Basketball Insiders continues its free agency series with its third installment.
There is a ton of attention on the small forward class this summer for obvious reasons—a trio of superstars headlines a crop filled with proven talent on the wing.
Before we get to the top guys, let’s lay out the numbers. This upcoming season, the NBA’s salary cap is projected to jump from $99 million to $101 million. With this information, we can estimate the value of maximum contracts in the following tiers:
$25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience
$30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience
$35,350,000 for players with 10 or more years of experience
In addition, the mid-level exception for teams in the first year is expected to be $8,406,000.
Without further ado, let’s get into who’s available:
LeBron James** – Cleveland Cavaliers – Last Year’s Salary: $33,285,709
The burning question on everyone’s minds and the hottest storyline of the NBA offseason—where will LeBron go? Unfortunately, we don’t have that information as of yet. James may not either. The rumors of where The King will take his talents are running rampant all across the basketball world at this point.
Los Angeles seems to be the hot spot most national pundits are pointing to, while the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets are supposedly in the mix to court him to push their respective franchises to the next level as well. Of course, ruling out the Cleveland Cavaliers is the easy thing to do for many considering what’s taken place with the organization since the 2017 NBA Finals—but it may be unwise to count out James’ home state in the running.
Without speculating ties to his son’s high school destinations or what analysts are saying, the options for LeBron are not easy. There are routes he can take that will give him a great chance to lead something great, but who’s to say it leads to the dethroning of the Golden State Warriors with what they’ve built?
Will forming a hypothetical tandem with Paul George in Hollywood get the job done? If he can get to H-Town, is constructing a big three of James Harden, Chris Paul and himself the right move? Surely signing with the Sixers to guide young upstarts like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would be intriguing.
His hometown franchise has little leeway with their financial situation, but they do have a few assets to work with. Whether it’s drafting a promising rookie with their draft selection next week or dealing the eighth pick in a package for somebody else, you never know what can happen in this league.
The truth of the matter is we don’t know what James is going to do, and we probably won’t for weeks. As far as his decision goes, we can say this—the Cavaliers can pay him the most money (five years, $205 million) while others can offer four years and $152 million.
Another way things could shake out is for James to unexpectedly opt-in into his player option ($35,607,968) to either give it another go in Cleveland or have the franchise work out a deal to move the four-time MVP, granted he waves his no-trade clause. That could be a win-win for both parties at this point, but it’s highly unlikely he’d choose to go that route and give up leverage.
Speaking specifically to what he did on the court, it was an unbelievable season for James. Just go down the list of accomplishments—82 games for the first time as a pro, career-high 9.1 assists per game and tied a career-high with 8.6 rebounds per game. And that’s only naming a few of the accolades he racked up.
The onus on the 33-year-old to take the unsteady Cavaliers to the biggest stage for the fourth straight year with a completely new roster was extremely stressful, but he did it and passed with flying colors. Now with Year 15 in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for the next step.
The summer of LeBron is underway. Buckle up.
Kevin Durant** – Golden State Warriors – Last Year’s Salary: $25,000,000
Still often criticized for joining the Warriors a couple of summers ago, Kevin Durant’s decision to team up with the boys in the Bay Area has certainly paid off. Between back-to-back championship titles and two NBA Finals MVP awards to show for it, the 29-year-old is on top of the world right now.
With that said, he technically has a choice of whether to opt-in his player option for $26,250,000 or to demand a maximum contract from Golden State. The obvious answer for most superstars these days is to get paid, and that’s probably what KD will elect to do.
During their championship celebration, Warriors general manager Bob Myers did a bit of razzing when it came to his comments about giving Durant “whatever deal he wants,” but he’ll have earned every penny.
Despite an up-and-down postseason before another sensational showing in June, it was a fantastic year for Durant as a whole. Expect the All-Star forward to be back as a part of the deadly core four at Oracle Arena when all is said and done.
Paul George** – Oklahoma City Thunder – Last Year’s Salary: $20,703,384
Aside from the LeBron free agency hype, there have been a ton of eyes glued to Paul George’s situation. Sam Presti and company took a chance in the summer of 2017 with a blockbuster deal that landed the All-Star forward in Oklahoma City to create a brand new big three with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.
