Cleveland Cavaliers

Eastern Notes: J.R. Smith, Wizards, Contracts

J.R. Smith‘s new two-year contract with the Cavaliers has an unusual structure that includes partial guarantees for both this season and next, sources tell Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (Twitter links). This year’s salary, worth $5MM, is guaranteed for only $2MM, and next year’s salary, a player option, has a $2.15MM partial guarantee on the full $5.4MM value, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (All four Twitter links). However, this season’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if the team keeps him through Monday, Pincus adds. That’s almost certain to happen, but the reason that clause is in the contract is so that his 2016/17 salary can become fully guaranteed if he sticks on the roster through the same date next year, in a structure similar to the deal that Kostas Papanikolaou signed with the Rockets last year, Pincus explains. The Cavs formally announced Smith’s signing Wednesday, nearly two weeks after Smith revealed that he would be rejoining the team.

See more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Coach Randy Wittman likes the grit that Wizards camp signee Toure’ Murry has shown in the past, but the shooting guard will have to make quite a convincing case for the Wizards to keep him over one of the 15 players on their roster with a fully guaranteed contract, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic. Jaleel Roberts, the other Wizard with a non-guaranteed deal, won his training camp roster spot more so by his performance at Tim Grgurich’s private camp than through his play with the Wizards summer league squad, Michael hears. Still, Roberts is more likely to make the regular season roster in 2016/17, when the team will ostensibly have greater flexibility, than he is this year, according to Michael.
  • Kelly Dwyer, Ben Rohrbach and Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports weighed in on which 2015 NBA draftee ended up in the best situation to succeed next season. Dwyer chose the KnicksKristaps Porzingis, while Rohrbach tabbed Justise Winslow of the Heat, and Freeman’s pick was the Nuggets’ Emmanuel Mudiay.
  • The Cavs had possessed one of the most tradeable contracts in the league in Brendan Haywood‘s non-guaranteed pact, which they had dealt to the Blazers at the end of July. Pincus, in a separate post, ran down some of the most desirable trade chip contracts around the NBA , including Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko of the Celtics, the WizardsKris Humphries and Martell Webster, as well as Ersan Ilyasova‘s deal with the Pistons.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.

Cavs Re-Sign J.R. Smith

SEPTEMBER 2ND, 6:00pm: The deal is official, the Cavaliers announced.

8:56pm: The deal is for two years and includes a player option for 2016/17, and Smith will earn approximately $5MM this season, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group tweets.

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

AUGUST 20TH, 8:36pm: It appears that unrestricted free agent J.R. Smith is set to re-sign with the Cavaliers, with the player taking to his personal Instagram account to relay the news. It is unclear what the length and terms of Smith’s deal with the team are. The Cavs reportedly wanted Smith back on a modest one-year deal, as Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer wrote last month, and Smith had been seeking a three-year deal, according to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Smith wrote, “Happy to say that I am returning to the Cavs! It’s been a long ride this summer but I can say for sure, well worth the wait. When I opted out of my contract, I wanted to understand the landscape of the NBA and where I fit best. The Cavaliers had things they needed to do in order to piece together a championship caliber roster. I ended up deciding that instead of potentially securing a larger deal elsewhere, I wanted to rejoin an incredible organization in pursuit of the ultimate goal, an NBA championship. Thank you to the Cavaliers for making this happen. Can’t wait to get started!

The Cavs are about $4MM above the tax threshold for now, but they still haven’t re-signed Tristan Thompson, a move that they still appear likely to make. A deal around the max for Thompson would mean Smith’s contract would cost the Cavs $3.75 or more in tax penalties for every dollar it’s worth. Smith had declined his one-year, $6.4MM player option for the upcoming season.

Smith, 29, averaged 12.7 points per game and shot 39% from three-point range during the regular season with the Cavs after being acquired from the Knicks. The guard’s career numbers through 11 NBA seasons are 13.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists to go along with a slash line of .424/.372/.737.

