The Cavaliers were decisive and intentional in the areas they wanted to address in free agency, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link). As Fedor previously outlined, bringing back Ricky Rubio was always the top priority in early free agency, but because Rubio is expected to miss at least the first few months of next season while recovering from a torn ACL, the Cavs needed to bring in a second backup point guard to fill in for a while, which is why they agreed to a deal with Raul Neto.
Rubio has been rehabbing in Spain, but sources tell Fedor that the point guard is expected to travel to Cleveland shortly after his signing becomes official so his progress can be checked by team doctors. Adding two backups point guards instead of one creates a roster crunch for the Cavaliers, as after reaching a deal with backup center Robin Lopez, the team will have 15 players under contract with Collin Sexton still a restricted free agent.
Cleveland expects Rubio’s on-court impact could be limited in the first year of his deal, per Fedor, which is why the Cavs brought him back on a three-year contract, with the third year being partially guaranteed. A sign-and-trade with Indiana to free up a roster spot and money remains an option, according to Fedor, who points to Dylan Windler and Cedi Osman as players who could be on the move — if the Pacers are interested.
As for Sexton, sources tell Fedor that the Cavs are determined to stay below the luxury tax line — they’re currently about $15MM below — and view Sexton as worthy of a deal that would pay him in the low-to-mid teens annually. However, despite positive developments in recent negotiations, sources tell Fedor that Sexton wants “starting guard money with an annual salary that starts with a 2, not a 1.”
“He has no market,” an opposing executive told Cleveland.com.
Fedor says the negotiations might take a while, and Sexton accepting his $7.2MM qualifying offer in an attempt to rebuild his value and reach unrestricted free agency in 2023 is a real possibility. Sources also tell Fedor that Darius Garland‘s five-year max extension with the Cavaliers is a straight five-year deal with no player option in the fifth season.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Zach LaVine outperformed his previous two contracts (rookie contract and then a four-year, $78MM deal that he just completed), but his new five-year max deal with the Bulls will be measured by the team’s postseason performance, not his individual statistics, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.
- In a couple of stories for NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer explores how impending free agent acquisitions Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic can help the Bulls. Schaefer notes that Drummond isn’t an All-Star-caliber player anymore, but he should still be a marginal upgrade over last season’s backup centers, especially on the boards. As for Dragic, Schaefer views the veteran guard as a low-risk insurance policy for Lonzo Ball, since Dragic is signed to a minimum contract.
- Don’t expect Lance Stephenson to re-sign with the Pacers anytime soon, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Once Indiana’s trade with Boston is complete, the Pacers will have 19 players under contract for next season, so they’ll have to figure out how to trim the roster before anything happens with Stephenson — assuming they want him back.