Cavs’ summer has been interesting but not filled with fireworks

Chris Grant Cavaliers Rookies

Chris Grant Cavaliers Rookies

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.

[Related: Earl Clark signing low on risk and low on excitement]

Let’s have a look at the free agents left on the market.

Small Forwards:

  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • Corey Brewer
  • Carlos Delfino
  • Reggie Williams

Centers:

  • 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.

Random Thoughts:

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.

and finally…

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.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. unless you’re counting on Greg Oden to play lots of games over the next few years. And that is a dumb thing to count on []
  2. I have no idea what Bucks are doing. OJ Mayo and Zaza? []
  • DR_B3LL

    don’t count out boston as a possible 7th/8th seed. rondo bradley jeff green wallace and bass is a better lineup then the cavs are running out there right now. i see MIA, NY, CHI, INDY, NETS, DET, BOS, WIZ/TOR as the playoff outlook.

  • http://brian23.com Brian

    I don’t see them moving TT or Dion – there’s nothing wrong with having actual solid depth. If one were to buy into LeBron conspiracies, these are the exact moves that would fit said conspiracy.

  • brownstowner

    How can you possibly say that pickings are slim at center when Andrew Bynum is still available? The guy is capable of being the top center in the league when he’s with it.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I just don’t agree with this. New coach implementing new system. Wallace showed last season that he’s washed up… they’d probably get more out of Sullinger if he can stay healthy. Jeff Green is too passive on most nights and you’re getting very limited offense from Rondo and Bradley. Ainge built this team to tank… they’re tanking.

  • JHop

    “When he’s with it”

    The problem is that no one ever really knows when that is, or if it’ll ever happen again.

  • JHop

    I’d agree. Boston is definitely tanking HARD. I live up in that part of the world and even the local sports media figures are accepting the fact that the Celtics are tanking for Wiggins next year.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Just a thought, but the one thing that’s somewhat worrying me right now is that both players the Cavs have signed in free agency were linked to Mike Brown rather than Chris Grant. I don’t want Brown making the roster decisions, I just want him to coach the players. If Clark and Jack are both guys that Grant and his team researched and coveted as well, then fine, but I’d feel better if I heard him say something indicating that.

  • Italian crossover

    I think Clark would be a better starter than Gee: Irving-Waiters-Clark-Thompson-Varejao with Jack-Bennett-Gee-Zeller off the bench is a certified playoffs team!

  • Natedawg86

    Better to have a free agent want to come to CLE because of the coach, than not want to come because of the coach.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    That’s very true, but what if you’ve got Mike Brown as the one calling the shots on which players to add? Wouldn’t you find that concerning seeing how Chris Grant has a team of smart people whose only job is to do that?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I like your attitude! I wish I could be that sure of Earl Clark as a starting small forward.

  • mgbode

    Losin’ Biggins for Wiggins

  • mgbode

    depends. if Chris Grant calls Mike Brown into a room and goes over with him all the statistical data on these players and how much they are worth because of it. then, Mike Brown uses his knowledge of the players to help break ties (or close calls) and get the best fits for the team, then that is EXACTLY how I want things working.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Absolutely… this is what I was hoping Chris Grant would indicate, but obviously I realize that the guy doesn’t owe me or anyone else anything. Just wanted it for my own piece of mind so I know this isn’t a situation where the charismatic old roommate comes back into town and takes back his alpha dog status (this doesn’t really sound like Mike Brown, but you never know).

  • mgbode

    it really seems like Grant is focusing on multi-position versatility. that is a good thing as NBA teams are finding more and better ways at forcing teams to switch.

    for defense:
    Clark (SF,PF — C against some of the physically weaker ones)
    Jack (PG,SG — feisty enough to at least compete with SF if stuck)
    Bennett (SF/PF — though he has miles to go on defense)
    Felix (PG,SG,SF — legimitate upside to guard all 3 wing spots. obviously, will likely struggle some in rookie year as he learns NBA game)

  • mgbode

    Yes, impossible to tell off press conferences. I have to believe that Grant wouldn’t have brought Brown back unless he knew they worked well together. But, that is my own “peace of mind” at work than having any concrete evidence on hand.

    My theory of what Grant is doing is above (though that doesn’t work for Bynum — another former Mike Brown player).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Nice… I could definitely see Clark sliding in as a “center” guarding guys like Udonis Haslem, KG, and David Lee when they are played at those spots. He did that for the Lakers when they had their rash of injuries at center. I’m growing more interested in seeing what Brown does with Carrick Felix… hope to get to see some of his game in the summer league, but wish we could see Bennett there too.

    Oh and to add to your list, I guess I’d call Karasev a SG/SF guy.

  • mgbode

    I don’t know what to make of Karasev yet (especially on defense), which is why I left him off the list. Yes, he certainly could be a SG/SF type of guy.

    (honestly, the reports I keep reading remind me of Wally Szczerbiak. that wouldn’t be the worst thing as WallyWorld carved out a 10yr career for himself, but I think alot of people are expecting more)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Do we know if he’s playing Summer League? We won’t get much of a sense of how he plugs into a team defense concept, but we could at least get a sense of how well he can stay in front of NBA athletes.

  • BenRM

    The fact that the guy won’t work out leads me (and many) to believe he’s probably still unhealthy.

  • mgbode

    I haven’t seen much on it. I really don’t take much account into what happens in the Summer League though.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I totally disagree that the drafting of Bennett and the signing of Jack means anything for Thompson or Waiters. Bennett is still incredibly raw and needs to develop much like Thompson. Thompson is still learning but his game is the polar opposite of Bennett’s which is a good thing. Jack is a perennial veteran backup who can not only run the point but can play some off guard. He’s no longer a full time starter much more suited to fill in when necessary but to run the second unit.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Stop it…stop it now…the C’s no tank!!!!

  • Steve

    Some of those are real stretches though. And you can’t get away with Jack at SF when you have Irving and Waiters on the perimeter as well (the only time Jack would see the 3). I would feel a lot better with trying some iffy defensive matchups if we had at least one guy who could be considered a real defensive presence instead of the multiple sieves that we had last year.

  • mgbode

    I’m not saying Jack would play SF. I’m saying that when he is forced into a switch onto a SF that he can handle himself okay (though be at a disadvantage).

    the NBA is shifting more to a model of forcing players to switch on everything and be able to guard different players more often. it seems that Grant is preparing our team for this model. nothing more.

  • mgbode

    Celtic’s top returning:

    scorer: Jeff Green
    rebounder: Brandon Bass
    assist: Rondo (returning from ACL tear)
    3pt (makes): Jeff Green

    games started: Brandon Bass (only player w/ more than 50 games started last year returning)

    speculation that Kris Humphries to be moved next.

    ——————-

    Celtics are tanking. And, it’s the smart thing to do. Bring Rondo back very slowly, let the youngsters get some burn and pick out the best ones to continue. Trade off as many of the expensive veterans as you can. Then, go into next offseason with money to spend, a really high pick in a really good draft, and Rondo at full health.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    JACOB MAKE THEM STOP!!!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Rather see Waiters make that switch myself but at least with Jack in the fold now you could see some three guard offense.

  • mgbode

    sorry Sham, you are correct.

    injured Rondo + Bradley + Jeff Green + aging Gerald Wallace + Olynk = Playoffs!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    On paper it may not look good but thankfully the games aren’t played on paper. I will not let you bring me down!!!