It turned out to be pretty risky, however, as things didn’t quite pan out as planned. It was a season full of ups and downs. Roles weren’t really defined on the offensive end and, overall, there were inconsistencies with usage and no true flow. Because of that and the upcoming offseason lurking over the last few years, many believe that George could be headed elsewhere.
The rumblings seem to indicate that PG-13 would like to travel west and play for the Los Angeles Lakers in his home state of California. As mentioned before, the thought of James teaming up with him comes to mind with that. Other teams reportedly in the mix for him are the Rockets and Sixers.
Just like the two others we talked about above, George could always go with his player option of $20,703,384 to give it one more go with the Thunder. He could even opt-out and look for a maximum deal from them as well if that’s what he prefers. All we know is whatever decision he makes, it will have a huge impact on the summer for his fellow free agent class.
Above Mid-Level Guys
Tyreke Evans – Memphis Grizzlies – Last Year’s Salary: $3,290,000
It seems like forever ago, but let’s not forget about the renaissance of Tyreke Evans with the Memphis Grizzlies this past year. Even as a part of a downtrodden team in the basement of the Western Conference, the talented forward looked as spritely as he did during his rookie season in the league.
He sat out a lot of the second half, but that was likely more of mutual understanding between him and the organization regarding his upcoming free agency status. Coming off a 19-5-5 season, Evans showed that he has his best playing days ahead of him at 28 years old.
Carmelo Anthony*** – Oklahoma City Thunder – Last Year’s Salary: $26,243,760
There’s no reason for Carmelo Anthony to use his early termination option this summer. It was a difficult shooting year and a poor season defensively for the veteran forward, so it’s unlikely that he’ll make more than his $27,928,140 million salary in 2018-19. If things go south in Oklahoma City, they’ll have a difficult contract on their hands to part ways with.
For the Thunder’s sake, they’ll have to bank on the former All-Star to get back to his old ways.
Wilson Chandler** – Denver Nuggets – Last Year’s Salary: $12,016,854
Rodney Hood* – Cleveland Cavaliers – Last Year’s Salary: $2,386,864
Kyle Anderson* – San Antonio Spurs – Last Year’s Salary: $2,151,704
Trevor Ariza – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $7,420,912
Mid-Level or Below Guys
Rudy Gay** – San Antonio Spurs – Last Year’s Salary: $8,406,000
Gerald Green – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $872,854
Glenn Robinson III – Indiana Pacers – Last Year’s Salary: $1,524,305
Jeff Green – Cleveland Cavaliers – Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Doug McDermott* – Dallas Mavericks – Last Year’s Salary: $3,294,994
Omri Casspi – Golden State Warriors – Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Joe Johnson – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $473,835
Richard Jefferson – Denver Nuggets – Last Year’s Salary: $1,454,756
Pat Connaughton* – Portland Trail Blazers – Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Corey Brewer – Oklahoma City Thunder – Last Year’s Salary: $340,829
Damion Lee* – Atlanta Hawks – Last Year’s Salary: $46,080
Shabazz Muhammad – Milwaukee Bucks – Last Year’s Salary: $324,203
Luke Babbitt – Miami HEAT– Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382
Quincy Pondexter – Chicago Bulls – Last Year’s Salary: $3,853,931
Bruno Caboclo* – Sacramento Kings – Last Year’s Salary: $2,451,225
Nicolas Brussino – Atlanta Hawks – Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611
Jarell Eddie – Chicago Bulls – Last Year’s Salary: $83,129
Brandon Rush – Portland Trail Blazers – Last Year’s Salary: $83,129
*Qualifying Offer (If made, player becomes restricted free agent)
**Player Option (The player has the choice of whether to opt-in for another year with his current team or opt-out to become an unrestricted free agent)
***Early Termination Option (The player has the choice to end a signed contract if he desires to enter free agency)
The 2018 free agent class of small forwards is pretty top-heavy with plenty of promise. There will be a lot of teams that are in on bolstering their rosters with capable wings and, in some cases, franchise-changing ones.
NBA Daily: What’s Next For Chris Paul
Left in the lurch, there are few feasible options for Chris Paul headed into the 2019-20 season, writes Shane Rhodes.
It’s official, we have hit the dog days of the NBA offseason.
What began at such a frenetic pace has inevitably sputtered and slowed, as deals have been made, unmade and some of the biggest names in the NBA have moved house. Everything that could have happened seems to have and now, with Summer League over, basketball is left with almost nothing to occupy the seemingly infinite amount of time between today and training camp.
