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NBA Daily: A Re-Tool, Not A Rebuild In Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed like a team headed towards a protracted rebuild, however, with today’s announcement of a Kevin Love extension, that may not be the case.

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A Re-Tool, Not A Rebuild

The Cleveland Cavaliers announced today they have reached a four-year, $120 million contract extension with five-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love, which locks him into Cleveland for the next five seasons at roughly $145 million in that span.

On the surface, this seemed a little surprising considering most pundits and insiders felt the Cavaliers would aim toward a total rebuild in the wake of LeBron James leaving for the Lakers. However, with Love now locked up for the long-term, the notion that the Cavs were going to fire sale of the veterans seems a little less likely, at least in the short-term.

League sources pegged the Cavaliers as open to moving their higher prices veterans for most of the off-season. However, it became clear pretty quickly that Cleveland wasn’t going to find a taker for the big contract dollars they sunk into James’ supporting cast, which makes locking in Love a little more reasonable, especially if he is going to be paired with vets he knows and understands. That’s not to say the Cavaliers won’t look at trades; it simply means it’s not as likely today as it was when the off-season opened.

According to sources close to the Cavs’ thinking, they are thrilled with what they saw from rookie point guard Collin Sexton in Summer League and see him as a potential future star to pair with a quality double-double guy in Love.

As for the Cavaliers’ cap situation, they have a hefty amount tied up in George Hill, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. However, most of those guys only have partial guarantees for the 2019-2020 season.

Hill who is owed $19 million this season is only guaranteed $1 million if he is released prior to July 1 of 2019. Smith’s $17.7 million salary this season is guaranteed, but he too is only owed $3.87 million in 2019 if he is waived before June 30 of 2019. Korver follows a similar path with $7.56 million owed for the upcoming season, but only $3.44 million is fully guaranteed assuming he is waived before July 7 of 2019.

All in the Cavaliers are looking at about $70.5 million in committed salaries for the 2019-20 season, which could give them as much as $30-$34 million in usable cap space if they let everything expire.

Given the guaranteed portions of some of the deals they have, the Cavs could also be serious players around the February NBA trade deadline.

Its clear with the move to extend Love that the Cavaliers aren’t looking at a complete tear down, mainly because the money owed right now isn’t overly attractive. But given what could be possible in February or more importantly in June around the draft, the Cavs could be serious trade partners for veterans already under contract.

It is hard to envision a post-LeBron Cleveland being a free agent hot-bed destination in 2019-20, but they could be the spot unhappy veterans get moved to, especially to complement Love and Sexton, even more so if the pairing the Cavs envision starts to bear fruit.

Keep in mind, with so much uncertainty surrounding the power structure of the East, ownership and management see being playoff competitive as far more advantageous in the short-term than hitting bottom for a draft pick.

As much as some fans may have wanted to see an all out rebuild after LeBron, its seems the Cavs are going in a different direction and doubling down on the roster they have. So as much as some may have wanted a rebuild, it turns out they may simply be getting a re-tool.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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