As I wrote last week when I previewed the Cavaliers' offseason, Cleveland figures to be one of the league's most active teams this summer, particularly in the trade market. With four draft picks in the top 33 (including No. 1 overall) and a good chunk of cap space available, there are plenty of options available to the Cavs this summer. Here are the latest rumblings out of Cleveland on how the club may look to improve its roster:
- While the Cavs remain undecided on who they'll pick first overall, it won't be Anthony Bennett or Victor Oladipo unless they trade down, sources tell Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio.
- That leaves Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Alex Len, and Ben McLemore as potential options for the first overall pick, and the Cavs figure to meet with all those players this week. Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer passes along a report from ESPN.com's Andy Katz (via Twitter) suggesting that Porter, McLemore, and Oladipo will work out for the Cavs on Wednesday, while the injured Noel and Len will interview with the club on the weekend.
- In addition to the aforementioned players, one other prospect is under consideration by the Cavs with the No. 1 pick, sources tell Amico, though it's unclear who the player is. Cleveland will continue to look into trading the top pick as well.
- The Cavs are also exploring trade options involving their two second-round picks (31st and 33rd), according to Amico. The team could attempt to package those two picks for a third first-rounder, or could throw the 19th pick into the mix as well in an attempt to move up in the first round.
- We heard from ESPN.com's Chad Ford earlier today that the Cavs like Sergey Karasev, and Amico echoes that report, also noting that the Russian forward may not be on the board when Cleveland picks at No. 19.
- Cleveland has recently engaged in trade talks involving a "viable" small forward, a source tells Amico.
Echoing an overnight report from Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio, ESPN.com's Chad Ford says in his latest mock draft that the Cavaliers remain undecided on their first overall pick. While the team appears likely to keep the pick, a number of players are still being considered, including Nerlens Noel and Alex Len. According to Ford, Noel remains the favorite because he fits the sort of high-upside profile the Cavs typically target, but there are some in the organization who prefer Len.
Here are several more highlights from version 5.0 of Ford's 2013 mock:
- Ford hears that Victor Oladipo has the upper hand over Ben McLemore for the Magic at No. 2, though the team would strongly consider Noel if the Cavs passed on him.
- The Bobcats will likely be deciding between Anthony Bennett and Len at No. 4, if both players are available, but Cody Zeller could be a dark horse, says Ford.
- Teams are worried about McLemore after a series of unimpressive workouts, and it's possible he slips past the Suns at No. 5, according to Ford.
- The Timberwolves appear to have narrowed down their choice at No. 9 to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Shabazz Muhammad.
- The Sixers figure to target size at No. 11, with Zeller, Mason Plumlee, and Lucas Nogueira among the possibilities.
- Assuming the Mavericks don't trade the 13th pick, though it's very likely they will, a player like Sergey Karasev, who could be stashed overseas for a year or two, is a strong possibility, says Ford.
- Karasev also interests the Cavaliers at No. 19, though Cleveland likes Reggie Bullock as a potential consolation prize, according to Ford.
- The Jazz appear to be a good bet to target a big man at No. 14 and a point guard at No. 21.
- Ford continues to hear that the Knicks have a "strong affinity" for Tony Mitchell.
Although one report yesterday suggested that the Cavaliers were leaning toward selecting big man Alex Len with the first overall pick in next week's draft, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio hears that's not the case. Amico reports (via Twitter) that there's still no clear frontrunner for the Cavs' No. 1 pick, which likely means Len remains in the mix along with prospects like Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Otto Porter. As we enjoy the uncertainty of not knowing which player will be picked first overall, let's round up a few more of today's draft-related news and rumors....
- If the Celtics end up acquiring the Clippers' 2013 first-round pick (25th overall), Ricky Ledo represents a likely target for Boston, tweets ESPN.com's Chad Ford.
- Like a number of international prospects we heard about yesterday, Norvel Pelle has also withdrawn from the NBA draft, according to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. Pelle, who missed workouts with several NBA teams due to foot issues, remained eligible to withdraw from the draft up until yesterday's deadline, since he didn't attend college.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) hears that Cody Zeller will work out for the Bobcats on Wednesday.
- In an Associated Press report (via ESPN.com), Glen Rice Jr. talks about attempting to become the first player drafted in the first round after playing in the D-League.
Up to this point, we've heard that the Cavaliers are weighing a number of options for their first overall pick. Assuming they don't trade the pick, it's possible the Cavs could select Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, or Anthony Bennett. Previous reports have suggested Cleveland isn't tipping its hand, but Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is hearing that Len appears to be the frontrunner for that No. 1 spot (Twitter link)
As we wait to see whether Smith is right, or whether the Cavs' top choice turns out to be someone else 10 days from now, let's round up a few draft items....
