I’ve seen this go through the Twitterverse and it has come up among conversations with other Cavalier fans in person. There is a strong belief among many that the Cavaliers will, in as little as two years time, have 13 new players on the roster, with only Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson remaining.
While the Cavs certainly don’t have another dynamic core player emerging from the makeup of this team anytime soon, I do think that they currently have a few young players (or guys young enough to play a role in two years) that can help fill out a 9-10 man rotation. While I believe the core of this team other than Kyrie and Tristan is going to come from their large amount of cap room and subsequent drafts, the idea that only those two will remain is not something with which I agree.
I’m going to start by talking about the current players that I feel could play a role on a contending team in two years. I’m talking about Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Samardo Samuels, and Omri Casspi.
Gibson has already been a key piece to contending teams, and at 25, he’s still young enough to make an impact for several years. With a reasonable contract that runs through the end of next season (where he is slated to make $4.8 million), I think there’s a chance that the Cavaliers would re-sign Gibson. He has gone from a defensive liability that lacked strength to a key bench player that has found his shot again and now can defend a decent chunk of NBA shooting guards. He’s battled through some injuries, but overall, I wouldn’t mind having Gibson around as a backup shooting guard. Contenders need shot-makers off the bench, and when he’s healthy, there aren’t many better than Boobie.
Gee, 24 and a free agent at season’s end, has had his moments this season where he has battled defensively against some of the best in the NBA, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony to name a few. His explosiveness in the open floor is undeniable, and if Alonzo can continue to build on his defensive prowess throughout this season, I would think the Cavaliers would like to bring him back at a reasonable rate. Gee’s offense is limited in the sense that he’s a below average foul shooter and hasn’t yet figured out his internal 24-second shot clock, but I really do think that can improve with more NBA time. Remember, he’s played just 85 career NBA games.
It might be comical to you that I feel Samuels, who cannot even stay in the rotation now, will be any sort of player when the roster is upgraded. While that’s true, he’s currently not in the rotation now primarily because of their desire to see what they have with Semih Erden. Right now, there’s no doubt in my mind that Samuels is way more effective than either Semih or Ryan Hollins. Samardo takes charges, has developed a decent mid-range jumper, is a tough body in the paint that won’t be moved off his spot, and he can rebound. What’s not to like as your 9th-10th guy in your rotation as your fourth big? Samardo just turned 23, and he would be coming out of Louisville this season had he stayed all four seasons.
As for Omri Casspi, I mainly put him on here because of his age (23) and his previous starting role in Sacramento (10.3 ppg in just 25 minutes per game in ’09-’10 at 21 years old). So far, he’s been a little underwhelming in Cleveland, but he can be under team control for at least two more years after this one, and I think either Casspi or Gee establishes themselves as the backup small forward for the next few years.
Next, let’s touch base with players on the roster that are talented, but I think may eventually be traded for younger talent or draft picks. The two most easily identifiable in this category are Anderson Varejao and Ramon Sessions. If they’re here, they’ll play a role and be in the rotation. If they’re not, I would like to think that they could return a first-round pick (at least in the case of Varejao). Sessions has his limitations too, but there’s a handful of teams that would take him right now as their starting point and many others who would value him as a key reserve. Ramon has a player option for next season at around $4.5 million. If Varejao is here, he’ll play a huge role, but as we’ve discussed here in the past, there’s the dilemma that Andy is currently 29, and in a couple of years, it’s likely that his production will begin to decline. The team controls Andy for three years after this one.
There’s also been the concern that maybe we really only have one longterm player. There is the possibility that should the Cavaliers make it to the top of the lottery once again this season, they could go best player available and wind up selecting a power forward. Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, and Jared Sullinger all could be selected around where the Cavaliers pick in that scenario. What do you do with Tristan Thompson then? Well, for starters, I think he immediately becomes valuable trade bait, though I wouldn’t pull the trigger in year one. In the NBA’s constantly evolving center position, perhaps both Davis or Sullinger would be able to steal some minutes at the center position. Outside of Howard and Bynum, how many dominant scoring centers are there left? The five spot is becoming more athletic everyday, and some of those young players may be able to fill the slot coupled with Varejao or another legitimate center.
If what I have summarized isn’t true, there is the school of thought that it’s not the worst thing in the world. There’s a process that teams go through for transition, and the team can’t just gut everything immediately. Building cap space, gathering draft picks, and avoiding hefty contracts for older players will allow those players to come fast and furious. So, the Cavaliers may be still be waiting for three future starters for their core to come via cap room or the draft, but if you ask me, some of their future bench is here right now.
(Photo: Tony Dejak/AP)