NBA AM: Cavs Smart to Play Cautious With Irving

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Cavs Smart to Play Cautious With Irving

The injury ravaged Cleveland Cavaliers surprisingly pushed the heavily favored Golden State Warriors to six games before finally succumbing in the NBA Finals back in June. The Cavaliers, of course, were playing without the services of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and even though four-time league MVP LeBron James put on one of the all-time great Finals performances in history, it just wasn’t enough to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Heading into training camp, the Cavaliers are expected to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The team has spent most of the summer keeping the core pieces together while gearing up for another run at a title.

Here is how the team has fared this offseason:

Additions: Mo Williams

Departures: Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins

Retained: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones

Undecided: Tristan Thompson

Marion, Haywood, Miller and Perkins are all solid veterans with respect that have enjoyed success during their time in the league. But none of those guys were able to muster any production of note when Cleveland needed it most in the Finals.

Cleveland gave Love the $100 million-plus deal and expect his production to return to form after an up and down campaign. It’s still crazy to believe Cleveland acquired Shumpert and Smith from New York for a second round pick. Both guys re-signed this summer and give the team backcourt depth.

The biggest question mark surrounding the Cavaliers is the status of Tristan Thompson. The forward is reportedly seeking a deal in excess of $80 million. The Cavaliers can match any offer for his services so there’s the possibility Thompson will ultimately sign the $6.8 million qualifying offer and head into next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

The addition of former All-Star Mo Williams was a solid under the radar move that gives the team needed depth behind Irving and puts Dellavedova in the much more fitting third point guard slot.

Sticking with Irving, the addition of Williams holds even more value if the recent reports of the guard’s return from a fractured left kneecap holds true.

According to Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

“Multiple league sources say his rehabilitation is going smoothly, but that the chances are slim of him being in the opening-night lineup against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 27. One source said he could very well be unavailable up until January.

When the three-time All-Star underwent surgery in early June, his recovery time was set at 3-4 months. Assuming he is sidelined outside of that four-month window, the thinking is that it would have everything to do with the Cavaliers being patient and cautious rather than the injury not healing.

The Cavaliers want to bring him back slowly without risking a setback, with the goal of being at full strength entering the playoffs.”

In four NBA seasons, Irving has missed a total of 54 regular season games. He’s also on pace to potentially miss a good portion of next season’s early schedule and when you factor in his lone injury plagued campaign at Duke University, the signs are clearly there that the guard may be a player that will spend time each season in a suit.

Irving is a phenomenal player, when healthy, but the Cavaliers are also being smart if they play it conservative with their injured All-Star. The addition of Williams gives the team a bit of insurance and a veteran player still capable of providing valuable minutes until Irving is healthy enough to return to action.

Rumor: Tristan Thompson eyeing Toronto Raptors in 2016-17

Thompson is the most talented remaining free agent still available on the market. The problem is, most of the money has dried up around the league and the teams that still have space understand Cleveland has the right to match any offer for his services.

The Cavaliers are in a strongly leveraged position here and don’t have to bid against themselves. However, Thompson isn’t without his own set of options. The forward can decide to sign the $6.8 million qualifying offer and cash in as an unrestricted free agency next summer. This would of course require Thompson to take a bet on himself. It worked for Greg Monroe, who signed a large deal with Milwaukee in July.

But there are reports also starting to emerge that state Thompson has his eyes set on a specific franchise – the Toronto Raptors.

“I always thought he was going to end up (in Toronto) this year,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. “There’s going to be so much money next year so I think he will get it.”

Thompson was born in Canada so there are definitely ties, but there are too many changes (trades, players emerging, free agency options, etc.) that happen around the league over the course of a year to bank on this scenario holding.

Thompson has career averages of 10.1 points and 8.4 rebounds. The forward hasn’t missed a contest the past three seasons.