavanaugh parlayed a Summer Camp spot with the Hawks into a two-way contract with the team. Injuries to Hawks frontcourt players early in the season opened an opportunity for Cavanaugh, who took advantage and eventually earned a full NBA contract.
Cavanaugh was a rotation player for most of the first two months of the season and ended up playing 518 minutes over 39 games. He proved to be an efficient scorer with decent production: 54.6 effective field-goal percentage with 12.7 points per 36 minutes.
Cavanaugh was a good fit as a floor-spacing big in coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense. He had the highest three-point attempt rate of all the team’s bigs and made 36 percent of those tries (32-for-89). Cavanaugh had poor accuracy at the rim and didn’t earn many free throws but efficient shooting on three-pointers and midrange jumpers led to him generating 1.15 points per shot attempt, ranking in the 46th percentile among bigs per Cleaning the Glass.
The Hawks scored 4.0 points per 100 possessions more with Cavanaugh on the court (non-garbage time) with significantly better offensive rebounding and turnover percentages. In addition to his shooting, Cavanaugh contributed to offensive success with a very low turnover rate, a good offensive rebounding percentage and a solid assist percentage.
Budenholzer often credited Cavanaugh with helping the Hawks defensively with his strength, toughness and hustle. Cavanaugh didn’t produce many blocks or steals and, overall, the Hawks allowed 1.4 points per 100 possessions more with Cavanaugh on the court. But one of the team’s most effective defensive lineups included Cavanaugh at power forward alongside center John Collins.
Cavanaugh showed he has the potential to be a role player in the NBA, which values his skillset.
“Just continuing to be the best shooter I can be because that’s how I am going to stick in the NBA,” Cavanaugh said of his offseason focus. “That’s what they need: stretch bigs who can shoot.”
Cavanaugh has a non-guaranteed contract for next season but its not clear if he will get another shot with the Hawks. Cavanaugh has a $450,000 guarantee on May 15 and Budenholzer has departed. But I could see a scenario in which the Hawks release Cavanaugh before his guarantee date and then try to re-sign him if the next coach wants him on the summer roster.