And, unfortunately for Chris Paul, it may feel even longer than that.
Despite the Houston Rockets’ declaration to the contrary, Paul has since been traded, stranded on an Oklahoma City roster that has no business competing in a stacked Western Conference next season.
Between his contract – more than $124 million over the next three seasons – and his regression a season ago, Paul’s removal from the Rockets’ roster was a necessity; it’s a business, and the point guard was a hinderance to Houston’s championship aspirations.
But the situation hasn’t changed for Paul – he is still unwanted, a (very) pricy veteran miscast on his current roster.
So, where does that leave him? There are but a few teams that could afford to take on the massive amount of money owed to Paul and even fewer that would want to. There is no doubt that, given a clean bill of health, Paul could recapture some of his prior form next season but, still, would it be worth his price tag?
Probably not. And that should only limit Paul’s options further.
The Thunder reportedly want to get a deal done “as soon as they can” according to Adrian Wojnarowski, but discussions are “parked” for now. They could always opt to retain him; who better to serve as a mentor for the young Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than the Point God himself?
But would Paul want to serve in that role? There would be a clear opportunity to rebuild some value and open up potential landing spots. But, Paul, 34, is a soon-to-be 15-year veteran with a single Conference Finals appearance to his name. Surely, if he were to step back into a secondary role, he would rather do so for a contender.
And, of course, the money would be an issue as the Thunder, despite the recent roster reconstruction, are still expected to pay a heavy luxury tax penalty next season. Given their current situation, it should be obvious that keeping Paul on his current deal isn’t the best move.
The Lakers serve as another potential destination — don’t forget, Los Angeles tried to acquire Paul back in 2011, but the deal was subsequently nixed by then-commissioner David Stern.
While there is almost no connection between that iteration of the Lakers and the current one, it is still an interesting option. Los Angeles is an obvious fit because, for lack of a better option, the Lakers are set to start LeBron James at point guard next season. With Paul in the fold, James could serve in his normal role and reduce his workload with time off the ball.
The prior relationship between James and Paul could also serve to benefit the Lakers’ chemistry and may allow for an easier roster transition.
But, again, Paul’s contract looms large. The Lakers opened a max-slot in their salary cap earlier this summer, hoping to land recently-minted champion Kawhi Leonard. When Leonard spurned them for their in-house neighbor, the Clippers, they made use of that space to fill out the rest of the roster with complementary players.
Now, a buyout would be necessary to facilitate any deal before the start of the season. Otherwise, the Lakers would have to wait until December, when those players that signed new contracts would become eligible to be traded.
And then, of course, there are the HEAT. Miami is almost always mentioned when a big-name is available, whether as a free agent or via trade, and the rumors proved true this offseason in the case of Jimmy Butler.
Despite the awkward fit in Philadelphia alongside other stars such as Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, Butler proved his worth and, at times, looked like the 76ers’ best player during the postseason.
Now in Miami, Butler should almost certainly bolster their future outlook, but they are far from done with the roster. Without a subsequent move, they aren’t a championship contender — could Paul be the one to take them a step further?
The reported mutual interest, according to Brian Windhorst, should only fuel the flames, but a deal involving Paul could be as much of a necessity for Miami as it was for Houston.
The HEAT were the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference a season ago and Butler is a major upgrade, but the rest of the roster is underwhelming at best. While Butler and Paul could prove an awkward fit basketball-wise, there is no doubt that the two of them together would significantly elevate the HEAT’s ceiling above that level. Miami, unlike many of his other potential suitors, would also have the salary to match Paul’s incoming deal.
But a dispute over draft compensation seems to have tabled discussions until further notice.
Beyond those scenarios, it’s hard to imagine Paul anywhere else next season.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Paul is anywhere other than Oklahoma City to start next season, barring a change of heart (either from Paul regarding a buyout or the HEAT and Thunder regarding potential compensation), anyway.
And so, the long wait for Paul will continue. It would be foolish to doubt him now, after 14 seasons in the NBA, but it’s hard to imagine that Paul will come close to providing adequate value relative to his contract. Ultimately, a potential move may be out of his hands, left up to the teams to determine whether or not Paul is an asset worth acquiring.
So far, it would seem the NBA has deemed him not worth it.
But, it is the NBA and if the offseason thus far is anything to go by, anything could happen.
