Cleveland Cavaliers

Pluto’s Latest: George, Love, Ingram, Butler

The Pacers want to make a Paul George deal while they can still get value, but they aren’t interested in taking back Kevin Love from the Cavaliers, according to Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Indiana is focused on getting young players and draft picks in return for its star forward, who has announced that he will opt out of his contract next offseason and has expressed a desire to return to his hometown of Los Angeles and play for the Lakers.

The Pacers proposed a deal to the Lakers involving Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft. However, Magic Johnson, L.A.’s president of basketball operations, doesn’t want to part with Ingram, who averaged 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 79 games as a rookie.

Pluto passes on several other tidbits in his latest column:

  • The Celtics could have as many as 10 first-rounders over the next three years and seem like a natural facilitator to take on Love and get George to Cleveland in a three-team trade. But an unidentified NBA executive tells Pluto the Celtics also want George and are more likely to deal with the Pacers directly.
  • The Bulls weren’t interested in Love either, which is why the Cavaliers had little chance of trading for Jimmy Butler. Chicago has gotten tired of being mediocre and is looking for young talent to start rebuilding around. However, Pluto says most of the league iwas “stunned” that the Bulls couldn’t get more than Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a swap of first-rounders in return for Butler. The Celtics reportedly offered a better package that included several future draft picks.
  • The Cavaliers are still waiting to hear if Chauncey Billups will accept their GM offer. Sources tell Pluto that Billups has been pursuing a GM job for more than a year, so it’s not clear why there’s a delay. Billups has never worked in an NBA front office, Pluto notes, so he would need to hire an experienced executive as an assistant. A top candidate is George David, a former assistant GM with the Pistons who has a background in scouting.

Five Key Offseason Questions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Coming off their third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers are in a very unusual spot. Cleveland went 12-1 against Eastern Conference foes in the playoffs, asserting its dominance in the conference once again, but there’s still a sense that the team has to shake things up and make major moves this offseason in order to be able to truly compete with the Warriors.

For a team led by LeBron James, who has appeared in seven consecutive Finals, anything short of a championship has become a letdown. With LeBron once again just a year from potential free agency, there will be tremendous pressure on the Cavaliers’ front office this summer to make tangible upgrades to a roster that’s already extremely talented — not to mention capped out.

Here are five key questions facing the Cavs this offseason:

1. Who’s running the show?LeBron James vertical

The lucrative contracts received by the likes of Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith in recent years make it easy to joke that LeBron is the general manager in Cleveland. But the Cavs were actually fairly adept at adding talent in creative ways under David Griffin, generating and making use of trade exceptions, and finessing the cap despite being well over the tax line. Griffin and the front office deserve credit for that.

Heading into the 2017 free agent period though, Griffin is no longer making the team’s basketball decisions, having been unable to reach a new deal with owner Dan Gilbert. Senior VP Trent Redden is out as well, leaving assistant GM Koby Altman and perhaps Gilbert himself as the ones reportedly burning up the phone lines in search of a blockbuster trade.

Not every one of Griffin’s decisions as GM was optimal, and the Cavs are in a tough spot with the salary cap heading into 2017/18. But he’s a smart guy who was intimately familiar with the Cavs’ roster and knew what sort of moves were possible. It’s not clear yet if the same can be said for Chauncey Billups, who is reportedly the frontrunner to become the club’s new president of basketball operations.

Billups has no front office experience, and would likely need to be paired with an experienced executive who could step into the GM role. It’s possible that could work in the long-term, but the fact that it remains up in the air at this point in the summer – Billups is reportedly still considering an offer from Cleveland – isn’t a great sign.

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Cavaliers Notes: Griffin, Luxury Tax, Rabb

Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin wanted more autonomy when it came to managing his team’s roster, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com says. The scribe responded to a question  about Griffin’s recent exit in a mailbag with readers.

Per Vardon, franchise owner Dan Gilbert had a tendency to get in the way of trades and contracts and the philosophical differences between the two parties were evident.

Vardon confirms that Griffin was also seeking a significant raise but doesn’t suspect that any negotiations even reached that far considering that they didn’t appear to be on the same page to begin with.

  • The $2MM reduction in payroll room the league hinted at with its latest salary cap projection could cost the Cavaliers as much as $10MM in luxury tax damage, Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today writes. The Cavs will be hit with the repeater tax in 2017/18.
  • The Cavaliers had a deal on the table to acquire the 34th pick in the draft last night with the intention of drafting Ivan Rabb, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. Rabb ultimately went 35th overall.
  • The Cavaliers could look to add Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. While the scenario sounds, and probably is, farfetched, Vardon suggests that their personal ties to LeBron James could land them in Ohio if they are ultimately bought out by their respective clubs.

