Offseason Outlook: Cleveland Cavaliers

June 8 at 6:54pm CDT By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (1st overall)
  • 2nd Round (33rd overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $36,189,162
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $10,971,905
  • Cap Holds: $36,566,450
  • Total: $83,727,517

Last June, the Cavs tabbed UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in part because he was widely regarded as the most NBA-ready prospect at the top of the draft.  So much for that.  Bennett began his NBA career with an ugly scoreless streak and things didn’t get much better from there.  While Bennett still has years and years in front of him to turn things around, Cleveland must be having second thoughts about how he’ll end up   This year, they have the No. 1 pick again and what they do with it will set the tone for next season and beyond.

Will the Cavs go against the grain again?  Last year, there were whispers that Cleveland was considering Bennett but most of us ignored that talk and believed that he would go closer to No. 10 than No. 1.  The consensus this year, of course, is that it’s a three-horse race for the top slot.  Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins has been projected as the first overall pick in this draft for at least three years, but his inconsistency and lack of killer instinct last season has teams concerned.  Teammate Joel Embiid offers a very polished inside game and shot-blocking ability, but his back problems are troubling.  Will Cleveland, fresh off of their botched Andrew Bynum experiment, want to gamble on another 7-footer with serious injury troubles?  That seems questionable, especially when considering that agent Arn Tellem is keeping his medicals under wraps.  Power forward Jabari Parker has also been mentioned as a top pick possibility, but some say he’s falling out of the mix.  Of course, we wouldn’t bet on what the Cavs will do with the pick, but it’s hard to see anyone outside of that top three being in the mix.  Aussie guard Dante Exum could very well stand as the best talent from this class five years from now, but there’s simply no room for him with a starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

So, while the Cavs have some quality options in front of them, none are free of question marks.  Beyond that, the Cavs are in win-now mode and a 19-year-old rookie may not be the fastest way to contention.  What if the Cavs trade the pick?  They’re bound to find a ripe market and they could theoretically turn the pick into an All-Star caliber player who can elevate them to a top team.  Kevin Love is the hottest name on the market and if the T’Wolves decide to go with (another) reboot, one would think that there’s no better way for them to start off than with the first pick in the draft.  Still, a report from late last week indicated that the Wolves don’t see the Cavs as a good partner for a trade.

Of course, what the Cavs to with the top pick rests heavily on what they intend to do with free agent Luol Deng.  Reports from during the season said that the veteran forward wants out of Cleveland badly.  Meanwhile, the Cavs were only 19-21 with Deng in the lineup for the second half – an improvement over their previous 42 games, but not much better.  The Cavs gave up quite a bit for Deng in terms of draft picks, but the sunk cost fallacy says that Cleveland shouldn’t go chasing a new deal with the 29-year-old just for that reason.  For all his talent, The Man from Sudan isn’t a No. 1 star for any team and a new deal for Deng could call for the Cavs to almost pay him like one.  For a lot of reasons, it seems like a reunion isn’t in the best interest of either party.  If the Cavs feel good about Wiggins at No. 1, we say they should pull the trigger there and let Deng go elsewhere this summer.  They won’t get the entire haul back with a sign-and-trade, but they can recoup some of their losses by going that route.  It doesn’t seem unreasonable for the Cavs to net a first rounder plus a second-round pick in a Deng S&T.

Deng clearly isn’t a No. 1 type but this season Irving’s play at times and obvious dissatisfaction gave off the vibe that he might not be either.  There was speculation that the guard wanted out of Cleveland, despite Irving’s denials, and many said the Cavs were fed up with him too.  However, after a report yesterday from The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto, it sounds like we can put any speculation to rest, at least from the team’s end.  The Cavs plan on offering Irving the maximum five-year extension and will do so as soon as they’re allowed on July 1st.  It’s not a guarantee that Irving will accept, but the guard is reportedly happy about the Cavs’ decision to install David Griffin as the permanent GM.  If the Cavs can hire a coach that meshes well with Irving, that would probably go a long way towards convincing him to stay.

Speaking of the coaching search, the Cavs don’t appear to be in any sort of rush, but they could be getting closer to making a hire.  As best as we can tell, there are six candidates at the time of this writing: Vinny Del NegroAlvin GentryLionel HollinsAdrian Griffin, Tyronn Lue, and David Blatt.  Del Negro, Hollins, and Gentry all offer previous head coaching experience and Gentry has already been asked back for another interview.  Griffin, one of the first candidates named for the job, and Lue are both up-and-coming assistants who have had head coaching buzz around them for much of the season.   Blatt, of course, is the wild card.  The Maccabi Tel Aviv coach has been considered for assistant jobs elsewhere with Minnesota’s Flip Saunders reportedly seeing him as someone that he can groom to take over the position eventually.  Blatt would be an exciting new hire but owner Dan Gilbert, who is focused on winning now, may prefer to go with an NBA retread in the end.

The Cavs, in theory, could save money by cutting Anderson Varejao since only $4MM of his $9.7MM salary is guaranteed.  If they move on from the longtime Cavs centerpiece, it seems more likely that they’ll trade him, something that the front office is open to.  We’d stop short of saying he’d be expendable, but the Cavs could afford to deal Varejao if they re-sign free agent big man Spencer Hawes.

In a league perpetually starving for competent centers, Hawes figures to be something of a hot commodity this summer with the Hawks and Mavs as possible suitors.  It was said back in April that Griffin would make a strong push to retain the 26-year-old but a recent report has cast doubt on that.  In 27 games (25 starts) for Cleveland last season, Hawes averaged 13.5 PPG and 7.7 RPG with a 16.6 PER, a few notches above his career average.  He could be back in Cleveland if the price is right, but that’s far from a given.

Another notable name that could be elsewhere next season is Dion Waiters.  The Cavs have done their best to quiet down trade speculation around the former No. 4 overall pick but we learned late last week that there has been preliminary trade talk involving Waiters and Tristan Thompson with another team in the lottery that’s looking to move up.  Pairing the top pick with either player, especially Waiters, should net the Cavs a decent haul.  Depending on who you ask, Irving and Waiters aren’t getting along too well, so moving him could be a case of addition by subtraction even though he’s obviously talented.

The Cavs have a different guy at the helm this summer, but things still feel awfully familiar for Cleveland as they hold the No. 1 pick and search for a rapid turnaround.  There’s no denying the talent that the Cavs’ core possesses and there’s no reason why they can’t find their way to the playoffs with the right additions.

Cap footnotes

* — Dellavedova’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 25th.
** — Deng’s cap hold will be the lesser of $21,412,500, which is 150% of his 2013/14 salary, or the maximum salary for a veteran of 10 or more seasons, which won’t be determined until after the July Moratorium. The number here is this past season’s max.

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