Month: September 2022

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

When we asked Hoops Rumors readers last fall whether the Cavaliers would win over or under 26.5 games in 2021/22, responses leaned ever so slightly toward the under, and the consensus was that Cleveland was on its way to another lottery finish. So when the Cavs won their 27th game on January 17, their season already had to be considered a major success.

Unfortunately, injuries caught up to Cleveland following a 35-21 start and the team finished just 9-17, falling out of a top-six spot in the East and into play-in territory. The banged-up Cavs then lost a pair of play-in games – one in Brooklyn and one at home vs. Atlanta – and missed out on the opportunity to compete in a postseason series.

It was a disappointing finish to the year, since getting some best-of-seven playoff experience against a team like the Heat or Bucks would have been a huge step for young players like Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. But the organization still had to be thrilled by what it saw from its roster this past year.

After going 60-159 in the three seasons following LeBron James‘ departure, the ’21/22 Cavs finished above .500 (44-38), showing the resilience to fight through a series of injuries to key contributors, including Collin Sexton, Ricky Rubio, Mobley, and Allen. And given how young most of Cleveland’s core players still are, there’s no reason to think this group has reached its ceiling.


The Cavaliers’ Offseason Plan:

The nine players who logged the most total minutes for the Cavaliers in 2021/22 are all under contract for at least one more season, as is midseason addition Caris LeVert, so the roster shouldn’t undergo any significant changes this summer. However, there are still a handful of important decisions to make.

Determining how to handle Sexton’s restricted free agency will be one of the front office’s top priorities. The former lottery pick emerged as one of the NBA’s most dangerous backcourt scorers from 2019-21, averaging 22.5 PPG on .474/.376/.828 shooting across those two years. But he suffered a torn meniscus just 11 games into his fourth season and wasn’t a factor in the Cavs’ unexpected success.

As good a scorer as Sexton is, his contributions on the other end of the court are limited, and his lost season will likely reduce his leverage in contract negotiations. With so few teams possessing cap room this offseason, the Cavs are in position to play hardball in their discussions with Sexton, especially if none of those cap-room teams have serious interest in him. A deal worth at least $20-25MM annually seemed within reach for the 6’1″ guard a year ago, but now he’d be doing well to get $15-17MM per season.

The presence of LeVert should provide the Cavs with additional leverage in their talks with Sexton. LeVert wasn’t at his best after joining the Cavs, averaging a modest 13.6 PPG in 19 games, but he’s just one year removed from a 20+ PPG season, and his size makes him a more natural fit next to Garland in Cleveland’s backcourt.

LeVert will be extension-eligible this offseason, so the Cavs should be able to get a sense of what sort of deals both he and Sexton are seeking before investing long-term in one or the other — or both.

Like LeVert, Garland and Kevin Love will be eligible for contract extensions this summer. Talks with Garland should be reasonably straightforward, as he has earned a maximum-salary offer following an All-Star campaign. It should just be a matter of whether or not he gets the full five years.

Love is less likely to receive a new deal in the coming months, since his $28.9MM expiring contract could be useful in trade talks during the offseason or at the 2023 deadline. But if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut, Cleveland would likely entertain the idea of an extension for Love, who had a nice bounce-back year in 2021/22 and was the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up.

As a result of missing out on the playoffs, the Cavs retained their first-round pick, which would have gone to Indiana if it had landed outside of the lottery. That No. 14 overall selection probably won’t yield a star, but it’s an intriguing asset as Cleveland looks to add more shooting and defense on the wing.

Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, and LSU’s Tari Eason all make sense as potential targets if the Cavs keep the pick. It could also be dangled in trade talks if Cleveland wants to acquire a veteran who is a better bet to contribute immediately.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 14 overall pick ($3,865,920)
  • No. 39 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 56 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $3,865,920

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Darius Garland (rookie scale)
  • Caris LeVert (veteran)
  • Kevin Love (veteran)
  • Dean Wade (veteran) 2
  • Dylan Windler (rookie scale)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

With $120MM+ in guaranteed money on their books, plus Wade, Stevens, and a first-round pick to account for, the Cavs will almost certainly be over the projected $122MM cap.

Whether or not they approach the tax line will hinge largely on whether Sexton is back and how big his first-year salary is. Even with a new deal for Sexton on the books, Cleveland shouldn’t be a taxpayer next season.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 4
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 4
  • Trade exception: $858,218
  • Trade exception: $300,000

Footnotes

  1. Wade’s salary will remain non-guaranteed even if his option is exercised.
  2. Wade would only be eligible if his option is exercised.
  3. The cap hold for Dellavedova remain on the Cavaliers’ books from a prior season because he hasn’t been renounced. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  4. These are projected values. If the Cavaliers approach or cross the tax line, they may not have access to the full mid-level exception and/or bi-annual exception and would instead be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($6,392,000).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders and RealGM was used in the creation of this post.