Draft Night Rumors: Holiday, Smith Jr., Butler, Cavs

9:14pm: In response to Amico’s note below, Channing Frye has posted an Instagram message dismissing the idea that he’s planning to retire.

Meanwhile, Mavs president Donnie Nelson also addresses an item below, telling reporters that he thinks the Dennis Smith Jr. pick means the Mavs likely won’t target a point guard in free agency (Twitter link via Damon R. Marx of The Dallas Morning News).

8:28pm: The Mavericks may not be ready to hand their offense over to No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr. The team still plans to make a run at Pelicans‘ point guard Jrue Holiday once free agency begins, tweets Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. A former All-Star in Philadelphia, Holiday will be seeking a significant raise after making less than $11.3MM this season. The 27-year-old averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists in 67 games.

There’s more news from an eventful draft night:

  • Dallas coach Rick Carlisle offered a different perspective, posts Tim MacMahon on ESPN Now. Before being asked, Carlisle told reporters that he sees Smith as an immediate starter, noting his blend of intelligence, maturity and athleticism. “We believe he’s going to be a tremendous player for us and right away,” he said.
  • Carlisle added that the Mavs definitely preferred Smith over French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who was taken by the Knicks at No. 8. The coach said there was “uproarious” applause in the Dallas draft room when New York’s pick was announced (Twitter link).
  • In negotiations for Jimmy Butler, the Celtics refused to part with their No. 3 pick this year or the Nets‘ pick for 2018, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Butler was shipped to Minnesota in a deal involving the No. 7 pick, and the Celtics may send Jayson Tatum, whom they drafted at No. 3, to Indiana in a trade for Paul George.
  • Cavaliers veterans Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson may retire this offseason, relays Sam Amico of AmicoHoops (Twitter link). If they do, it will reduce the salary commitment in Cleveland and open up two roster spots, giving the new GM some flexibility. Frye, 34, made more than $7.4MM this season, while Jefferson, who turned 37 yesterday, collected a little more than $2.6MM.

Cavs, Spurs Have Discussed Green, Aldridge

6:39pm: The talks between the Cavs and Spurs have included the Suns as a possible third team, tweets Amico.

6:19pm: Discussions between the Cavs and Spurs, which were previously centered on Green, now include LaMarcus Aldridge as well, tweets Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net.

4:22pm: The Cavaliers and Spurs have engaged in trade discussions involving Danny Green, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, Windhorst adds that San Antonio’s asking price has been high, suggesting nothing is close.

A Wednesday report indicated that the Spurs were open to the idea of trading Green, who is celebrating his 30th birthday today. The veteran wing continues to play a rotational role for the Spurs, averaging 7.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.0 SPG last season while shooting 37.9% on three-point attempts. His ability to contribute on the defensive end as well would make him a nice fit for Cleveland.

However, it’s hard to see a match between the two clubs, who are both looking at win-now moves that would help them compete with the Warriors. The Spurs are believed to be seeking cap room for July, so if they send out Green’s $10MM salary, they likely wouldn’t want to take on one of the Cavs’ cumbersome contracts. However, Cleveland is so far over the cap that the team can’t take on Green without moving substantial salary.

Both the Spurs and Cavaliers have been actively exploring the trade market today. San Antonio is said to be exploring LaMarcus Aldridge trade scenarios, while Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net writes that the Cavs have been in discussions on “no less than eight possible deals.”

Trade Rumors: Butler, Rubio, Cavaliers

Jimmy Butler continues to be very much in demand, according to a post from Ian Begley on ESPN Now. Executives from other teams believe the Timberwolves are offering the seventh pick in tonight’s draft as part of a package to get the Bulls to re-open trade talks. Minnesota coach/executive Tom Thibodeau coached Butler in Chicago and is eager for a reunion. The Cavaliers made an unsuccessful offer for Butler, and sources relayed to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Butler’s preference is to stay with the Bulls. The Timberwolves are also talking to the Pacers about Paul George, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets.

There are more trade rumors as the draft draws nearer:

  • The Wolves are once again trying to find takers for Ricky Rubio, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Earlier reports identified the Mavericks and Knicks as teams that might have interest in the sixth-year point guard, who still has two seasons and more than $29MM left on his contract.
  • The Cavaliers are in a “holding pattern” as they await progress on several proposed trades, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops (Twitter link). Cleveland’s problem is a shortage of tradable assets and what insiders are describing as a “flooded market” (Twitter link).
  • Cleveland is finding that no one wants to take on the hefty contracts of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith or Tristan Thompson, Amico adds (Twitter link). Shumpert has two years left on his deal at a combined $21.3MM. Smith re-signed last summer and is owed more than $44MM over the next three seasons. Thompson has three years remaining at more than $52.4MM.