Central Notes: LeBron, Hibbert, Bulls

The Cavaliers and Bulls looked like the two clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference a year ago, and while the Bulls’ roster is still largely the same, the Cavs zoomed past them in the playoffs and other Eastern Conference contenders appear to have gained ground. The Heat, Wizards, Raptors, Hawks and perhaps even the Bucks, whom Chicago dispatched in the first round this spring, all appear capable of posing a threat and then some to the Bulls this coming season. While we wait for training camps to open later this month to see how it all unfolds, there’s more on the Bulls and Cavs amid the latest from the Central Division:

  • LeBron James has structured his past two deals with the Cavaliers to give himself a chance to exit every summer, but the Cavs don’t think he’d dare to leave Cleveland a second time, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher said recently in a video and as Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk notes. That falls in line with a suggestion that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports made last October, though Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer heard in December that James would be prepared to leave the Cavs if he felt it would be the “appropriate business decision.”
  • The Pacers agreed to trade Roy Hibbert to the Lakers with the caveat that the Lakers would pull out of the deal if they signed a marquee free agent center, Lakers Executive VP of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times“[Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird] was fine with that,” Buss said. “Bird wanted to put the kid into a spotlight like this.” Hibbert praised Bird for having been up front with him, though David West cited the Pacers’ handling of their desire to move on from Hibbert as one of the reasons he opted out.
  • Sam Smith of NBA.com, writing in a mailbag column, wonders about the lineup choices new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg will make and looks at whether the season ahead will have as little roster movement for Chicago as the summer did.
  • We asked for your input on the Pistons roster dilemma as part of Tuesday’s Community Shootaround.

Eastern Notes: Cherry, Pistons, Wittman

Unrestricted free agent Will Cherry has officially signed with the German club Alba Berlin, the team announced (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). International journalist David Pick first reported the team’s interest and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports was the first to relay that a signing was imminent. Cherry played in Lithuania last season after he was waived by the Cavaliers. The point guard saw action in eight games while with Cleveland and averaged 1.9 points, 1.0 assist and 0.8 steals in 8.6 minutes per contest.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Stan Van Gundy wanted to hire a shooting coach for his first season with the Pistons, but he didn’t get around to it until this summer, when he brought on Dave Hopla, who’s wasted no time getting to work, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Hopla is working with extension candidate Andre Drummond and others and using analytics to enhance their strokes, as Langlois chronicles.
  • Justise Winslow, who was selected No. 10 overall by the Heat in this year’s draft, blew away team executives during the predraft interview process, Zach Lowe of Grantland relays. The swingman was projected by a number of mock drafts to be a potential top five selection, but he surprisingly fell to Miami with the final pick in the top 10 this past June.
  • The Wizards will have to make a tough decision regarding whether or not coach Randy Wittman is the right man to continue leading the franchise on the court, J. Michael of CSNMid-Atlantic writes. Wittman, who owns a 137-158 record overall with Washington, is entering the second season of his three-year pact, and his contract is only partially guaranteed for the 2016/17 campaign, Michael notes.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

The Beat: Chris Haynes On The Cavs

chrishaynes

Chris Haynes

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic about the Suns. Click here to see all of the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Cavaliers from Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisBHaynes, and click here to check out his stories on Cleveland.com.

Hoops Rumors: Just about everyone around the league seems to be wondering how Tristan Thompson‘s free agency ultimately gets resolved. What do you think Thompson’s ideal outcome is, and what do you think is the ideal outcome for the Cavs?

Chris Haynes: I’m not really sure what the outcome will be, but all I know is Rich Paul is asking for five years and $94MM and the Cavaliers are $14MM short of that figure. That’s Randy Moss-type separation. There’s limited to zero communication because of that tremendous gap. If Tristan takes the qualifying offer, according to Paul, his client is gone after the 2015/16 season. And if he takes a hike, the Cavaliers won’t have the resources to replace him. The Cavaliers believe they’ve presented a more-than-generous offer for a player who figures to be a backup for them. I suspect a long-term deal is reached closer to camp. Paul has shown he’s more than willing to play the waiting game.

Hoops Rumors: How much longer do you think LeBron James will carry on merely with year-to-year commitments to the Cavs before he finally signs another long-term deal?

Chris Haynes: LeBron is the only player capable of continuing the year-to-year deals due to his durability and lucrative off-the-court ventures. Flexibility is extremely important to him. The structure of his deal ensures the Cavaliers continue to place quality players around him to compete for championships year after year. He could go the long-term route next summer, but he’ll likely shoot for the summer of 2017 when the cap rises to well over $100MM. Again, no other player can go down this path.

Hoops Rumors: Do you think it’s more likely that the Cavs wait until next summer to use the $10,522,500 Brendan Haywood trade exception, when they might not be facing such a steep tax bill? Or do you think the Cavs feel a need to add as much talent as possible for this season and use the exception before the trade deadline in February?

Chris Haynes: It all depends on how they start the season. If they come out sputtering, regardless of tax implications, that exception will be shopped like crazy. There’s too much at stake. They can’t afford to be too patient with this roster. See answer to question No. 2 for one of the reasons. Ideally, the Cavaliers would love to just cruise through the regular season successfully and use that exception for the offseason. That Haywood chip is truly valuable, but it’s being viewed as merely an excellent insurance policy should things go south.