- Gorgui Dieng and Nate Wolters are among the prospects scheduled to work out with the Knicks tomorrow, according to the team's PR Twitter account.
- Wolters is also among the six prospects working out for the Bucks today, per Milwaukee's PR department (Twitter link).
- Archie Goodwin has workouts lined up with three Western teams, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (via Twitter): The Jazz, Kings, and Trail Blazers.
- With three second-round picks in hand, the Blazers brought in a handful of potential targets for those picks today, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com tweets.
- The Wizards will work out a number of international prospects later this week, writes J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.
- Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld identifies a few of the players he thinks will be steals in this year's draft.
Here's a look at the latest out of the Central Division..
- The Cavs are seriously considering Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, and Otto Porter for the top pick, with Victor Oladipo as a long shot, the Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto writes. While Noel was long thought to be the slam-dunk No. 1 pick, the Cavs' desire to win this year coupled with concerns over his ACL injury have them considering other options.
- Oladipo will work out for the Cavs next week, but he's declined an invitation from the Wizards to work out at their home arena and prefers to have the team audition him at a location of his choosing, reports Michael Lee of The Washington Post. Oladipo's camp doesn't believe the Wizards will draft him third overall.
- Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times shares the heart-wrenching personal saga of second-round hopeful Dwayne Davis, who worked out Saturday for the Bucks. He's also worked out for the Bulls and Suns, and has auditions scheduled with the Warriors and Mavs.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Magic appear to have heavy interest in acquiring Eric Bledsoe in return for Arron Afflalo, according to Joe Kotoch of SheridanHoops.com, who delivers his latest mock draft. That jibes with the notion that the Clippers are holding out for an additional asset in the rumored trade proposal, which would also send Caron Butler to Orlando. Kotoch adds that Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas is pushing Cleveland to take Alex Len first overall. Here's more from around the NBA:
- The Nuggets plan for most of their interviews for a new GM to occur once the team hires a coach, reports Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. Wednesday's scheduled meeting with Lionel Hollins will be the first formal interview the team will conduct for the coaching job, and it's unclear when any other candidates will be interviewed, Dempsey notes.
- Nuggets president Josh Kroenke tells Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post that he wouldn't have allowed a team other than the Raptors to have permission to speak with former GM Masai Ujiri. Kroenke admits he put himself in a difficult position because of his friendship with Ujiri, who had a soft spot for the Raptors organization for which he worked once before.
- The Rockets have paid the luxury tax just once in the 15 seasons its been in existence, but owner Leslie Alexander tells Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that he'd be "thrilled to pay a tax if we have a championship-caliber team."
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News glances at the personnel decisions facing the Spurs this summer once the Finals are over.
- Tyson Chandler tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that he tried all season long to convince former teammate and new Nets head coach Jason Kidd not to end his playing career. Chandler doesn't believe Kidd's 10-game scoreless streak in the postseason influenced his decision.
- Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com checks in with free agent center Jerome Jordan, who'll be playing in summer leagues for both the Knicks and Pacers and will also take part in mini-camps with the Spurs and Mavericks.
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun figures the Raptors may carry only 13 players next season, given their proximity to tax territory (Twitter links).
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald rounds up the latest NBA rumors in his weekly column, and though he usually focuses on the Cavs, his latest dispatch is heavy on Pistons news. We'll hit the highlights here:
- Re-signing Jose Calderon remains a priority for the Pistons, but Joe Dumars and company "don't want to break the bank" to do so, Finnan writes. It's unclear exactly what breaking the bank would constitute, but I'd say the Pistons would balk at any deal approaching $10MM per year, based on previous estimates that peg his worth at between $6MM and $8MM.
- The Pistons aren't high on Trey Burke, and they probably hope he's off the board by the time they draft eighth overall, since there's pressure from fans to draft the University of Michigan star.
- Detroit is instead enamored with Cody Zeller, though most observers believe they'll draft a guard, according to Finnan.
- The Cavs, like the Pistons, have drawn mention as a likely suitor for Andre Iguodala, but Finnan isn't so sure Cleveland is willing to shell out a lucrative deal for him. The News-Herald scribe figures another team will overpay the soon-to-be free agent.
- The Pistons and Raptors were certain the Cavs were going to draft Jonas Valanciunas with the fourth pick in 2011, and had a deal in place based on that contingency. Detroit would have sent Ben Gordon and the No. 8 pick to Toronto for Calderon and the No. 5 pick. The Pistons would have drafted Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavs wound up taking at No. 4 that year, while the Raptors would have picked Brandon Knight.
