When you only have the tax payer mid-level exception, there’s only so much you can do. Following the NBA Finals, it was apparent that the Cleveland Cavaliers needed more youth and young energy off the bench. In the first week of the new league year, the wine and gold haven’t followed that plan. They have been linked to Zach Randolph and Jose Calderon, two 35 year olds, the latter of which they signed. On Thursday, another name came into the mix: 37-year-old Jamal Crawford. According to cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, the veteran reached out to LeBron James and is “very interested” in joining the Cavs if (and when) he is bought out by the Hawks after being traded from the Clippers to Atlanta.
This past season, Crawford played in all 82 games for the first time in his career and averaged 12.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 26.3 minutes per game while shooting 41.3 percent from the floor and 36 percent from beyond the arc, both of which are his best in the past three seasons. But, while he may be more efficient, the veteran’s point output has decreased every season over the last four years. This is partially due to the fact that his shot attempts has also decreased each of the last four years as well.
He can get buckets, but Crawford struggles defensively, which was one of the team’s biggest weaknesses against the Warriors. Then again, their bench was also a major hole, and although he’s 37, Crawford would make an immediate impact off the bench.
The Cavs may not be linked to young talent, but with the salary cap and luxury tax situation they’re currently entrenched in, there’s not much else they can do. When players like 40-year-old Vince Carter are getting $8 million a year, the market for players who would accept something as little as the veteran’s minimum is barren. They have the mid-level exception that’s worth $5.2 million, but they may have to keep that in case Cedi Osman does in fact join the wine and gold after being stashed overseas the past couple years. So, the question is, would Crawford sign with Cleveland for just over $2.3 million?
Expected to be bought out sooner rather than later, while Crawford is interested in coming to Cleveland, teams like the Timberwolves, Wizards, and Celtics are also interested in signing the veteran. The Cavs offer a championship contender and a major role off the bench, but other teams around the league can offer much more money than Cleveland can. At 37, the three-time Sixth Man of the Year could just be ring chasing at this point, which would benefit the wine and gold.
Although he would help the Cavs’ bench produce more points, he wouldn’t help defensively. Can the Cavs afford to add a player like that when they have their sights set on a potential Finals matchup against the Warriors for the fourth year in a row? That’s something that they will have to discuss, but it may not be worth the risk solely due to Crawford’s inability to play average defense. A 37-year-old who struggles defensively isn’t the answer to beating Golden State.
Ironically, Crawford was drafted by the Cavaliers with the eighth-overall selection in 2000 before immediately being traded to the Chicago Bulls.