Tyronn Lue says he won’t expand Cavaliers rotation deeper than 10 players — even when team is full strength

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue has already started thinking about what his rotation could look like when his squad gets to full strength in the coming weeks. But he understands added depth will lead to some tough decisions, especially since he plans on keeping his rotations tight.

“It won’t be expanded more than 10,” Lue said prior to Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. “Ten’s even tough at times. We’ve just got to see and go from there.”

Lue has always been this way, unwilling to use an abundance of players. Earlier this year, Lue informed Channing Frye — a key member of Cleveland’s bench last season — that his playing time would be sporadic because of Jeff Green’s arrival and Kevin Love moving to center in the starting lineup, ultimately sending old starter Tristan Thompson to the bench.

Thompson’s calf injury has created more playing time for Frye recently, but his spot could be in jeopardy when Thompson returns.

With Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose sidelined, the Cavs have mostly been playing nine guys. Rookie Cedi Osman has been getting a few minutes here and there, pushing that number to 10.

Shumpert is expected to return as early as Monday night in Philadelphia. Thomas continues to make progress in his recovery from hip injuries. There haven’t been many updates on Thompson, who was expected to be out for about one month because of a strained calf.

Then there’s Rose, who stepped away from the team on Wednesday to deal with a “personal matter.” ESPN reported early this afternoon that Rose is contemplating his NBA future due to frustration from frequent injuries. Rose has played just seven games this season because of a sprained left ankle that forced him into a walking boot recently.

Lue said prior to Friday’s game that he expects Rose back at some point. But it’s fair to wonder what kind of role Rose will have when — or if — that happens.

The Cavs have flourished with Rose out. They’ve won six straight and their rotations have come together after a turbulent start. Dwyane Wade has found comfort leading the revamped bench, filling in as de facto backup point guard. Thomas will most likely go right into the starting lineup. 

The Cavs have enough talent to go 11 or 12 deep. But that’s not how Lue operates. It’s a numbers game and when the team gets to full strength, not everyone will have a spot.

“Until we start playing games and we get everyone back to kind of see how it fits together, really don’t know,” Lue admitted. “It will be like starting all over again. It will be great to have everyone back, everyone healthy and kind of get everyone in their natural roles and positions and then go from there.”