The Cleveland Cavaliers and the free agency free-for-all


The Cleveland Cavaliers have become adept at turning in-season failures into offseason optimism over the last four years thanks to Dan Gilbert’s virtual monopoly on top-five picks.

So it’s not surprising that the selection of Andrew Wiggins June 26 stirred up all the familiar front-office talk about fresh starts and brighter futures that comes standard after the draft.

“[We’re] really, really excited about what we were able to do with the first pick,” GM David Griffin said on draft night.

“This is a night where the Cavaliers got appreciably better — the kind of night that you really look forward to in our business when you can go home and know things are going to get a lot brighter from here.”

The optimism is understandable. When you get the No. 1 pick in one of the most loaded drafts ever, who also happens to have the size and athleticism of a NBA 2K14 video game creation, there should be hope.

But while the No.1 pick is always going to dominate the headlines, the it’s-a-new-day enthusiasm can’t overshadow the on-court realities the team faces going into next year. Most notably, at the present moment, the roster fits together about as well as Johnny Manziel at a Mormon retreat.

The 2013-14 Cavaliers were the anti-Spurs: No cohesion, no chemistry, no camaraderie and certainly no championship aspirations.

Even Andrew Wiggins can’t change that by himself, and David Griffin knows as much.

Which is why despite Griffin’s rose-colored optimism after the draft, his comments at a post-season press conference announcing the firing of Mike Brown are more telling of the type of roster makeover the Cavaliers are looking to accomplish this offseason.

“I think the fit of our roster needs to be pieces that make sense. We’ve got ball-dominant, drive-and-kick creators; we need to be able to open the floor for them,” Griffin said May 13. “We also probably need a little bit more ability to play inside-out to make our team a little bit more balanced. … I think we have very, very good talent — I think we have all of the assets necessary to acquire other talents that might be more high-value to us at this time.

“If I gave you the impression that this mix is the right mix, that’s not what I intend to say,” Griffin continued. “I believe we have the right assets to find the right mix. We have everything we’re going to need to make a run at the pieces we do need. There certainly are some pieces that don’t fit on this roster, and there are some things we need to add to our roster.”

Translation: If we don’t clean out some of the dead weight on the roster before next year and bring in some complementary pieces, Dan Gilbert might have to start using his Quicken Loans’ money to become an annual NBA draft lottery sponsor.

Griffin quoteThe addition of Wiggins is a good start, but does little to help the Cavs find the elusive shooter Griffin wants. If anything, the slashing Kansas guard gives opposing defenses all the more reason to congest the already crowded paint thanks to the team’s lack of outside shooters.

And after losing Spencer Hawes to the Clippers this past week, the Cavs’ need to add playmaking front-court players who can command attention from opposing defenses has only been amplified.

There are a handful of players who make sense for the Cavs to go after in free agency, maybe you’ve heard of one of them.

LeBron James is the obvious crown jewel of the free-agent class. And in an almost too-good-to-be-true turn of events over the past 48 hours, it looks as though Cleveland has somehow jumped from also-ran to frontrunner in the LeBron Sweepstakes. Will James turn down joining a more experienced, championship-ready team in order to fulfill the homecoming narrative in Cleveland with a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since he left? According to everyone from top ESPN sources, to personal trainers, to amateur private investigators tracking anything that moves in South Beach and Cleveland, the answer might be yes.

Regardless, the 24/7 LeBron James rumor mill will be running rampant until he makes The Decision 2.0.
If James does sign elsewhere, and if the city of Cleveland hasn’t burned down by that point, the Cavs could try hedging their bets with consolation prizes like Gordon Hayward.

Hayward, a historically solid shooter who had a disappointing 2014, visited the Cavs Wednesday, but left without the max salary offer sheet many anticipated.

Players like Greg Monroe and Chandler Parsons could be fallback options if James and Hayward sign elsewhere, but as they’re restricted free agents, it’s hard to imagine their respective teams not matching whatever the Cavs might offer.

Pau Gasol would be another possible big-name target that could shore up the Cavs thin front court, but it is unlikely Gasol would come to Cleveland over other contenders who are more suited to winning now.

If the Cavs lose out on all of the above, they could still look to unrestricted free agents like Trevor Ariza and Channing Frye to help out at the forward spots, but at this point, signing either one would feel like a punch in the gut for Cavs fans.