Hoops Rumors: You reported that Kyrie Irving will likely miss the start of the season, and that the distinct possibility exists that he’ll be out until January. Do you think the Cavs will make a move to bring in another point guard, or are they comfortable with the options they have?

Chris Haynes: I believe they’re just fine with who they have at the moment. The addition of Mo Williams was huge and Matthew Dellavedova is right back in his backup role. And now roster hopefuls in Jared Cunningham and undrafted rookie Quinn Cook have a shot to make the opening day roster as the team’s third point guard. To my knowledge the Cavaliers will work with what they have, believing they have enough to withstand Irving’s early absence.

Hoops Rumors: David Blatt had quite an introduction to the NBA last season. What do you think was the most significant lesson he learned over the course of the year?

Chris Haynes: Managing minutes. He admitted that he never had to focus on minute distribution too much overseas because those teams only played twice a week and three at the most. He improved in that area late in the season, but by then, it took its toll on the players. With a season under his belt, a revamped roster and an understanding of the regular season grind, I expect Blatt to be more cautious with his minute tally on his big guns.

Hoops Rumors: The same question probably applies to David Griffin, too, since he’s coming off his first full season as an NBA GM. What do you think was the most important lesson he gathered from that experience?

Chris Haynes: Probably patience. Not to say he had trouble with it, but when you start off a season struggling and LeBron James is on the roster, panic can set in and cause you to pursue changes prematurely. It seemed like everything went wrong the first couple of months and it was well-documented by several media outlets. His patience was tested as teams called to discuss numerous trade proposals, sensing the Cavaliers were in a vulnerable state. He listened, but ultimately stood pat until pulling off the blockbuster trades that acquired J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov in January. Griff learned on the fly of what it’s like to be the general manager of a LeBron James-team. It has its rewards, but it’s far from easy. It takes patience and he proved he has that.

Latest On Tristan Thompson

Restricted free agent Tristan Thompson, who has reportedly rejected a five-year, $80MM contract offer from the Cavaliers, will not put pen to paper on a new pact unless it is a maximum salary deal, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report (video link) relays (hat tip to Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk). Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, has already made it clear to the Cavs’ front office that his client is prepared to sign his one-year qualifying offer worth $6,777,589 if a deal can’t be worked out between the two sides, Bucher notes.

By signing the qualifying offer, Thompson would set himself up to become an unrestricted free agent next Summer, just in time for the salary cap to increase significantly. One reason that Thompson would be willing to roll the dice and play out the 2015/16 campaign without the comfort and security of a long-term pact is that Paul believes he can wrangle a max deal out of the Raptors next offseason, Bucher adds. Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops had previously broached the possibility of Thompson, a Canadian native, joining the Raptors in 2016/17. One Eastern Conference GM had told Scotto that he thought Thompson would end up in Toronto this summer. Thompson is friends with Raptors signee Cory Joseph, who’s also from Toronto.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has stated that he considers it a priority to add Canadian born players to the team, which makes Thompson a natural target for the franchise. “We are studying it. I even considered last year hiring somebody to concentrate just on Canadian players and I think I’m going to go through with it because the growth of the game here is so big,” Ujiri said. “It’s the fit. We can maybe take our time and study it a little bit so it is the right fit and not do it just to do it. It’s going to come, there is no doubt in my mind. It’s an obligation that I think we have to fulfil. We are a Canadian team and I think to have Canadian players, I think will be phenomenal.”

Cleveland is in a difficult position regarding its negotiations with the forward, since LeBron James, also a client of Paul’s, has publicly stated that he wants Thompson to remain with the Cavs, and James is able to opt out of his contract next Summer. Thompson and the Cavs were reportedly close to an agreement on the first day of free agency, but talks stalled when Thompson reportedly asked for $85MM over five years, after it was reported that Draymond Green received that much from Golden State. Green’s actual deal was for $82MM, contrary to those initial leaked figures.

Thompson had also turned down a four-year, $52MM extension offer this past fall, betting on the odds that he could do better this summer, despite the Cavs adding Kevin Love to the roster prior to the start of the 2014/15 season. The Cavs do hold Thompson’s Bird rights, meaning that they could outbid other teams for the 24-year-old’s services next offseason.

