I know I may be jumping the gun a bit right now, but lately the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offseason has been on my mind a lot. In the NBA, the offseason generally takes place in sequential stages. First, there’s the draft lottery. Then, the draft itself. Then comes the free agency phase. Then after that you have Summer League (most years, but not this year) and training camps and preseason. And before you know it, the NBA is back in our lives (again, most years….but maybe not this year).
So to start thinking about who the Cavaliers might be targeting for specific positions of need is definitely putting the cart before the horse a bit. But it’s really not too soon to start thinking about what positions will be positions of greatest need.
Now, there’s no doubt the Cavaliers could use help at every single position. There’s also a certain irony to the fact that the player I most want the Cavaliers to get, Kyrie Irving, actually plays one of the positions the Cavaliers have the most existing talent at. With Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions both still under contract, the Cavaliers don’t desperately need a PG for this upcoming season.
I can get into all the intricate details on why Irving is the right pick for the Cavaliers no matter what other positions they may have a greater need, but that’s a discussion for another time. For the purposes of this discussion, though, I merely want to identify the positions that will be of greatest need for the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers should be set at PF as well with JJ Hickson, Anderson Varejao, and Antawn Jamison still under contract. We don’t yet know what trades Chris Grant and company will be able to swing, but even if he should happen to trade both Jamison and Varejao, there would still be Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody if needed to fill minutes behind Hickson.
I think everyone would agree the Cavaliers still need a true center, but if push comes to shove, Anderson Varejao can play the position again this year with Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden backing him up. With the way Hollins advanced his game with Baron Davis late in the season, the Cavaliers could feel comfortable moving guys around for different looks and lineups and thus use Hollins at C with Varejao at PF at times. It’s not an ideal situation at C for the Cavaliers, but there is some versatility there.
I would argue the two biggest holes the Cavaliers will be facing in the coming year are at SG and SF. Right now, the SF position is made up of Alonzo Gee, Christian Eyenga, and Joey Graham. Of those guys, only Eyenga’s contract is guaranteed, so Chris Grant will have great flexibility here. I don’t expect to see Graham back, but I think Gee showed enough last season to warrant giving another look. Either way, I don’t share the community’s optimism with Eyenga as a long term solution at SF and nobody would expect Gee to fill that role either.
Things are even more bleak at SG. Anthony Parker is a free agent and it makes little sense for either he or the Cavaliers to re-sign him. That would leave Daniel Gibson and Manny Harris as the only true SGs, although Byron Scott did show a willingness last year to experiment with playing various other guys at the two for a few minutes here and there.
I had such high hopes for Daniel Gibson last year. Emotionally he served as someone Cavs fans could fall back on in the wake of LeBron’s departure. He was willing to carry that torch for Cleveland fans, saying the right things and trying to take on a leadership role in that enormous void left behind. Beyond just those intangibles, though, this was a real opportunity for Daniel. A new coach, a new system, and a new chance for him to showcase his skills.
And for a while, it was working. Gibson played some really good basketball early in the season. Somewhere around the middle part of the season, though, the wheels started coming off for Gibson and suddenly he was falling victim to the inconsistency virus.
At this point, I’d love to have Gibson back from a fan’s point of view, and I still think he’s a fine enough backup who can play both the point and the two. He did finish with the highest efficiency rating of his career, the highest PPG total of his career, and still maintained a 3P% above .400 despite having by far the highest Usage Rate of his career. So there were positives. Maybe I was just greedy in expecting a little more consistency on his part.
As for Harris, he was always a project, but one that I was extremely high on. And Manny had his moments and even logged some starts for the Cavaliers. But there’s really no reason for the Cavaliers to bring Manny back unless they need a warm body to come off the bench at SG (which could well happen). I just don’t think Harris contains the ball handling skills needed to be a serviceable SG in the NBA and his shot selection skills are only slightly better than his ball handling. I just don’t see a role here long term for Manny.
As I pointed out yesterday, the odds of the Cavaliers getting in the top 2 and taking either Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams in the draft are not great. Should they have a chance at Irving, they should and will take him. If Irving is gone but Williams is still there, then the Cavaliers can gladly take him and have him play SF for Cleveland. After that, though, things get tricky.
If they did want to address SG in the draft, though, there’s not much talent at that position in the top of the draft pool. Some think Brandon Knight can play SG in the NBA, but I don’t see it. Perhaps the guy to keep an eye on, though, is Alec Burks out of Colorado. He’s a quiet name that not many are talking about, but he’s a guy I think the Cavs could consider with the Clippers pick should it indeed land in the 8-9 position.
Other options for fixing the SG or SF positions in the offseason will be free agency and/or using the trade exception. I can’t discuss free agency until after the new CBA is agreed upon. But we can consider the trade exception to an extent. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest the Cavaliers should try to get Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies with the trade exception.
Indeed, the Grizzlies making this run in the playoffs does indeed make Gay seem more expendable for the Grizzlies. Furthermore, the trade exception would let the Grizzlies get out of their massive contract they just gave Gay. Of course, this begs the question of whether or not the Cavaliers really want to pay that contract. Gay is scheduled to make $15 million next season, $16.4 million the next, $17.8 million the following, and then has an option for $19.3 million in 2014-15.
Whatever happens in the offseason, it’s clear that the Cavaliers have major holes in their roster to fill and not all of them can be filled in this one offseason. It’s ok to feel good about the way the Cavaliers played some pretty decent basketball down the stretch at the end of the season, but when I keep hearing fans suggest on call in shows and in message boards that the Cavaliers are just a player or two away from competing again, I don’t share that optimism. They still have too many needs at C, SG, and SF for a quick and easy fix.
The hardest position to fix is going to SG. The Cavaliers haven’t had a true reliable, consistent, quality SG since, oh, I don’t know…..what, Wesley Person? So I think it’s worth keeping an eye out on SGs who become available this offseason, whether it be via draft, free agency, or trade. I really would like to see the Cavs figure out a way to really upgrade that position.
Either that or we can just wait for the lockout to render all of this pointless. We’ll see.