2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the Cleveland Cavaliers.


Salary Cap Outlook

The Cavaliers have approximately $78.4MM in guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21 and will likely add Andre Drummond‘s $28.75MM player option to that figure, reducing their odds of creating any cap room this offseason.

The club should have its full mid-level and bi-annual exceptions available, with breathing room below the luxury tax line.

Our full salary cap preview for the Cavaliers can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • Andre Drummond, player option: $28,751,774 (Oct. 17 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 2 overall pick (pending lottery results)

The Cavaliers have the second-best lottery odds but could easily end up picking as low as No. 5 (27.8%) or No. 6 (20.0%). They have a 14.0% chance at the No. 1 pick and a 52.1% chance at a top-four selection.

Second Round:

  • None

Three Key Offseason Questions

1. What’s the Cavaliers’ plan for Andre Drummond?

When the Cavs acquired Drummond from the Pistons at the trade deadline, the cost wasn’t exactly prohibitive — all it took to land the two-time All-Star was a pair of expiring contracts (belonging to John Henson and Brandon Knight) and a 2023 second-round pick.

For a team that doesn’t typically attract top free agents, paying such a modest price for a productive center like Drummond seemed like a worthwhile investment. However, the deal raised some questions as well. For instance, will Drummond opt into the final year of his contract in 2020/21? Even before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season and complicated the salary cap outlook for next season, the answer to that question appeared to be yes.

With that in mind, did it make sense for Cleveland to sacrifice potential 2020 cap room for Drummond? And how will the acquisition affect incumbent big men like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson? Does a Love/Drummond frontcourt pairing work? Will Thompson decide to sign elsewhere now that the center spot on Cleveland’s depth chart is a little more crowded?

Although his style of play is perhaps more suited to the NBA of the 1990s or 2000s than today’s modern game, Drummond’s elite rebounding skills and his rim-protecting ability make him a solid contributor, and he’s probably better than any free agent the Cavs could’ve convinced to sign in Cleveland using their cap space this fall.

Still, there are other options for rebuilding teams with cap room, such as taking on unwanted contracts in order to collect additional draft assets. The Cavaliers’ decision to acquire Drummond suggests they’re anxious to be more competitive in the short term. That’s a somewhat risky play, though Drummond’s ability as a rim-runner and lob catcher could help young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland develop further on offense.

I think evaluating Drummond’s fit in 2020/21 before his potential free agency next offseason is a fairly low-risk approach, but reports have indicated that a multiyear contract extension isn’t out of the question this offseason. I’d be more wary of going that route if I were the Cavs, since I’m unconvinced he’s the long-term answer in the middle for the club.

2. Will perennial trade candidate Kevin Love be moved?

Ever since it became clear in 2018 that LeBron James was leaving Cleveland for a second time, Love has been viewed as a trade candidate. However, the possibility of a deal was complicated by the big-money contract extension he signed in July 2018, just weeks after LeBron’s departure.

That extension will keep Love under contract through 2023 — he still has three years and $91.5MM on the deal after this season. By the time, he inks his next NBA contract, he’ll be entering his age-35 season.

Love’s injury history doesn’t help his trade value. Neither does the fact that his numbers over the last two seasons have only been good, not great, even as he ostensibly became the Cavs’ go-team option with LeBron and Kyrie Irving no longer around.

The Cavs have insisted over and over that they wouldn’t consider a salary-dump deal for Love and would only move him if they get good value – such as first-round draft picks and/or young players – in return. At this point though, especially given how the coronavirus pandemic will affect teams’ financial decisions, Love probably doesn’t warrant such a package from any interested suitor.

It’s possible the Cavs are just playing hardball and don’t really expect much more than a Drummond-esque return for Love. But if they stick to their stated stance, it seems safe to assume that Love won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, since no team will meet Cleveland’s alleged price.

3. How will the Cavaliers use their lottery pick after selecting guards in 2018 and 2019?

About a month ago, Killian Hayes‘ agent dropped an interesting tidbit during a podcast appearance, suggesting that his client wasn’t planning to meet with the Cavaliers, since the Cavs aren’t expected to draft a guard in this year’s lottery.

On one hand, that makes sense — in Sexton and Garland, Cleveland has two potential long-term building blocks. On the other hand, those two guards haven’t really shown enough in the last two years to convince the franchise that the backcourt is set for the next five or 10 years. Armed with a top-six pick, the Cavs should perhaps still be in best-player-available mode in this year’s draft, even if that player is another guard.

If the Cavs do make an effort to avoid drafting another guard, it would narrow their options in the lottery. James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu are the top centers available and could appeal to Cleveland. However, the wing looks like the team’s most glaring need.

Zeroing in on a wing would mean the Cavs would be doing plenty of homework on the likes of Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, and Devin Vassell. There’s no real consensus among draft experts on how to rank those players, as they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Vassell is the best shooter of the bunch, while Okoro is probably the strongest defender. Avdija has promising play-making ability, while Toppin – who is more of a power forward – is one of the draft’s most intriguing athletes.

Obviously, the Cavs’ pick will depend in large part on where they land in the draft and which players are available when they’re on the clock. But if the team prefers a wing, it would be interesting to see what general manager Koby Altman does if he lands a top-two pick. Would the Cavs consider trading down a little if another team wants to move up for a guard like LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards?

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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8 thoughts on “2020 NBA Offseason Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. I love these offseason breakdowns Luke, you do such a thorough job and it’s a great format. Especially with the three huge pressing questions at the end. This is a great look at the Cavs and the plight they are in. Things don’t look good overall but the future’s always bright for a team that stockpiles young Talent.

    Hopefully you’re doing the non-playoff teams first which means…, Warriors coming up around the corner !!! (right?)

    Please consider Gary’s NBA fan shout out warning for anyone hoping their team could challenge for supremacy.

    Right now, the Spash Brothers are healing and the front office is preparing to add a top 5 pick, a 17.5 TPE asset and a (Marc Gasol level) MLE player. Please enjoy these scrimmages, you’ll be back to hating Golden State very soon.

    • Luke Adams

      Haha, yes, non-playoff teams first. Decided to start with the Cavs since there are six East teams to get through and just two in the West, but Golden State’s coming soon.

  2. Sillivan

    From 4th to 10th draft pick,no one knows how to rank

    Who is better, Vassell or Advija?

  3. x%sure

    Pretty slick in the formatting, leaving out the guaranteed contracts so people focus on the options… and I think the key questions was merged from another series. But missing is the capspace numbers options; which, since capspace is rare around the league, can be skipped.

    Certainly the Cavs have few options. But the Love trade, I’ve been hearing it for so long, is not, never was, happening.

    The draft… ??? Trade down and get a Euro PG and Jalen Smith.

    • Luke Adams

      Guaranteed contracts and cap room were covered more extensively in our earlier Salary Cap Preview series, so I’m choosing to link back to those here rather than repeat all the same info.

      • Yes just click on the link and there it is… all the guaranteed contract information. Love it.

  4. KnickerbockerAl

    Love should be moved. There’s no reason for him to be in Cleveland. Sooner rather than later. I don’t see him staying past trade deadline. Cavs would be risking losing value. I think he makes perfect sense next to KAT in Minny. Minny has the 16th pick. They could start there. Toppin would make a nice tandem with Drummond. Thompson should just be let go. He is overpaid not worth it to Cavs. With second pick they will get a nice talent. I think they should go all in on draft. Try their best to move Love. Celtics have plenty of picks too. Love is a better fit there than Hayward. Hayward only has one yr left.

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