In this stage of the game in free agency, you either get James or you get disappointment —there’s really no in-between.

The Cavs only have a couple days to try to out-maneuver Pat Riley and the rest of the NBA before the July 10 free-agent signing day.

The only question now is if the front office will be bringing in brand new faces, or a familiar old one.

  • architrance

    No Frye available…

    And isn’t it ridiculous that these are still only “verbal contracts,” meaning conceivably, EVERYTHING could still change post 7/10?? The NBA is so messed up

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This is a good thing IMO.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LBJ is tying up all of free agency well Carmello isn’t helping either. I’m hoping Griffin has Plan B and Plan C ready to act on when and if James doesn’t indeed return. If the Cavaliers are to do anything this free agency they’ll need to be expedient once the large dominos fall.

  • RGB

    I think LBJ is afraid if he makes the first move and goes back to Miami, Bosh will accept their lowball offer and follow him.
    He’s waiting on Bosh to take that offer in Houston, so he can stay in Miami with decrepit Wade, and manipulate the roster for another title shot.
    We’ve got a Mexican standoff between Bosh and LBJ.
    Don’t go away mad, Bosh, just go away…
    I love it. 😀

  • EastSide

    Good lord…stop sounding like the national media when you write “Cleveland has somehow jumped from also-ran to frontrunner in the LeBron Sweepstakes”. Miami is the front-runner, will always be just based on the fact they can offer more money. Cleveland went from a .001% chance to a 1% chance in landing LeBron. Don’t believe the smoke…its probably not going to happen. I’m a Cleveland fan, not a troll, but just being realistic. Instead be excited about a new coach with some ability to install an offensive game plan and the young core the team has with the probability of getting better once they play together.

  • markn95

    Hey Rick, kudos for you for talking about the Cavs, FA, and something other than Lebron. The need for a shooter on this team is something I’ve been screaming about for years. In fact, even when Lebron was here, this team desperately needed a threat from the outside. And the closest Danny Ferry came to that was Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones, and Wally, ugh. There was also Mo Williams, but his disappearing act in the playoffs cost us the Orlando and Boston series.

  • architrance

    I dunno, not sure that’s the hangup. He said he give Mia time to improve their roster, well they did that yesterday. So he’s probably meeting w/Riley today to discuss the moves, etc and see what else he has up his sleeve. True free agency doesn’t begin till Thursday, so I’d guess we’d have an answer by then.

  • cmm13

    Call me crasy but isn’t Bosh LBJ’s best asset on that team? I don’t see Carmelo as an overall upgrade to that situation.

    If anything he’s a liability on defensive that LBJ now has to work even harder to cover up.

  • RGB

    Bosh is LBJ’s best asset in Miami, but Wade is his best buddy.
    Therein lies the conundrum. 😉

  • CBI

    I was thinking the same thing. I thought Miami was already thin upfront. If Bosh goes, you have Birdman and what else? Haslem? Oden? McRoberts is no rim protector. I know Miami can play small ball with the best of them, but who is going to guard someone in the paint?

  • RGB

    How much beef do you really need at the 5?

    The best center in the East is Hibbert…

  • CBI

    Agreed, but the goal isn’t to just make it back to the finals. The goal is to win another championship and that means beating one of those teams from the west. Several of which have formidable front courts.

  • Harv 21

    agree Cleveland probably won’t get him, but doubt the reason is that Miami can pay him the last dollar. For gosh sakes, his endorsements alone dwarf the salary difference.

    If I’m LeBron I’m questioning: 1) Can Blatt coach in the NBA right now, or does he need a few years to get the lay of the land? 2) Can Wiggins impact a NBA game, and how soon? 3) Can Kyrie play nicely with other children, or is he a pouter/quitter? 4) Does Griffin know what he’s doing? 5) Gilbert.

    LeBron went to Miami because Wade was a proven star with a ring, Bosh was a star, and Riley had legendary bona fides. He can sign a contract with Miami with another quick out and watch what shakes out in Cleveland if he’s so inclined. Riley will give him whatever type contract he wants. Don’t think the last penny is his deal breaker.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Time to move to Plan B…looks like Bosh will forgo big money in Houston so that he can continue to carry LBJ’s water and Wade’s Ben Gay!

  • RGB

    “Definitely not 3…or 4…lol…”