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20 Contract-Year Players to Watch in 2016-17

Lang Greene looks at 20 upcoming free agents who are entering a crucial contract year in 2016-17.

Lang Greene

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It’s never too early to start discussing the upcoming NBA free agency class. Outside of your standard restricted and unrestricted free agents, there are an abundance of guys who hold player options for the 2017-18 campaign. With the league’s salary cap expected to exceed $100 million next season, most of these players will choose to opt out in order to cash in and secure a more lucrative multi-year deal.

Today, we’ll take a look at some players who are entering an important contract-year. To make this list of upcoming free agents more interesting, we’ve excluded a host of current All-Stars such as Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Paul Millsap. Guys with an All-Star appearance last season or those who are considered elite players were purposely omitted since they will clearly be paid regardless of how they perform in their contract-year.

Even with the stricter criteria, there are still plenty of players whom fans should be watching closely as the season develops. Here are 20 contract-year players to watch (not in any particular order):

Zach Randolph, Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 contract:
$10.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Randolph is a throwback in every sense of the word. Yes, his back-to-the-basket game in the low post is an ode to yesteryear when the game was played at a slower pace. But there’s also a picture of a much younger Randolph floating around from when he shared the court with Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Randolph was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers with Pippen as a teammate and they were facing off against an aging Jordan, who was playing for the Washington Wizards. That’s old school.

But Randolph’s future is up in the air. The Grizzlies play an outdated style, have a quarter of a billion dollars invested in Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons and the team announced earlier this week that Randolph will permanently move into a sixth-man role. The veteran still has some gas left in the tank, but will he use all of his remaining fuel in Memphis?

Greg Monroe, Center, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 contract:
$17.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

After reaching the playoffs during the 2014-15 season, the Bucks seemingly hit the jackpot the following summer by landing Monroe in free agency over large-market franchises that were also in pursuit of the veteran big man. However, Monroe’s first season in Milwaukee was filled with inconsistency, as the team missed the playoffs and his name was featured in plenty of trade rumors.

If things are shaky in year two, Monroe could look to free agency as an escape hatch.

Victor Oladipo, Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 contract:
$6.5 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Thunder could opt to lock up Oladipo long-term prior to the extension deadline on Oct. 31, but the team would essentially be bidding against themselves in the process. However, there’s also a risk if Oklahoma City allows the talented guard to hit the market next summer as well. Oladipo scored 34 points in his Thunder preseason debut this week versus Real Madrid and has seemingly transitioned into his new situation well after being traded from the Orlando Magic this summer. The Thunder will be looking for a second scorer to step up alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook after former league MVP Kevin Durant’s departure, and Oladipo is a guy who could flirt with 20 points a night if given the green light.

Gordon Hayward, Forward, Utah Jazz
2016-17 contract:
$16.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

Back in the summer, we wrote about the damage caused by restricted free agency. The piece followed up on restricted free agents who signed offer sheets only to have their offers matched by their current franchise. Guys such as Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Roy Hibbert, Marcin Gortat and Eric Gordon either bolted as soon as they had the opportunity or were traded before their respective deals expired.

Back in 2014, the Jazz matched Charlotte’s four-year, $63 million offer for Hayward. The forward is undoubtedly a key building block for Utah, but historically similar situations haven’t ended well. Keep an eye on this situation.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Guard, Detroit Pistons
2016-17 contract:
$3.7 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The jury is still out on Caldwell-Pope. The fourth-year guard continues to receive rave reviews from members of the Pistons coaching staff, but he’s also coming off a season in which he connected on just 31 percent of his three-point attempts (369). However, on the flip side, Caldwell-Pope has increased his scoring output every season and missed just eight games in his first three seasons. In 2016, Caldwell-Pope finished fourth in the league in average minutes per game (36.7). There will be suitors looking for a young guard, under 25, with starting and playoff experience next summer. Will the Pistons lock up Caldwell-Pope early or choose to see how the open market values his talent next July?

J.J. Redick, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
2016-17 contract:
$7.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Clippers will more than likely be pre-occupied with re-signing All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul next summer (both have player options). Each of those guys are going to command top dollar for their services, so will this provide an opposing team with an opportunity to swoop in and steal Redick from the Clippers? Redick led the league in three-point percentage (48 percent) in 2016 and will be in high demand if he can avoid injuries (only 11 games missed over the past two seasons).

Dennis Schroder, Guard, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 contract:
$2.7 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Hawks traded away Jeff Teague, a former All-Star in his prime, in order to give Schroder an opportunity to be team’s floor general. That’s a strong vote of confidence from Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and also a little motivation in a contract year for the fourth-year guard.