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Chicago Bulls
David Yapkowitz continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by taking a look at the Chicago Bulls.
With summer league over and the big name free agents all signed, we’re now approaching the doldrums of the NBA offseason. Most big moves have all been made, and we shouldn’t expect to too much movement between now and the start of training camp.
Most teams probably have an idea already of what the bulk of their roster will look like come training camp, and as such, we’re starting a new series here at Basketball Insiders taking a look at each team’s offseason to this point.
Next up in our series is the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are a team clearly in rebuilding mode. After this offseason, they’ve done a pretty solid job at filling out the roster with young talent at every position. It’s obvious now that they were clear winners of their trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves two years ago that netted them Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.
LaVine continued his ascent to stardom this past season. There may have been initial concerns when he was traded to Chicago as to how he would respond after his torn ACL, but since then, he’s showed no lingering limitations. He’s well on his way to becoming one of the elite shooting guards in the league. Few can match his scoring prowess whether he’s slashing to the rim or shooting 37.4 percent from the three-point line.
Markkanen has emerged as one of the top young big men in the NBA. He made some strong steps forward in his second year in the league. He’s moving closer to becoming a double-double threat every night. He’s exceeded projections from when he was drafted that pegged him as little more than a three-point shooting big. He has shown a lot more versatility to his game.
One major addition the Bulls made last season was the trade deadline acquisition of Otto Porter Jr. When he arrived in Chicago, he quickly played some of the best basketball of his career, fitting in seamlessly with the team and solidifying himself as part of their future core.
They’ve also got Wendell Carter Jr. in the fold. Their top draft pick last offseason, Carter quickly established himself a great defensive complement to Markkanen. An injury cut his rookie season shorter than expected, but he still showed flashes of being a capable around the rim scorer.
They do have some other decent rotation guys in Antonio Blakeney, Chandler Hutchinson and Ryan Arcidiacono. Blakeney is an instant offense scoring guard for the second unit, and Hutchinson was showing flashes of his talent before he too went down with an injury during his rookie season. Arcidiacono was re-signed by the Bulls after being one of their most consistent outside shooters last season.
The Bulls came into draft night with the seventh overall pick. It might have seemed like a disappointment seeing as how the Bulls probably had a shot at a top three pick considering their record. But ultimately, Chicago might have gotten what it wanted in the end. Point guard has been an area of need for the Bulls for quite some time, and they used their pick on North Carolina’s Coby White.
White is a little more in the mold of a scoring guard, but if you could take away one thing from his performance in summer league, it’s that he can thrive as a playmaker as well. It’s unlikely that White will get to start right away, but he’s got the makings of developing into the Bulls eventual starter at the point.
Chicago also picked up Daniel Gafford in the second round. The Bulls needed frontcourt depth after losing Robin Lopez in free agency, and they may very well have found their answer with Gafford. Summer League isn’t always a great indicator of how a player will translate to the NBA, but Gafford was solid as a finisher around the rim and a shot blocker in the paint. He may end up becoming one of the steals of the draft.
In free agency, the Bulls made some rather solid moves. On a team full of young players, it’s necessary to have a couple of key veterans for the young guys to lean on and to provide leadership and stability in the locker room. Thaddeus Young certainly fits that bill. Entering his 13th year in the league, Young played in 81 games last season and was a key guy on a Pacers team that made the playoffs. He’ll provide the Bulls with consistency on and off the court.
They also made a big step to addressing their point guard woes. They acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign and trade with the Washington Wizards. He’ll provide a perfect stop-gap as the starting point guard while White develops. He proved himself as a facilitator with the Wizards, and he’s one of the better three-point shooters in the league, He’s a versatile guy who can play and defend multiple positions.
The Bulls also picked up Luke Kornet who spent last season with the New York Knicks. Kornet is relatively young and gives the Bulls a solid stretch big man on a decent contract. He’s also a solid shot blocker and should compete with Gafford for minutes off the bench.
Chicago also picked up an intriguing prospect in Adam Mokoka. The French combo guard initially declared for the draft a year ago but ultimately withdrew. He re-entered the draft this summer but went undrafted. In summer league, he showed flashes of playing both wing positions and being a capable defender who can shoot from three. He’ll be on a two-way contract so he’ll see significant time with the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s G League affiliate.