- Finnan unveils his latest mock draft as part of a separate piece. He has the Cavs taking Nerlens Noel first overall, despite rumors the team will pass him up. Finnan predicts the Pistons will take shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
There's a lot still swirling about the Clippers-Celtics deal, with Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, and many others tweeting about a possible deal every few minutes. We'll certainly have more for you a little later, but before we do so, let's delve into the upcoming draft, as we're less than two weeks away from the big night:
- Maryland center Alex Len will be visiting the Cavaliers next week, according to his agent, writes Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His visit will come after UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett comes on Monday, and Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel visits on Tuesday.
- Noel also told Alex Kennedy, writing for the USA Today, that there are "no excuses" if his knee doesn't work out. According to the Wizards' Twitter feed, Noel said he's gained weight since the combine and is up to 218 lbs(Twitter link), so hopefully it doesn't affect the knee.
- Mark Giannato of the Washington Post writes that despite the small chance Noel lands with the Wizards with the third pick, Noel believes "anything can happen," so he's ready for the unexpected despite the fact he's the favorite to be selected number one overall.
- Former Lousiville guard Peyton Siva, worked out for the Warriors today, reports Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News. Siva was excited at the prospect of playing for former Rick Pitino disciple Mark Jackson, with Siva saying that playing for the Warriors would be "wonderful."
- The Bucks continued to look at shooting guards, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ricky Ledo working out for the squad today, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Sam Amico of Fox Sports says Ledo may be working his way into the late-first round (Twitter).
- Anderson Varejao ($9,036,364)
- Kyrie Irving ($5,607,240)
- Tristan Thompson ($4,062,000)
- Dion Waiters ($3,894,240)
- Alonzo Gee ($3,250,000)
- Tyler Zeller ($1,633,440)
Free Agents / Cap Holds
- Luke Walton ($9,137,045)
- Daniel Gibson ($9,105,431)
- Omri Casspi ($5,693,265)
- Wayne Ellington ($5,207,605)
- No. 1 pick ($4,436,900)
- No. 19 pick ($1,223,200)
- Shaun Livingston ($884,293)
- (Semih Erden - $1,084,293)
- 1st Round (1st overall)
- 1st Round (19th overall)
- 2nd Round (31st overall)
- 2nd Round (33rd overall)
- Guaranteed Salary: $27,483,284
- Options: $4,515,000
- Non-Guaranteed Salary: $4,120,814
- Cap Holds: $36,772,032
- Total: $72,891,130
Undergoing a full-scale rebuild in the NBA requires strong scouting, player development, and cap management, but you could make the argument that the most important factor is luck. Take the Kings, for instance. Sacramento has posted a dismal 187-371 record over the last seven seasons, landing in the draft lottery every single year. However, even when they were the NBA's worst team in 2008/09, the Kings only landed the fourth overall pick, and never selected higher than that. Many of the team's signings and trades have been questionable, but its draft picks have been solid enough -- the club just never picked high enough to land a true franchise player.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have had an exceptional string of luck since one of the worst nights in franchise history, when LeBron James made his infamous "Decision." In the three subsequent draft lotteries, the Cavs have overcome unlikely odds to land a pair of first overall picks, drafting Kyrie Irving the first time around and now looking to add another difference-maker in the 2013 draft.
So far, that luck hasn't translated into on-court success, but the assets the Cavs have at their disposal represent a general manager's dream. During a rebuild, teams typically target young players, cap flexibility, and draft picks. The Cavs have a ton of all three, including three recent top-four picks (Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters) with another on the way, only about $27.48MM in guaranteed 2013/14 salary, and the potential for an incredible 13 picks (seven first-rounders) in the next three drafts.
Given the young talent already in place on the roster, it's no surprise that the Cavs are willing to sacrifice some of the picks and cap room they've accumulated to trade for a veteran star. In another year, dangling that first overall pick would be enough to engage in serious discussions for an established All-Star like Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge. However, because this year's draft is viewed as weak at the top, a report suggesting the Cavs would part with the No. 1 pick as part of a package for Love was met with a shrug -- of course they would.
The low relative value of the No. 1 pick this year is especially problematic for the Cavs since owner Dan Gilbert is expecting a playoff berth in 2013/14. That means that drafting Nerlens Noel, who is widely considered the player with the most upside in this year's class, may not be the most viable option for Cleveland, since Noel is expected to spend much of the season recovering from ACL surgery.
