It’s been an interesting offseason for GM Chris Grant and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On draft day, the Cavs surprised everyone not only by picking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett first overall, but that they didn’t make any other major trades. No trade up with Dallas, no flipping the second round picks for that oh-so-necessary Veteran Leader… I mean, hell, the Cavs actually took a player with a second round pick. They haven’t kept a second round pick since they drafted Danny Green 46th overall in 2009.
The Cavs have been relatively quiet in free agency, choosing to spend their money on veterans like Jarrett Jack and Early Clark rather than pursue any Big Names. Unlike draft day, it is not that shocking that the Cavs haven’t been super aggressive in free agency. Cleveland sports teams don’t have the greatest track record with regards to free agents and I assume that Chris Grant knows this. I liked that the Cavs stayed away from some of the Josh Smithes, Andre Iguodalas and Al Jeffersons of the world (let alone Dwight Howard or someone of his ilk).
The Cavs still seem to be in the asset collecting mode. Both Bennett and Clark are tweeners who can play either small forward or power forward and Jack is a combo guard, similar to Dion. Chris Grant has improved the team, but he hasn’t exactly filled some of their holes. The Cavs could still use a non-Varejao, non-Zeller center and if season started today, Alonzo Gee would be Cleveland’s starting small forward.
Thank god the season doesn’t start today.
This is the Cavs roster and salaries for the 2013-2014 season (all salaries from ShamSports.com).
- PF/C: Anderson Varejao: $9.036
- PG/SG: Jarrett Jack: $6.5
- PG: Kyrie Irving: $5.607
- SF/PF: Earl Clark: $4.5
- SF/PF: Anthony Bennett: $4.436
- PF: Tristan Thompson: $4.062
- SG: Dion Waiters: $3.894
- SF: Alonzo Gee: $3.250
- SF: CJ Miles: $2.225
- C: Tyler Zeller $1.633
- SG/SF: Sergey Karasav: $1.223
Eleven players, total salary of $46.36 million (twelve players if you include second round pick Carrick Felix). The salary cap is $58.5 million and the salary floor is roughly $52.65 million, so the Cavs still have roughly $6-12 million to play with.
Let’s have a look at the free agents left on the market.
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Corey Brewer
- Carlos Delfino
- Reggie Williams
- Greg Oden
- Nikola Pekovic
- Chris Kaman
- Jason Collins
- Samuel Dalembert
- Byron Mullens
- Semih Erden
Rather slim pickings, no? I wouldn’t mind team friendly contracts for many of these guys, but I’m not sure how possible that is. Kirilenko opted out of a $10 million contract to hit free agency, so I doubt he’s taking a significant pay cut. Dalembert and Delfino are two vets would seem to fit the Cavs culture, but neither would really get the pulses of Cavs fans racing. Brewer would be interesting but he’s not a great shooter and the Cavs need players who can stretch the floor.
The only longterm solution in the above list is Pekovic1. And while Cavs fans are in love with Pekovic, he’s a restricted free agent and the Cavs would have to vastly overpay if they don’t want the Timberwolves to match.
If the Cavs make a big splash this offseason, odds are it’ll happen via trade, not free agency. The Cavs have a glut of power forwards in Tristan, Varerjao, Bennett and Clark and a package of Varejao (or Thompson) + future picks/salary take back could net the Cavs the wing or big man they’re looking for. Post-Dwight Howard signing, Omer Asik could possibly be had but I’m not sure the Cavs have the pieces (shooters, namely) that Houston wants to put around Howard and James Harden.
Grant has spent this summer playing close to the vest and I would be shocked if the roster in July looks similar to the roster come November.
I like the Jack signing. The dude is a gamer and was a real leader on Golden State last season. I like that he can play both guard positions and he should be able to fit with both Kyrie and Dion. My one concern is that Jack took a lot of late game shots for the Warriors last year and I’m willing to bet that at some point next season we’ll have some kind stupid “how come Jack shot the final shot instead of Kyrie” controversy. I love that Jack can make plays late in games, but that’s not exactly a quality that Cleveland’s young guards lack.
Re: the draft. I’m okay with Anthony Bennett, although he was the only prospect I didn’t really look at pre-draft. The Cavs wouldn’t take another undersized PF, would they? But after watching a few highlight videos, I’ve convinced myself that Bennett is the Canadian Charles Barkley (especially when he leads the break) and now I can’t wait for Kyrie/Bennett and Dion/Bennett pick and rolls. Bringing Bennett off the bench along with Jack can be a great offensive spark.
On not picking Noel or McLemore. The big thing for me is that both of the rumored top picks slid to sixth and seventh. So not only did the Cavs pass on them, a bunch of other teams did as well. I have a hard time killing Grant for not taking a player at first who ended up going sixth. Doesn’t make taking a tweener PF first overall the right choice, but that it’s defensible to pass on Noel and McLemore.
#BensAgainstLen. When David Stern took his time announcing the first pick and milked the crowd for more boos, it was clear the first pick’s first name began with an “A”. So we all got to have one final Alex Len heart attack. Thanks, David.
Kinda bummed the Cavs missed out on Zaza Pachulia. That dude always seemed to play well against the Cavs and he never backed down from anyone. Pachulia signed with Milwaukee for three years, $15 million2. I just wanted Pachulia and Varejao to share the court simply to piss off the opposing big men. They would’ve been super annoying! Imagine all the fake fights!! Alas.
Mike Brown: free agent recruiter. Both Jack and Clark mentioned Mike Brown as a reason for signing in Cleveland. Did not see that coming.
On trading former lotto picks. I definitely think the selection of Bennett means it’s more likely that Thompson gets moved and I feel the same way about the Jack signing and Dion. I don’t think it’s likely that either Dion or TT are dealt, just now if they are, there are players on the roster that can fill their roles. Odds are, not all of these picks (Irving, Thompson, Waiters, Zeller, Bennett, Karasev) will be on the roster when/if the Cavs are contenders. It’s up to Grant to figure out who fits long term and who can deal while they still have potential to grow (you can’t wait til they’re 26 and are who they are). I like both TT and Dion but the Cavs are going to have to give up something of value to get something of value in return.
Playoffs?! Right now I count five playoff teams in the East: Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago and New York. That leaves three spots open for Toronto, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Washington and Cleveland. At the moment, I’m not sure the Cavs are in. I like what the Wizards have done and Detroit just added Josh Smith to their frontcourt with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. I really have no idea what to make of Milwaukee, Atlanta and Toronto. I don’t think next year is a failure the Cavs miss the playoffs, but they gotta be close. They can’t be Top 3 bad again.