Nikola Mirotic, Forward, Chicago Bulls
2016-17 contract:
$5.8 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Bulls had a frontcourt logjam of sorts in 2016, but with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol moving on in free agency, there should be more time for Mirotic to earn minutes. Last season, Mirotic played 30 or more minutes in only 14 of his 66 appearances. But the forward did improve his three-point accuracy from 32 percent in 2015 to 39 percent last season. With elite slashing guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade added to the Bulls’ mix, Mirotic will be counted on nightly from the perimeter. If he continues to knock down those shots, his value will skyrocket.

Zaza Pachulia, Center, Golden State Warriors
2016-17 contract:
$2.9 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Pachulia turned down multiple eight-figure payday offers in order to pursue a ring with the Warriors. It was a calculated risk the veteran was willing to take in order to add championship hardware to his mantle.  But the Warriors will also have free agency decisions to make on Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant (player option), Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston next summer, meaning Pachulia’s time in the Bay Area could be a one-and-done experience if the money gets tight.

Steven Adams, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 contract:
$3.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The vast majority of NBA championship teams have guys on the roster who take pride in their blue-collar, bring-their-lunch-pail-to-work mentality.  Adams is the personification of this role-playing glue guy. From setting hard screens to delivering rough fouls to playing while hurt to his tenacious rebounding, the center will be an interesting name come free agency.

Jeff Teague, Guard, Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 contract:
$8 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Indiana Pacers wanted to add more offense and Teague provides a scoring upgrade over the departed George Hill at point guard. The former All-Star heads home, in a contract year, and will be given every opportunity to become All-Star forward Paul George’s chief sidekick.

Michael Beasley, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 contract:
$1.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

The Houston Rockets surprisingly traded Beasley prior to the start of the season. After Khris Middleton got hurt, Milwaukee was desperately seeking more offensive firepower. And for all of the criticism Beasley receives (and understandably so), there’s one thing everyone can agree on: the man can flat out score when given minutes.

P.J. Tucker, Forward, Phoenix Suns
2016-17 contract:
$5.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Tucker, 31, could be a victim of the Suns’ ongoing youth movement. With rookies Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss looking to carve out minutes at forward, Warren’s presence and the team’s decision to sign veteran Jared Dudley to a $30 million deal this summer, all signs point to a crowded frontcourt in Phoenix. Will Tucker eventually become the odd man out?

Gorgui Dieng, Center, Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 contract:
$2.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Timberwolves will enter the season with plenty of hype and are predicted by many to be this year’s surprise team. But how long can the T’Wolves keep their young core together? Dieng’s impending free agency will be the front office’s first test in how much they’re willing to invest in seeing things through. Dieng is oozing with double-double potential, but the arrival of Karl-Anthony Towns did lead to a three-minute-per-game reduction in court time for the soon-to-be-free-agent. Coincidence? We shall see.

Nerlens Noel, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 contract:
$4.4 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Sixers will head into the 2016-17 campaign with an extremely crowded frontcourt that features Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Noel and Dario Saric all figuring to get plenty of court time. Simmons is out for the first three months due to a foot injury, but the team still has a bottleneck. Noel, who has been mentioned in trade rumors, has publicly questioned the team’s decision to roster three young centers. Many believe Noel will be the odd man out and that a trade before the deadline is a strong possibility. That remains to be seen, but what is true is the fact the Sixers probably can’t get away with hoarding these young big men for an extended time period.

Patty Mills, Guard, San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 contract:
$3.6 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Future Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan retired this past summer and veteran guard Manu Ginobili is likely right behind him at season’s end. Mills, 28, has become a valuable member of the Spurs’ bench the past few seasons and boasts championship experience, which will be coveted on the open market. With the salary cap set to rise once again, Mills could be in for a plethora of lucrative offers and San Antonio will have to think long and hard about potentially handing out an eight-figure payday to their consistent role player.

Rudy Gobert, Center, Utah Jazz
2016-17 contract:
$2.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

The Stifle Tower is one of the league’s emerging big men and a core piece of the Jazz’s young core. Gobert provides elite rim protection and could become a nightly double-double performer in time. The Jazz can opt to extend Gobert before the Oct. 31 deadline or wait until next summer when the market will likely dictate a maximum price tag for the center. Utah did allow Gordon Hayward to secure a max offer from Charlotte back in 2014, so the precedent is there that the franchise may take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, when the smoke clears, Gobert is going to command top dollar and will undoubtedly get it.

Otto Porter, Forward, Washington Wizards
2016-17 contract:
$5.9 million
Free Agency Status:
Restricted

Despite making significant leaps in a variety of statistical categories last season, the jury is still out on whether the Wizards will pay top dollar to retain his services. Porter is an intriguing prospect in today’s 3-and-D league, but he’s been plagued by bouts of inconsistency during the course of his career. But Porter is only 23 and nowhere close to his physical prime, which would make allowing him to walk out of the door for nothing in return very risky.