Still, if the Cavs are unable to find a palatable trade to add a star to complent Irving, there will be no shortage of alternate options for the team. In fact, there are so many different directions the team could go that it's virtually impossible to make any predictions with any confidence. Consider the following possible approaches for the team, all of which seem viable to me:
- Trading the No. 1 pick and various other assets for a star.
- Drafting Noel, continuing to acquire more assets using their cap room (for instance, turning two or three second-round picks into the Mavs' No. 13 pick and Shawn Marion), and preparing to make a bigger splash in the summer of 2014, when the draft and free agent classes will both be stronger.
- Drafting a player that could contribute immediately, such as Otto Porter or Ben McLemore, and using the cap room to target other high-upside players such as Nikola Pekovic, Andrew Bynum, and/or O.J. Mayo.
- Drafting an immediate contributor and using the cap room to target trade candidates with one remaining year on their contracts (ie. Danny Granger) or free agents who would sign one-year deals, so the team could contend for a playoff spot and still reload in the summer of '14.
- Some combination of the above strategies, perhaps involving trading down in the draft, or using Anderson Varejao's pseudo-expiring contract (it's partially guaranteed in 2014/15) as a trade chip.
The Cavs may not be one of the NBA's most desirable free agent destinations at this point, but even if they have trouble recruiting veterans to Cleveland, the Cavs still have so much flexibility that they should be able to add talent without being a big player in free agency. And we haven't even discussed the possibility of the Cavs eventually pursuing a reunion with LeBron in the summer of 2014. I'm less bullish on that idea than I once was, especially if the Heat continue to win championships, but Varejao's partial guarantee is the only non-rookie-contract money on Cleveland's books for 2014/15 so far, so cap room shouldn't be an issue.
The Cavaliers' young core has undergone some growing pains over the last several seasons, and it's possible that Thompson and Waiters weren't the optimal choices for the Cavs in their respective drafts. But there's so much talent on the roster and so many avenues for the team to continue adding more talent that it's hard not to be optimistic about the future in Cleveland. The Cavs' choice at first overall in this month's draft remains shrouded in mystery, and the same could be said about the rest of the team's offseason, which could go in any number of directions. I'll be looking forward to see where the club ends up in the fall.
- Of the team's free agents, I'd be surprised if Luke Walton, Daniel Gibson, or Omri Casspi returned, unless perhaps it was on a minimum-salary contract. However, I could see the Cavs deciding to re-sign Wayne Ellington, and there's no guarantee that Marreese Speights will opt out of the final year of his contract, worth $4.52MM.
- Bringing back Speights and Ellington would compromise the club's flexibility somewhat, but if we assume Speights opts in, Cleveland uses both its first-round picks, and Ellington re-signs for an annual salary in the neighborhood of $3MM, there will still only be about $40MM in salary commitments on the Cavs' books.
- Although the Cavs have four players (Irving, Thompson, Waiters, and Tyler Zeller) on rookie deals, none are extension-eligible this offseason. Irving and Thompson will be eligible for extensions during the 2014 offseason.
Miles', Quinn's, and Jones' contracts are all fully non-guaranteed, with no guarantee date.
Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.
On the heels of a pair of unsurprising option decisions - Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams will return to the Warriors and Jazz, respectively - we received word that Andre Iguodala will opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Iguodala's decision isn't a huge surprise either, but it certainly makes this year's class of free agents even more interesting.
In addition to the Nuggets, Wojnarowski listed six other teams expected to pursue Iguodala, while Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group tweets that the Warriors are interested in well. Golden State would have a much tougher path to landing Iggy than teams with cap space, but a sign-and-trade is within the realm of possibility.
Here are a few more Friday odds and ends from around the NBA:
- An Eastern Conference executive tells Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio (Twitter link) that the Cavaliers and Bobcats have both been "ultra-aggressive" in seeking out trades.
- We heard yesterday that the Nuggets hoped to bring Brian Shaw in for an interview next week, but according to a tweet from Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, it sounds like Denver was able to schedule a meeting with Shaw for today. Lionel Hollins' interview is still set for tomorrow, as planned.
- Discussing his team's upcoming offseason, Pistons GM Joe Dumars says many teams facing possible tax penalties next season are already making trade calls in an effort to reduce or avoid a tax bill (link via David Mayo of MLive.com).
- Agent Tony Dutt tells Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times that his client, Jordan Farmar, wants to return to the NBA "for sure." Farmar signed a three-year contract in Turkey last summer, but has the chance to opt out of the deal after each season.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton follows up on the story that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are interested in playing together by ranking a handful of possible destinations from least likely (Lakers) to most likely (Hawks).