Cavs Rumors: George, Butler, Billups, James

While the front office is in a state of upheaval, the Cavs are continuing to work the phones to shake up the roster, as Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net reports. With GM David Griffin out of the picture, front office holdovers Koby Altman and Mike Gansey are on the verge of making multiple trades, including a potential blockbuster, Amico continues. They are still trying to acquire Pacers All-Star forward Paul George despite George’s well-documented desire to play for the Lakers when his contract expires after next season, Amico adds.

Some other nuggets from Amico:

  • The Cavs are far apart in any talks with the Bulls to acquire All-Star Jimmy Butler but there is no traction to rumors that Cleveland players have told Butler to “stay away” from the organization.
  • Chauncey Billups has been offered the top executive position and members of the organization anticipate he’ll take the job, despite reservations about leaving ESPN. He’ll make a decision today or Friday.
  • LeBron James has been receiving updates about the team’s plans to upgrade the roster.
  • James wasn’t mad, just surprised, about owner Dan Gilbert’s inability to come to an extension agreement with Griffin.

Cavs Offer Chauncey Billups Top Front Office Job

11:21am: The Cavs have offered Billups a president of basketball operations position, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who tweets that Billups remains undecided on accepting. According to Sam Amico of USA Today (Twitter link), Billups is weighing the fact that LeBron James could leave next summer, as well as considering the prospect of being objectively critical about Tyronn Lue, who is a close friend.

10:41pm: The Cavaliers have offered Chauncey Billups a five-year contract to run the team’s front office, reports Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Sources with knowledge of the discussions tell Lloyd that Billups has yet to formally accept the offer.

Billups has been viewed as the odds-on favorite to replace David Griffin as the head decision-maker in Cleveland’s front office since Griffin and the Cavs announced on Monday that they were parting ways. According to reports, Billups met with owner Dan Gilbert on Tuesday, then returned for a second meeting on Wednesday.

Lloyd writes that Gilbert and Billups spent the day on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, with Billups being introduced to many of the executives who would be working under him if he takes a position with the Cavs.

If Billups accepts the Cavs’ reported offer, he figures to take on the role of president or vice president of basketball operations. Although he has never worked in an NBA front office before, Billups would likely have final say on personnel decisions, though I expect the Cavs would add a veteran executive to the mix for day-to-day matters, perhaps with a GM title.

Gilbert and assistant GM Koby Altman have continued to run the Cavs’ front office since Griffin’s departure, with the team reportedly being aggressive in seeking out possible trades.

Cavs Continue To Work 'Furiously' Toward Trade

  • Even without a GM in place, the Cavaliers continued to work “furiously” on Wednesday pursuing trade possibilities, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. It appears the Cavs and Chauncey Billups are close to reach an agreement that would add him to their front office, but the team is more focused on working the trade market, and will continue trying to find a deal on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler Warned Not To Come To Cleveland?

2:38pm: A team source tells Amico Hoops that there’s no truth to the idea that members of the Cavs are telling Butler it’s in his best interest not to come to Cleveland.

11:28am: Several Cavaliers players have advised Bulls star Jimmy Butler to resist any trade to Cleveland, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Unidentified players, who had been encouraging Butler to seek a deal to the Cavs, are now telling him to stay away from the sudden chaos in the organization after the decision not to re-sign GM David Griffin.

Butler had planned to ask Bulls GM Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson to find a way to get him to Cleveland, Cowley reports. However, he apparently changed his mind Tuesday afternoon after being contacted by a few Cavaliers.

There are no other teams that Butler wants to join, including the Celtics, according to Cowley, and Chicago’s front office has set an asking price so high that it makes a deal virtually impossible.

Dwyane Wade‘s decision on Tuesday to opt in next season for $23.8MM is also related to the situation in Cleveland, Cowley states. Because Wade is a close friend of LeBron James, he understands how angry James is about Griffin’s departure and knew that Butler is likely to remain a Bull.

Cowley also reports a likely breakup of “The Three Alphas” in Chicago, with Butler and Wade pushing for an alternative to Rajon Rondo. While they like Rondo personally, both stars would prefer a point guard who can shoot from the outside to help space the court.

Butler, who played with Kyle Lowry at the Olympics last year, has been talking to the Raptors free agent about coming to Chicago, and Kyrie Irving has indicated that he might seek a trade to escape a possible shakeup in Cleveland.
Irving’s asking price would be too steep for the Bulls, Cowley speculates, so a third team would have to be involved.
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