Derrick Rose, Guard, New York Knicks
2016-17 contract:
$21.3 million
Free Agency Status:
Unrestricted

Once you get over the fact the league MVP version of Rose is likely never going to resurface, you’re still left with a very productive player who only missed 16 games last season while averaging 16.4 points and nearly five assists. While those numbers are nowhere close to what Rose once produced, they’re nothing to thumb your nose at. In New York, Rose won’t have franchise-player expectations. Those belong to All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony; however, Rose will be expected to be his primary sidekick. The Knicks took a risk in bringing in Rose, but are banking on the former MVP to be in peak condition heading into his contract year. And he needs to play well and stay healthy if he wants to cash in next offseason.

Danilo Gallinari, Forward, Denver Nuggets
2016-17 contract:
$15.1 million
Free Agency Status:
Player option for 2017-18

Gallinari averaged a career-high 19.5 points per game in 2016, but the veteran forward failed to appear in 60 games for the second consecutive campaign. The Nuggets are rebuilding and Gallinari will be relied on heavily as the team’s best offensive talent. But will a veteran with a history of injury problems opt out and price himself out of what Denver is willing to spend? Will the team look to move their talented forward at the deadline and go all-in on their youth movement? All indications are that both parties are completely satisfied with one another, but nine months is an eternity when it comes to NBA relationships. Let’s see if anything changes.

Which non-stars headed to free agency are you looking forward to watching this season? Leave your comments below.

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NBA Draft Watch: Should You Expect a Flurry Of Trades?

Should you expect a flurry of trades during tonight’s NBA Draft? History says yes!

Lang Greene

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Draft Day. The event that rebuilding teams have been planning months for is finally upon us. The next wave of NBA stars await their opportunity to play under the brightest of all lights on the biggest of stages. But outside of the rising and falling status of the prospects, each year draft week is filled with a flurry of trade activity and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2018.

On Wednesday, the trade market kicked off with the Charlotte Hornets shipping former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for veteran center Timofey Mozgov. The move isn’t all that surprising considering one of the biggest advocates for the Hornets in acquiring Howard from Atlanta last year, Steve Clifford, was fired back in April. In addition to a new head coach, James Borrego, Charlotte also hired a new president of basketball operations and general manager in Mitch Kupchak.

In the deal, Charlotte was able to avoid paying the luxury tax while also creating immediate salary cap flexibility to be players in this year’s market should they choose. For Brooklyn, the team acquires a veteran presence for their youth movement and a consistent double-double anchor on the interior.

The trade also marks consecutive years that Brooklyn was active on the trade front during draft time. Last year, the team acquired former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Nets haven’t had the luxury of prime draft assets in recent years, the team has had to resort to trades (Russell, Howard) and free agency (Allan Crabbe) to reshape the roster.

Transitioning to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question can be asked whether this will be the third straight year involving a draft day trade. At the top of the Warriors’ lineup max players reside which means the team has had to find talented gems in the back half of the draft to contribute to their success.

In 2016, the Warriors acquired the rights to the No. 38 overall pick, Patrick McCaw, from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations. In 2017, Golden State acquired the rights to another No. 38 overall pick, Jordan Bell, from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations.

Notice a trend?

With the Warriors needing to lock NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant into a long term deal this summer and future free agency looming for All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the franchise will need to continue finding young role players to complement their collection of stars.

There could also be a deal involving All-Star level talent.

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo back in 2016 in a draft week deal with the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo didn’t emerge as an All-Star caliber until the following season (after being dealt to Indiana), there are usually a couple of big names in play come draft night.

Consider the 2017 draft day deal that saw the Chicago Bulls send Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for talented two guard Zach LaVine.

This year, the most prominent name potentially on the market is San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumor mill reports Leonard is frustrated and wants a trade to the Lakers. The Spurs are, of course, attempting to keep their franchise player with a series of meetings. Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his public trade demand limits what San Antonio could demand in return. Teams will be hesitant to give up prime assets for a player that won’t commit to their franchise long term. While San Antonio doesn’t have to make an immediate deal their leverage hasn’t been compromised with Leonard’s specific trade destination request.

The NBA Draft can best be described as a crapshoot with prospects being hit or miss. There are teams that make their bones via draft day acquisitions, or working between the lines, which is a storyline to watch during the draft tonight.

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NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft

With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.

Dennis Chambers

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From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.

As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.

With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.

One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.

While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.

Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.

Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.

With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.

Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.

Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.

Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.

Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.

More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.

Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.

Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.

It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.

Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.

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NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?

Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.

Matt John

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Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.

For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.

So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.

Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.

All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.

That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?

It all starts with the Nets pick.

No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.

It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.

So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.

Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.

Next is addressing who should be traded.

Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.

Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.

Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.

How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.

Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.

Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.

Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.

That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.

It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.

One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.

That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.

Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.

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