2018 Offseason In Review: Cleveland Cavaliers

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2018 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2018/19 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Cleveland Cavaliers.



Draft picks:

Contract extensions:

  • Kevin Love: Signed four-year, $120.4MM extension. Starts in 2019/20.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap.
  • Carrying approximately $115.7MM in guaranteed salaries.
  • Full mid-level exception ($8.64MM) still available.
  • Full bi-annual exception ($3.38MM) still available.

Check out the Cleveland Cavaliers’ full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.

Story of the summer:

In a move that was neither as shocking or as heartbreaking as the first time he left Cleveland, LeBron James walked away from the Cavaliers this summer for the bright lights of Los Angeles. James’ departure put the Cavs in a precarious position, one in which they could have shifted their long-term plan to a rebuild centered around first-round draft pick Collin Sexton.

Instead, the team extended Kevin Love and focused on retaining or adding young role players around him in the form of Rodney Hood, David Nwaba and Sam Dekker. However, the Cavaliers also brought back veteran forward Channing Frye, signaling their desire to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference.

LeBron’s departure is even more damaging for the Cavaliers as a result of their roster being constructed around his playmaking abilities. In recent seasons, the Cavaliers have focused on adding shooters and players who thrived as off-ball contributors around James. Those players will now face more pressure to create their own shots and initiate the offense.

George Hill, Sexton, Hood, and Cedi Osman figure to increase their usage on offense and shoulder the burden of offensive creation when the ball isn’t in Love’s hands. Speaking of Love, this will be his first opportunity to be the featured offensive player since he was routinely averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game with the Timberwolves.

How the rotation shapes up around Love and the role players will be interesting, as the Cavaliers don’t have a plethora of intriguing young talent. Instead, the roster is heavy on veterans who are either in their prime or exiting their prime in the near future. Will the emphasis be placed on player development? Or will the Cavaliers look to make the playoffs at all costs and avoid a rebuild for at least another season? The Cavs’ intentions aren’t clear, making them an intriguing team to watch in the upcoming season as they navigate the post-LeBron waters for the second time.

Key offseason losses:

In addition to witnessing LeBron take his talents to the Lakers, the Cavaliers also saw Jeff Green and Jose Calderon depart for other Eastern Conference foes. Those losses aren’t significant (though Green did have somewhat of a bounce back season in Cleveland), but it’s hard to overstate the impact of LeBron’s departure, which will force complementary players into more featured offensive roles with the ball in their hands.

James’ absence also paves the way for Love to be the featured player on offense and initiate the offense from all over the court. How the lineups are built around his shooting and underrated playmaking will be something to watch on the offensive end for the Cavaliers.

Key offseason additions:

The Cavaliers made very few additions in the offseason, thereby making Sexton their key acquisition by default. Sexton joins the Cavaliers with a staunch defensive reputation and impressive physical tools, but will have to improve his playmaking and shooting to be a productive offensive player. If the Cavs are focused on developing their young players, Sexton should see a featured role fairly early in his NBA career, but he may also have to wait behind Hill before assuming the reins at point guard.

Dekker and Nwaba are two other additions that will look to carve out a spot in the team’s rotation. Dekker struggled mightily with his shot and confidence with the Clippers last season, while Nwaba is coming off the best season of his career with the Bulls and can bring some much-needed defense to Cleveland.

Outlook for 2018/19:

There’s no doubt that losing James would set any NBA team back significantly. However, that loss will be felt even more strongly by a Cavaliers club that had built its roster specifically around LeBron’s play style and skill set.

While the Cavs have plenty of shooters and solid role players to support Love as the featured star of the team, they will struggle to sustain an above-average offense, especially if Love goes down with an injury.

While the Cavaliers may still be focused on making the playoffs, they simply don’t have enough to contend, even in the weaker Eastern Conference. As a result, I expect them to miss out on playoff basketball, perhaps even struggling to win more than 30 games.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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