Central Notes: Grant, Weaver, Pacers, Sexton

Veteran Pistons forward Jerami Grant could be one of the NBA’s most intriguing trade candidates this summer. The 28-year-old Grant may not fit the timeline of the rebuilding Pistons, who will be looking to add another blue-chip prospect with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 draft alongside 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

Grant, who has one year remaining on his current contract, is extension-eligible this offseason, but figures to be a trade chip if the Pistons aren’t prepared to extend him. Sources inform James L. Edwards III and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic that the Hawks were interested in dealing for Grant during the 2021/22 season, and suggest that that remains the case, exploring what a deal between Detroit and Atlanta might look like.

The Hawks have a need for a defensive-oriented player who can guard along the perimeter and handle. Edwards and Kirschner believe Atlanta’s most viable offer for Grant would likely include Bogdan Bogdanovic and the team’s No. 16 pick.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • When it comes to the draft, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver prioritizes hard-working competitors, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois views this year’s draft, which will be Weaver’s third in his lead role for the Detroit front office, as an interesting opportunity to gauge the level of risk Weaver is willing to take. Detroit possesses the fifth pick in the 2022 draft. Langlois notes that the club could draft a 22-year-old with several years of college experience in Iowa forward Keegan Murray, or, on the other end of the spectrum, a 19-year-old who never suited up for his college team in Shaedon Sharpe.
  • The Pacers, owners of the No. 6 pick in the 2022 draft, held a pre-draft workout on Tuesday for several guard prospects, per James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Boyd notes that Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas, Kansas shooting guard Christian Braun, Arizona guard Dalen Terry, Purdue shooting guard Sasha Stefanovic, Belmont point guard Grayson Murphy, and Northern Iowa guard AJ Green worked out for Indiana.
  • Following an exciting 2021/22 season, the Cavaliers face an uncertain offseason. Cleveland went 44-38, but did not advance out of the play-in tournament. In a new mailbag, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link) addresses the market for restricted free agent guard Collin Sexton, potential trade candidates that could help Cleveland take the next step in the East, and other topics. Fedor hears from sources that the Spurs, in particular, “have some Sexton fans in their front office.”

Shaedon Sharpe Will Stay In 2022 Draft

Kentucky freshman wing Shaedon Sharpe, a projected top-1o lottery prospect, will forgo his academic eligibility and remain in the 2022 NBA draft, he announced today (Twitter link).

“First and foremost, through God’s blessings, it has been a privilege to attend the University of Kentucky,” Sharpe wrote. “Thank you #BBN for your support during my time with [Kentucky]… With the positive feedback I’ve received I will be remaining in the NBA Draft.”

Expecting to play for the Wildcats during the 2022/23 NCAA season, Sharpe first enrolled in Kentucky during the spring semester of the 2021/22 school year. After it became clear that he would be a high-level pick in the 2022 draft, the 6’6″ prospect initially entered his name into the draft pool in April.

Sharpe is projected as the No. 7 prospect in ESPN’s latest big board.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Horford, Smart, Williams

After starting off the 2021/22 NBA season with a middling 25-25 record, the Celtics were hardly looking like candidates for a deep postseason run. Now, after consecutive Game 7 wins over Milwaukee and Miami, Boston will face Golden State in the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday at the Chase Center.

Celtics star swingman Jaylen Brown acknowledged this week that he heard plenty of trade speculation earlier in the year when Boston’s season was looking less promising, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. During the first half of the season, there was outside chatter about whether the Celtics needed to break up Brown and Jayson Tatum.

“That trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans,” Brown told Haynes. “It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate excuses. But in reality, early in the season we had a new coach, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that caused us to not be clicking on all cylinders like we wanted to be. People were impatient, so I understand. But fast forward, we got healthy, we got everybody back and now the sky’s the limit.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Veteran Celtics big man Al Horford is expected to have his salary for the 2022/23 NBA season fully guaranteed, regardless of the NBA Finals outcome, sources tell Brian Robb of MassLive. Boston’s Eastern Finals win increased Horford’s partial guarantee from $14.5MM to $19.5MM, while a championship would officially increase it to a full guarantee of $26.5MM. However, given the way he has performed this season – and in the playoffs – it sounds like Horford won’t have to worry about being waived in the offseason, no matter how the forthcoming series plays out.
  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has indicated that there is “no concern” about the health of starting point guard and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart heading into the team’s NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors this week, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Smart sat out Games 1 and 4 of Boston’s seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series win against the Heat with a right ankle sprain.
  • The Celtics are savoring their four-day breather in between the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals on Thursday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Starting center Robert Williams, who was unavailable for three contests against the Heat due to a left knee bone bruise and played limited minutes in Game 7, looks to be a big beneficiary of break. “Rob’s all right,” Udoka said. “Getting looked at today and will continue to get his treatment and rehab and in order to get swelling down and some of the pain and mobility back. And so it’s going to be an ongoing thing, like I mentioned. He’s day-to-day pretty much throughout the playoffs… [He] should feel better with time in between, especially with these two days off in between games, as opposed to playing every other day.”

