April 24, 2014

Who Should the Cavs Target in Free Agency?

Not this guy

The Decision. Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones. Gerald Wilkins, “Jordan stopper“. Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao holding out. Anthony Parker, Leon Powe and Jamario Moon. Michael Cage. Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie. Carlos Boozer lying to Gordon Gund.

Are we excited for free agency, Cavs fans?!

As of 12:01 AM this morning, only three days after the Cavs drafted future pieces in Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, which was just one week after LeBron hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy, NBA teams can begin talking to free agents. Players can’t officially sign contracts until Wednesday, July 11th.

While the Cavs won’t be pursuing the Deron Williams’s of the world, they do have some options.

Given the Cavaliers’ history with free agency1 and where they are in their rebuilding process, don’t expect any big free agent splashes this summer. Of course, one could argue that, given their history and market size, Cleveland should never be making big splashes in free agency. But with a roster full of rookies and second year players, the Cavs don’t need to be clogging up caproom in the summer of 2012.

Cleveland’s roster currently looks something like this:

  • PG – Kyrie Irving
  • SG – Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson
  • SF – Omri Casspi, Luke Walton, Kelenna Azubuike
  • PF – Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Kevin Jones
  • C – Tyler Zeller
  • Restricted FAs: Alonzo Gee, Semih Erden, Luke Harangody.
  • Unrestricted FAs: Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Donald Sloan, Samardo Samuels, DJ Kennedy.

NBA rosters hold 15 spots and the Cavs (counting rookies and restricted FAs) currently have 13 of those spots spoken for (though I’d be mildly surprised if both Erden and Harangody returned). The Cavaliers could use another wing to stretch the floor (preferably athletic), a PG to backup Kyrie Irving and a big who can hit a shot from outside of 15 feet2.

The Cavs have somewhere between in the area of $21 million in available caproom, but they don’t have use all of it. I had originally thought that they might have to overpay some guy just to meet the salary floor3, but while Baron Davis’s bloated, amnesty’d contract doesn’t count against Cleveland’s cap, it does count against their salary floor. So no dumb signing just to meet the floor! Whew!

So other than Sonny Weems, who could the Cavs entice with Dan Gilbert’s checkbook? From the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd:

Three players the Cavs could pursue in free agency are Omer Asik, Michael Redd and Jonny Flynn. Asik is a restricted free agent center who is in line for a raise after making $1.9 million as a backup center with the Chicago Bulls

[snip]

The Cavs were interested in Asik at the trade deadline two years ago, but couldn’t work a deal with the Bulls and ultimately traded for Erden minutes before the deadline passed.

[snip]

Redd is an unrestricted free agent shooting guard whom the Cavs showed interest in last year, but ultimately passed since he has endured two reconstructive surgeries on his left knee in the past four years.

But he survived last season with the Phoenix Suns and averaged 8.2 points while shooting 40 percent. He played in 51 of a possible 66 games, the most for him since the 2007-08 season.

The Cavs are looking for a high character, veteran mentor to replace Anthony Parker and guide what will again be a young locker room.

Flynn was drafted sixth overall three years ago, but his career has been derailed by injuries. Flynn has played for three teams through his first four years in the NBA, but he’s still just 23 years old and open to the idea of becoming a backup to Kyrie Irving.

I’m not a fan of Asik. Maybe he can be a serviceable NBA center, but there are reports that the Rockets could offer him as much as $8 million per season (the Bulls can match). One of the rules in the NBA is that big men always get overpaid, but $8 million a year for a guy who averaged 3 points and 4 rebounds a game is pretty ridiculous, even for this league (for comparison, Anderson Varejao made $7 million last season). Hopefully the Tyler Zeller pick (and Asik’s asking price) will cool Cleveland’s enthusiasm for the Turkish big man.

The other two names Lloyd mentioned, Michael Redd and Jonny Flynn, I find very intriguing. Redd could fit right in to that “veteran good guy” role that Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison occupied last season, but I wonder how useful he’d be if can’t stay on the court. Last season was the first season in a long while that Redd has been even remotely healthy. But will he remain healthy without the vaunted Phoenix training staff? I would have to imagine that it is a legit concern.

Jonny Flynn is another interesting option. The Cavs could offer him the minutes that Ramon Sessions vacated and if he plays well, he could parlay that into a starting job (and big contract) down the road (netting the Cavs a pick in the process, à la Sessions, win-win). Flynn could really benefit from being in a stable situation for a few seasons. While Lloyd writes that Flynn is open to the idea of backing up Irving, the Cavs weren’t on Flynn’s list of preferred destinations.

There’s a few other players I wouldn’t mind the Cavs pursuing. Edjuardo Najera, former Maverick and Nugget, most recently of the Bobcats, is available. He’s a bit undersized, but he could be a nice, tough, no-nonsense big man off he bench (and he has shot the 3-ball well in the past). Other PGs in the Cavs range include Jannero Pargo (formerly of Atlanta), A.J. Price (Indiana) and Ben Uzoh (Toronto). As for wings, the only one that really excites me is Nicholas Batum of the Blazers, but he’s restricted and you might have to overpay him to get him out of Portland.

Once again, are we excited for free agency, Cavs fans?! I mean, Michael Redd! Just eight years after we really wanted him!

Kidding aside, if the Cavs were make a Big Move this offseason, I would expect it to come via trade (Anderson Varejao is their biggest chip). History has shown that while capspace doesn’t help the Cavaliers that much via free agency, it can play a large role in trade scenarios. The ability (and Gilbert’s willingness) to absorb a bloated contract in a trade has proven very beneficial for the franchise4.

While it would be nice if the Cavs could sneak into the playoffs next season, that shouldn’t be their end-all, be-all goal. Chris Grant won’t be entering free agency looking for veterans to 35 minutes a night in the Wine & Gold. They don’t need to make short term gains that could hamper their long term outlook. Their focus will and should be on players who can compliment the roster on the court, as well as in the locker room.

(Please don’t sign Omer Asik).

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Footnotes:

  1. not fun! []
  2. For as much crap as I gave Antawn Jamison, the Cavs are going to miss his ability to stretch the floor []
  3. The salary floor is $46.4 million and Cavs have roughly $33 million in salaries on their roster []
  4. See, Davis, Baron []

  • Curly

    What’s wrong with pursueing Ray Allen?

  • Will

    Steve is absolutely correct. Saying Asik averaged 3 points and 4 rebounds is a waste of internet space without putting it in context – he played less than 15 minutes a game. His per 36 becomes 13 rebounds and 2.5 blocks – there is not a team in the league who couldn’t use that production. And ppg is pointless without mentioning FG% (and of course minutes played). But yeah, maybe Flynn’s below-average-for-any-NBA-position 40% career shooting is better suited for the Cavs. They haven’t had such a disappointing option since Hughes left.

    It’s all a moot point since we’re not getting Asik, but we “could” (possibly) have gotten Humphries, another highly efficient and undervalued big man and passed on him. With decision making like that the Cavs will not be good anytime soon.