Cleveland Cavaliers – Off Season Report

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2015/16 Record: 57-25 (NBA WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!)

Ins:

Chris Andersen FA – 1 Year / $980k
Mike Dunleavy Jnr TR – Bulls
Kay Felder DR – Pick #54
DeAndre Liggins FA – 2 Years / $2.1 mil (Partially Guaranteed)

Outs:

Matthew Dellavedova S&T – Bucks
Timofey Mozgov FA – Lakers
Sasha Kaun TR – Sixers (Waived)
Dahntay Jones WA – Unsigned

Off Season Analysis

This is new. The Cavs have never gone into the offseason this way. NBA Champions.

An unbelievable finals series left the Cleveland Cavaliers with their first championship ever, and Cleveland’s first title since Tokyo last hosted the Olympics in 1964. But in a very insightful si.com article on Lebron James, the always level Cavs GM David Griffin put things into perspective;
Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 4.31.28 pm

The only thing wrong with what Griffin has said is referring to ‘a block’. It was THE BLOCK, David.

The rest is 100% accurate, the staggering fight back by the Cavs in this year’s finals series saved a lot of bacon. It also saved Cavs owner Dan Gilbert a fair bit of coin, or made, whichever way you want to look at it. Which will make swallowing the wage bill for Season 16/17 just that little bit easier. However, whilst the NBA isn’t a hard cap league, you can’t just throw money at every single problem.

The Post-Championship roster comprised of just 6 guaranteed contracts and whilst the salary cap had jumped to $94mil, those 6 contracts alone already ate up 80% of it. Even though Gilbert had shown a willingness to bend over  spend since Lebron returned, David Griffin still had a real challenge to bring back a roster worthy of defending their title while confined by the rules of the CBA. Cleveland was sitting with about $20mil in cap room, over half the roster needing filling and an overinflated free agency market about to make player addition as well as retention very difficult.

So once you sweep away the confetti, wash the Champagne out of your hair and find your shirt, you will see change has ever so slightly descended on #TheLand.

In the opening hours of free agency Mozgov leapt to the Lakers and Cleveland said thanks for your services (and costing us 2 first round picks). Delly agreed to terms with the Bucks and the Cavs chose not to match, however they cleverly arranged a sign & trade which saw them gain a $4.8mil trade exception. This was yet another example of Griffin’s much needed shrewdness. Dunleavy switched to the Cavs using the exception, as the Bulls looked to shed salary, and Cleveland gained some proven talent instead of losing a player for nothing. All the more significant because adding talent while doing the salary cap dance is no easy feat. Four more guaranteed contracts were added to the roster, while DeAndre Liggins gets perhaps his last chance at making an NBA roster;

  • Richard Jefferson: 3 Years/$7.6mil (Non Guaranteed 3rd)
  • Chris Anderson: 1 Year/$980k
  • Kay Felder: 3 Years/$2.5mil (Non Guaranteed 2nd)
  • James Jones: 1 Year/$980k

No-one expected LeBron to leave Cleveland, but he still waited until August 12th to make things official. Only he knows the real reason why but one can speculate it had something to do with money. Given his Early Bird status, he was unable to sign for his max unless committing to at least 2 years. With the slightly lower projected cap level for the 2017 offseason, James ultimately took a 3 year / $100mil deal. The last year has a Player Option and for the first time in his career, Bron will be the highest paid player in the NBA. So whilst he can never be accused of being selfish on the court, the chance to finally “get his” was too big to pass up. And after the great Sports Illustrated look into the mind of a champion, you cannot help but feel it’s not the last personal goal he’d like to tick of the bucket list.

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JR Smith (I still call him Earl Jnr) will likely be back too. His cap hold (approx 9mil) is sitting nicely under the $94mil cap and therefore can be paid over that if need be. Despite the perceived lack of interest outside Cleveland, rumour has it the Cavs have a standing $10mil per offer on the table. Smith is likely holding out for as long as possible in part because of the negotiating tactics of Smith’s agent, Rich Paul (see BledsoeThompsonHarrell). Whilst James believes “It’s time” to get JR signed, don’t be surprised if this extends close to training camp.

So then where does that leave them?

A good portion of the Championship core will be back (11 returning players including Smith). The tax bill will again be large and it will take Gilbert’s cheque book, as well as Griffin’s trickiness, to add any further talent to the team. The roster is, quite frankly, old and clearly built for the now (outside of Irving and Love there is little promise from a future cornerstone perspective). Even the greatest optimist would find it hard to argue the Cavs have added enough to help them challenge last season’s opponent. Add to that Regular Season LeBron and Playoff LeBron are starting to have a larger gap than ever before.

But does the Regular Season really matter to this team?

There will ALWAYS be Love rumours and the Cavs have stockpiled a number of trade exceptions that they could get inventive with. Questions will remain as to whether we believe they are going back to war with the same Cavalier Clan, or if change is on the horizon. LeBron has very little left to prove in regular seasons, and this team appears built for Kyrie and Love to carry it through the first 82 games.

The Post Season is when we will see if James can continue to carry this team on his broad shoulders. Have the Cavaliers done enough to support him and bring another title to Cleveland before the Olympics come to Tokyo again?

Grade: B

2016/17 Prediction: XHR says 58-24, DN says 55-27, LD says 54-28, SE says 56-26.

Jersey Bet on the line: If someone nails the record, they can choose another to purchase a Richard Jefferson Cavs Jersey.

League Pass Meter: 9/10

Hard to see their Regular Season record being better than last year. Everyone comes to play against LeBron. Everyone comes to play against the defending champs. How the Cavs handle that will be must see Basketball. Plus, Uncle Drew

Depth Chart:

PG: Irving Williams Felder
SG: Smith (?) Shumpert McRae* Liggins*
SF: James Dunleavy Jefferson
PF: Love Frye Jones
C: Thompson Andersen

*Salary Guarantees 10th Jan 2017

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 Cap: $114,628,849
2017/18 Cap: $113,573,704

Max Room: $0

Min Room: $0

Future Assets:

Incoming:
2019 2nd (LAL or MEM – less favourable)
2020 2nd (POR Protected 31-55)

Outgoing:
2017 2nd (BOS)
2018 1st (POR Protected 1-10)
2018 2nd (PHI or CHA)
2019 2nd (ORL or NYK or DET)
2020 2nd (LAC)

2016/17 Questions:

Will there be a hangover from the title?

Can Lue successfully integrate Love into the offense or will Griffin trade him instead?

Does Lebron sit back in the regular season & let Irving take control of the offense?

Who can realistically challenge them for top of the East? Raptors? Celtics?

Will JR smith wear shirts again?

 

 

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