The Cavaliers appear to be “playing the two-week game” with their open roster spots, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad observes (via Twitter).
NBA rules allow teams to carry 13 players on their 15-man rosters for up to two weeks at a time before getting back up to the 14-player minimum. The Cavs used that full two weeks after the trade deadline, then filled their 14th roster slot by signing Marcus Thornton to a 10-day deal. Now that Thornton’s contract has expired, Cleveland is once again taking its time to get back up to the minimum, as Nahmad notes.
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There’s a logic in this — the Cavs aren’t currently strapped for depth, and their projected luxury tax bill is already the league’s biggest. There’s no need to add a player before they have to if he’s not going to play, since he’ll cost exponentially more in taxes than his salary is worth.
Still, while the Cavs’ deadline deals appear to have rejuvenated LeBron James and kick-started the team, those trades cost the club some significant playoff experience. The six players Cleveland traded in February have appeared in a combined 393 postseason games. The four players they’ve acquired have combined for 94 playoff appearances, and 83 of those are George Hill‘s. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. have never played in a postseason contest.
Previous playoff experience won’t necessarily be a deciding factor for the Cavs in a series against the Celtics and Raptors, but this franchise has shown it values that sort of experience. In each of the last two seasons, for instance, Cleveland has signed Dahntay Jones at the end of the season to get him on the postseason roster. Over those two years, Jones has played just two regular season games for the Cavs, but has appeared in 25 playoff contests.
It’s not clear if Jones is in the team’s plans again this season, but it might make sense for the Cavs to fill their open roster spots at the end of the season with veteran players who are capable of helping out in the playoffs, or at least serving as stabilizing forces on the bench and in the locker room. The longer Cleveland waits to make that sort of addition, the less money it’ll cost, so the team could hold off until the last week of the regular season to fill out its 15-man roster and prepare for the postseason.
If and when that happens, there are plenty of candidates out there to get the call. Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen could be viable options, as could Jones. Given his performance in the Finals last year, Deron Williams probably isn’t at the top of the Cavs’ wish list, but he’s available too. So are other vets like Gerald Henderson, Anthony Morrow, Mike Miller, and Andrew Bogut. None of those players are likely to play major roles for the Cavs if they’re signed, but many of them would be useful depth pieces.
What do you think? Do the Cavaliers need to add a veteran or two to fill out their roster before the playoffs begin? If so, which free agents should they target? Or is their roster fine as is? Would the team be better served just getting to the 14-player minimum by taking a shot on a G League prospect?
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