Sir’Dominic Pointer To Join Canton Charge

Sir’Dominic Pointer, the No. 53 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, will join the Canton Charge for the 2015/16 season, Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports. Canton is Cleveland’s one-to-one D-League affiliate. The 23-year-old will not attend training camp with the Cavs and instead will report to Canton once its training camp commences, Haynes’ source informs him.

It’s a wise move for the young guard, with the Cavs already possessing 13 players with fully guaranteed deals. It would be a long shot for Pointer to make the final cut and stick on the NBA roster for the regular season. Cleveland is reportedly intrigued with Pointer’s size (6’5″) and defensive skills, and the franchise sees him potentially developing into a lockdown defender who can guard multiple positions, according to Haynes. Bypassing the NBA for the D-League next season is viewed as the most logical path for both the player and the team given the Cavs’ perimeter depth and Pointer’s need to improve his shooting, the Northeast Ohio Media Group scribe adds.

Pointer averaged 13.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 2.4 blocks as a senior for the Red Storm during the 2014/15 campaign. His career NCAA numbers are 8.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.3 BPG to accompany his shooting numbers of .477/.193/.681. In five summer league games for Cleveland’s squad he averaged 5.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steal in 18.4 minutes per game.

Central Notes: Williams, Irving, Hilliard, Vaughn

The Cavaliers mostly stood pat this summer, but they spent the majority of their taxpayer’s mid-level exception on Mo Williams, and with Kyrie Irving‘s broken kneecap a threat to keep him out as late as January, that move looks wise, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders in his NBA AM piece. The Cavs, with Williams in place, aren’t rushing Irving back, and that’s wise, considering a growing history of injuries for the former No. 1 overall pick, Greene adds. See more from around the Central Division:

Eastern Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Beasley, Thompson

Steve Clifford believes the reasons were numerous for the Hornets to sign Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to his four-year, $52MM extension, but chief among them is Charlotte’s performance with him in the lineup as opposed to without, the coach said Wednesday, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. The Hornets went 62-55 when he played and 14-33 when he didn’t the last two season, Reed notes. “As much as anybody that we have had in the two years I’ve been here, he’s been the guy that we can’t play well without for any long period of time,” Clifford said.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Several executives around the league can envision Toronto native Tristan Thompson signing with the Raptors next summer if he signs his qualifying offer with the Cavaliers this year, reports Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. Agent Rich Paul has said Thompson won’t re-sign with Cleveland in 2016 if he takes the qualifying offer. One Eastern Conference GM said he’d thought Thompson would end up in Toronto this summer. Thompson is friends with Raptors signee Cory Joseph, who’s also from Toronto, Scotto notes.
  • One Eastern Conference GM who spoke with Scotto estimated Thompson’s worth at $15MM a year, regardless of the expected spike in the salary cap over the next few years. That would put him beneath the max-level salaries he’s believed to be seeking in negotiations with the Cavs.
  • In a response to a reader question, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel opines that one reason the Heat haven’t re-signed Michael Beasley is that the team is looking to keep its 15th roster slot open for a developmental player who can be shuttled between the main club and the D-League. Miami currently has 12 fully guaranteed pacts on its roster

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Kyrie Irving Likely To Miss Start Of Season

The distinct possibility exists that Kyrie Irving won’t play until January because of the left kneecap fracture he suffered in Game 1 of the Finals, a source told Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. He’s unlikely to be ready for opening night even though his rehab remains on track, Haynes hears from multiple sources.

The Cavs spent more on Mo Williams than any other outside free agent this summer, signing him to a two-year deal that will pay him $2.1MM this season. He’ll ostensibly become the starter in Irving’s place, though Cleveland retained Matthew Dellavedova, who stepped in and performed admirably for Irving during the Finals, at the value of his qualifying offer. Iman Shumpert, who re-signed for four years and $40MM, has also seen time at the point, and LeBron James has plenty of experience as a ball-distributor, too.

Still, the Cavs face a challenge to replace Irving’s elite all-around offensive game, one that earned him a max extension that kicks in for this coming season. Cleveland has 13 fully guaranteed deals, leaving two openings for the regular season, though one of those is likely earmarked for Tristan Thompson, who lingers in restricted free agency. They have only $1.276MM on the taxpayer’s mid-level exception to give free agents more than the minimum salary, and because Irving’s injury isn’t thought to be season-ending, they don’t qualify for a disabled player exception. They do have a trade exception worth more than $10.5MM as a vestige of Brendan Haywood‘s contract. The team is encouraging a slow approach for Irving’s rehab, with the goal that he be 100% come the postseason, Haynes writes.

What do you think the Cavs should do, if anything, to offset the loss of Irving for the start of the season?

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