Dalen Terry To Remain In Draft

Second-year Arizona guard Dalen Terry has announced (Twitter link) that he will remain in the 2022 NBA draft pool and surrender his collegiate eligibility.

“It’s been a life-long dream of mine to play at the highest level,” Terry wrote in a statement. “After many conversations with the people closest to me, I’ve decided to remain in the 2022 NBA Draft. Wildcat Nation, I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me.”

The 6’7″ guard is ranked as the No. 23 selection in this year’s draft, per the latest edition of the ESPN big board. Terry could climb higher — Bobby Marks of ESPN says (via Twitter) that he wouldn’t be surprised if the 19-year-old becomes a lottery pick.

During the 2021/22 NCAA season, Terry averaged 8.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 3.9 APG across 37 contests, all starts, boasting shooting splits of .502/.354/.736. He was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team and an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention.

As Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets, Terry joins projected lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin and center Christian Koloko, listed as the No. 43 prospect on the current ESPN big board, as departing Arizona underclassmen in this year’s draft.

Warriors Notes: Porter, Iguodala, Payton, Looney

Injured Warriors role players Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., and Andre Iguodala were all able to fully partake in a relatively light team practice on Tuesday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The team has a full contact practice scheduled for Wednesday. According to Slater, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr indicated he should have a better sense of the injured players’ availability for the start of the series following that session.

There’s more out of Golden State:

  • Payton is “trending” toward being a game-time decision for Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals, slated to tip off on Thursday, per Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link). “We still got some boxes to fill,” Payton said of his availability, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (via Twitter). Payton has been sidelined since suffering a left elbow fracture in Game 2 of the Warriors’ conference semifinals series against the Grizzlies.
  • Payton won the NBA’s 2021/22 Bob Lanier Community Assist Award this season, the Warriors announced in a press statement. The honor is meant to reward players for outstanding community outreach. The league and award sponsor Kaiser Permanente will donate $75K to Payton’s charity, the GPII Foundation, which helps young people struggling with language-based learning disabilities.
  • Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic has helped Golden State starting center Kevon Looney gobble up rebounds like never before, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Thompson notes that Looney is grabbing 21.6% of possible rebounds when on the court during the 2022 playoffs. Should the trend continue, that would be a top-50 all-time postseason rebounding rate. “Rebounding is something that I’ve always enjoyed,” Looney said. “I made a lot of strides this year. I feel like I’ve always been pretty good at it. I always have my moments. But this year I’ve been way more consistent, and really more locked in on it, and that’s been able to make a difference.”

Leonard Miller, Ryan Rollins Turning Pro

Canada’s Leonard Miller will forgo his college eligibility and turn pro, he told Joe Tipton of On3.com. The 6-foot-11 forward is considered a raw prospect at just 18 years old, but he’s No. 44 on ESPN’s big board and projected to be the No. 41 pick of the 2022 NBA draft in Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft for ESPN (Insider link).

As Tipton notes, Miller has until June 13 to decide whether he wants to remain in the draft, which is the NBA’s withdrawal deadline, but he’ll be playing for a professional organization next season no matter what he decides at that point.

My lifelong dream has been to play basketball at the highest level, and I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of amazing people in my life that have helped me pursue that dream.

After getting feedback from going through the NBA Draft process up to this point, I have decided to take the next step in that journey and move forward in the professional process,” Miller said.

In other draft-related news, Toledo’s Ryan Rollins will keep his name in the draft, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The news isn’t surprising, as Rollins was expected to remain in the draft. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 18.9 points, 6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals on .468/.311/.802 shooting as a sophomore for the Rockets in 2021/22.

Like Miller, Rollins is a projected second-round pick. He’s No. 37 on ESPN’s big board and the No. 43 pick in Givony’s mock draft.

Latest On Hornets’ Head Coaching Search

Darvin Ham was scheduled for a second interview for the Hornets‘ head coaching job prior to becoming the new head coach of the Lakers. With Ham off the table, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson are considered finalists for the position, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

President of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak has been busy preparing for the upcoming draft (the Hornets own the Nos. 13, 15, and 45 picks), which is partly why Charlotte’s search has progressed slower than the vacancies in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Kupchak’s new extension is a two-year deal, sources tell Fischer.

Another reason for the relative lack of progress is that none of the coaching candidates have met with owner Michael Jordan yet, as he was on vacation, but the final stage of interviews could occur this week once he returns, Fischer reports.