PLAYERS IN: Adam Mokoka (two-way), Coby White, Daniel Gafford, Luke Kornet, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky
PLAYERS OUT: Brandon Sampson, Rawle Alkins, Robin Lopez, Shaquille Harrison, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Walt Lemon Jr., Wayne Selden
The Bulls roster currently stands at 15 guaranteed contracts and one two-way contract. They’re likely done with any roster additions unless they find someone to take that second two-way contract slot. They’d most likely move Cristiano Felicio if they could find a taker for his contract, but it’s probably unlikely.
With the additions of Satoransky and White, that likely spells the end of the Kris Dunn experiment in Chicago. If Dunn remains on the roster through the season, and the Bulls aren’t able to move him, it’s highly unlikely Chicago tenders him a qualifying offer. In all likelihood, this is his final season in the Windy City.
The Bulls have done a decent job at filling the roster out with good, young talent. Making the playoffs, even in the Eastern Conference, is still likely a few seasons away. But there is reason for optimism for the Bulls future.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Cleveland Cavaliers
Spencer Davies opens Basketball Insiders team-by-team “Grading The Offseason” series with an overview of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Monday night in Las Vegas, the 2019 NBA Summer League champions will be crowned. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies are set to square off at the Thomas & Mack Center as the last teams standing over the course of the 10-day period.
Once that winner is determined, the world will be without NBA basketball for quite some time. Though the FIBA World Cup will be fun to watch, it’s not until late September that the association returns for training camp.
In order to hold you over until that date, Basketball Insiders has begun a “Grading The Offseason” series, featuring in-depth analysis on how each franchise has done during this wild summer.
To start things off, we’re going to break down arguably the quietest team of them all regarding roster turnover—the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s no secret that, on the floor, the season didn’t go quite as expected. Following the second departure of LeBron James, the organization felt it had enough remnants of the conference championship team to move forward and compete while developing young talent under head coach Tyronn Lue. A detrimental injury to Kevin Love changed that quickly.
Lue was fired six games into the 2018-19 campaign and then the wheels fell off pretty quickly. Top assistant Larry Drew pushed for a raise to take the interim role, due to the mixed bag inside of the locker room, and he was granted one. But as the losses piled up, the internal battle between the veterans and the younger players grew. Most of the criticism shaded toward upstart rookie Collin Sexton, yet he later proved what he was capable of to some of those teammates later down the road.
There were bright spots when Love re-entered the picture around February and played until late March, as he helped steer the inexperienced youngsters like Sexton, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic in the direction of winning basketball. When all was said and done, the final record was ugly. However, the energy surrounding the group was clearly in a much more positive light than it had been beforehand.
What shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is the job Cavaliers’ general manager Koby Altman and his staff did to revamp the team’s salary cap situation. Entering the year with inflated contracts, via veterans that didn’t want to sit through a rebuild, moves had to be made to tighten up the locker room and lower the cap a significant amount. Ultimately, they were successful in doing so.
Cleveland was able to move Kyle Korver, George Hill, Sam Dekker, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks (acquired in the Korver trade) and turned that into Brandon Knight, Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, Nik Stauskas and a boatload of future draft picks. Altman’s been in asset accumulation mode since he took over during LeBron’s last season, and he’s done wonders with the opportunity to chop down those loud figures on the cap sheet, even adding future capital in the process.
Not only has Altman done a great job in obtaining that, but he’s also turned “good” into “great” often—i.e. turning Korver into Burks which he then flipped for a 2019 first-round pick, using the second-rounders to acquire another first-round pick. Even landing Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson at the 2018 trade deadline to kickstart a new direction was impressive.
After parting ways with Drew at season’s end, the Cavaliers set a new course with the hiring of John Beilein in mid-May. Over the span of these past few months, he’s constructed a fresh coaching staff with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff as his associate, University of California women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and five-year Utah Jazz assistant Antonio Lang in complementary roles.
Beilein’s graduate assistant at Michigan, Jay Shunnar, is also a part of the staff. Team favorites Mike Gerrity and Dan Geriot are staying on as well to continue developing the players they’ve worked with.
All in all, the people assembled to take on this task of changing a culture are entrenched in teaching and doing hands-on work. It’s the on-court product with an extremely inexperienced group of coaches—three of which are coming from the collegiate level—that could be a challenge. Luckily, the process seems to be about a collective group with an open-mindedness that won’t allow for egos to get in the way.