At the combine a couple of weeks ago, league personnel indicated Atkinson appeared to be gaining momentum for the position. The former Nets head coach “projected great confidence” that he’d ultimately land the job in calls with team staffers and other NBA figures with knowledge of the organization, according to Fischer. Atkinson is known as a detail-oriented person, and sources close to the coach indicate the research he’s done on the Hornets is reflective of that, Fischer says.

However, D’Antoni’s name has been linked to the Hornets most often, and a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told Fischer that D’Antoni appears to be favored by Jordan, which contradicts the “push-back” that Marc Stein received after reporting that D’Antoni appeared to be a strong candidate. Stein also recently said that if D’Antoni is hired, the offensive-minded coach could bring former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen, who’s known as a defense-first coach, along with him as an assistant.

As Fischer observes, Atkinson’s strong background in player development seemingly fits well with a young team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015/16 (the Hornets were eliminated in the first game of the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed each of the past two seasons). Having said that, Atkinson’s player development background is similar to James Borrego, who was fired after the season ended, leading to league speculation that Charlotte might opt to hire D’Antoni instead.

Cavaliers Hire Luke Walton As Assistant Coach

1:47pm: The Cavs have officially hired Walton, the team announced in a press release.

We are very excited to add someone of Luke’s caliber and championship DNA to our coaching staff,” said president of basketball operations Koby Altman. “His on-court experiences as a head coach, assistant coach and player in this league fit seamlessly into J.B.’s existing coaching staff. Luke is someone who truly embraces player development, a team-first mentality, and a history of creating winning basketball habits. We welcome Luke, his wife Bre and the entire Walton family back to Northeast Ohio.”


11:23am: Luke Walton will be hired as an assistant coach under J.B. Bickerstaff with the Cavaliers, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Walton started the 2021/22 season as the head coach of the Kings, but was fired in November after the team got off to a 6-11 start. He compiled a 31-41 record in each of his first two full seasons with Sacramento and never came close to breaking the franchise’s long playoff drought. His four-year contract with the Kings runs through the end of next season.

Walton also spent three years as head coach of the Lakers, compiling a 98-148 record with no playoff appearances. He was fired in L.A. after the end of the 2018/19 season and was hired in Sacramento a few days later.

Walton ended his playing career in Cleveland, spending a season and a half there before retiring after the 2012/13 season.

Draft Decisions: B. Ellis, Castaneda, Disu, Reed, More

USC guard Boogie Ellis is withdrawing from the 2022 NBA draft and returning to the Trojans next season, tweets Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. After spending two seasons with Memphis, Ellis transferred to USC for his junior season and improved his numbers across the board, averaging 12.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists on .417/.376/.798 shooting.

With the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline set for Wednesday night, several other early entrants have decided their plans for 2022/23. Here are some more draft decisions:

  • Akron guard Xavier Castaneda will also withdraw from the draft, a source tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Castaneda spent his first three seasons with South Florida prior to transferring to Akron, and like Ellis, he saw his statistics improve in his new program, averaging 13.6 points, 3.6, rebounds and 2.3 assists on .407/.373/.823 shooting in ’21/22. He’ll use his extra year of eligibility to return to the Zips next season.
  • Forward Dylan Disu is withdrawing from the draft and returning to Texas for his senior season, Rothstein tweets. Disu was highly productive as a sophomore for Vanderbilt in ’20/21, averaging 15 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks on .492/.369/.736 shooting, but underwent season-ending knee surgery prior to transferring to Texas. He never regained his rhythm for the Longhorns, averaging just 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 10.9 minutes.
  • Eric Reed Jr., who spend his first two seasons with Southeast Missouri State, is withdrawing from the draft and transferring to Mississippi State, reports Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). Reed averaged 16.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1 steal with a .419/.357/.815 shooting slash line last season.
  • Guard DeMarr Langford Jr. plans to withdraw from the draft and return to Boston College, per Goodman (Twitter link). Langford averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals on .456/.269/.670 shooting for the Eagles as a sophomore this past season.
  • Daylen Kountz is withdrawing from the draft in order to use his extra year of college eligibility, he told Goodman (Twitter link). The 6’4″ guard averaged 21.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists on an impressive shooting line of .512/.421/.823 for Northern Colorado in ’21/22. He’ll return to the Bears next season.
  • USC forward Isaiah Mobley will remain in the draft, his father told Rothstein (Twitter link). Mobley averaged 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists as a junior for the Trojans last season. The news was anticipated, as he was expected to keep his name in the draft. He’s the only player ranked on ESPN’s big board among the players listed here, but at No. 98, he’s unlikely to be drafted. Still, there’s a chance he could catch on as an undrafted free agent, perhaps on a two-way deal. Mobley is the older brother of Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley, the No. 3 pick of the 2021 draft.