Despite the lottery results going south (Cleveland had the second-best odds in the top three and dropped to five), draft night was a smashing success for the organization. The wine and gold came out with a trio of highly touted rookies—Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and, after trades were officially cleared, Kevin Porter Jr. Adding talents to the roster was the top priority for the front office — today, that stands as the most noise from what’s been a mostly silent offseason.
With a lack of roster spots and an understanding that there would be little money to spend in a chaotic, competitive free-agent market, the Cavaliers have had to stand pat with what they have. JR Smith’s contract had reportedly fielded some offers between NBA Draft Combine time and around the draft, but the team didn’t like the idea of taking back a bad contract. Instead, they found an easier way to get a third pick in the 2019 first round by using the plethora of second-rounders acquired in the past to flip for Porter.
Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported Monday that Cleveland plans on waiving and stretching Smith’s contract for $1.4 million each over the next three years. The move will allow the team to stay under the luxury tax, avoid the repeater tax penalty and also provides a full mid-level exception amount at its disposal. Fedor does mention the front office won’t likely use it heading into the season to remain flexible financially and to keep a roster spot open.
Smith not being traded came as a surprise to many, especially knowing the salary relief his previously-grandfathered CBA deal offered to a team searching to clear space for a big free agency offer. The summer moved fast, though, and other franchises with similar predicaments acted quickly. The Cavaliers could’ve facilitated a few trades to get more future draft assets in return, but they didn’t feel like taking on an albatross contract that would’ve been worth paying the extra tax this upcoming season.
The only other real decision to make was whether or not to retain David Nwaba, who, when healthy, displayed flashes of defensive excellence and aggressiveness on the offensive end, Cleveland did not extend the qualifying offer to Nwaba before the deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent. He recently signed with the Brooklyn Nets on a two-year deal.
This move was not so surprising as Basketball Insiders reported at the beginning of June that Nwaba’s representation would be looking for a multi-year deal. A league source said that last summer’s one-year agreement between the Cavaliers and Nwaba was with the understanding that he’d be strictly looking for a newly re-structured multi-year contract with no qualifying offer in his 2019 plans.
The latest addition the franchise made was inking Dean Wade, an undrafted rookie from Kansas State, to a two-way contract. He played in five NBA Summer League games for the organization between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
PLAYERS IN: Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr., Dean Wade (two-way)
PLAYERS OUT: JR Smith, Marquese Chriss, David Nwaba, Channing Frye
Following the waiving of Smith, the Cavaliers roster will be at 13 players. You’d imagine they wouldn’t keep two roster spots open, so seeing a free agent signing or even nabbing a player from a summer league team could be in the cards.
Per Fedor, the franchise will be above the $109 million salary cap by $22 million once the Smith news is made official by the team. It’s a much healthier number than they’ve been at in years past — so, going into next summer, that cap sheet is going to be as clean as it’s been in quite some time.
Cleveland is going to have numerous attractive contracts on its hands as five players on the roster are on deals set to expire following this year. Tristan Thompson ($18.5 million), Brandon Knight ($15.6 million), Jordan Clarkson ($13.4 million), John Henson ($9.7 million) and Matthew Dellavedova ($9.6 million) are all trade chips that Altman can move to stockpile the future even more. Depending on what offers come their way, it could be yet another busy season regarding roster turnover.
There’s plenty of speculation that the team should trade Love to a contender to both satisfy the player and allow the team to get out of his sizable deal. What people are forgetting is that the Cavaliers want to have a championship-caliber player in the locker room as a guiding voice. Remember, this team has one person that is at least the age of 30, and it is the All-Star big man. The next guys up are 28 years old—Henson, Dellavedova and Thompson—and who knows how long they’ll be around.
Cleveland will have to be blown away to take back what it thinks it should receive in return for Love. No deal will be made just to make a deal. The organization values him too much as a person and a player.
On the court, the focus is going to be on player development, mainly in watching how Sexton and Garland play off one another. Different looks and combinations with the frontcourt of Love, Nance Jr., Zizic, Windler and Osman will be available for Beilein to tinker with. A new coaching staff with a freshly enthused group of players should be intriguing to watch.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C-
Stay tuned to the rest of Basketball Insiders “Grading The Offseason” series over the next few weeks.
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