State of the Union
The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a 19-46 record, good for last in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs were 26th in the league in offensive rating and dead last in defensive rating, good for a net rating of -7.9, 29th in the league. Cleveland has an odd mix of young talent and old veterans on the roster that haven’t exactly meshed well enough to consistently win, or even play defense. The Cavs took a gamble in signing John Beilein last summer as their head coach and it did not pay off, as he did not make it through the year with the team. The 67-year-old former college coach never seemed to mesh well with his team and adapt to the rigor of an NBA schedule. They are now helmed by JB Bickerstaff. On the roster, Cleveland seems to have a glut at the two lead guard spots. Between Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dante Exum, the team has a bevy of young, talented guards to choose from. The team is high on Garland after having taken him 5th overall in last year’s draft. However, Kevin Porter Jr. really had some bright spots last season and flashed a lot of potential. Figuring out their backcourt of the future and hitting on the 5th pick in the upcoming draft is the only thing that should matter to Cleveland moving forward.
Salary Cap Analysis
-Current Cap Room: ($80,885,811)
-Max Cap Room: ($2,761,099)
-Projected Cap Room: ($38,665,866)
-Path to a Max: Pretty much impossible.
-Best Contract on the Books: Kevin Porter Jr. Under team control for the next three years at a total of $8 million, then he will be restricted. Has shown flashes of being a steal with the 30th pick and could possibly end up being the best young guard on this Cavalier team.
-Worst Contract on the Books: Kevin Love. Near max money for the next three years for a 34-year-old veteran power forward who can’t defend on one of the worse teams in the league is recipe for disaster.
-Potential Offseason Targets: Harry Giles, Christian Wood, Sterling Brown, Josh Jackson
The Big Question(s)
What are the Cleveland Cavaliers going to do with Kevin Love, with him being under contract for 3 more years at $91 million? the team has a large commitment to him financially but is in no shape to contend in the near future. Love seems content staying in Cleveland, but it makes no sense for the Cavs to keep him on the team. Is there still interest around the league in Love’s talents, or is he too much of a defensive liability at this point of his career? If there is interest, the team would be wise to flip Love for any assets available. The next question the team needs to answer is the congestion at the two guard spots. With Porter Jr, Sexton, Garland and Exum all on the roster, the team needs to make some decision on who they see as the backcourt of the future. Finally, the team has to hit on their #5 pick in the upcoming draft. With the backcourt chock full of young talent, the Cavs will look to secure a franchise cornerstone on the wing or in the frontcourt. The team should have the opportunity to draft one of Deni Advija, James Wiseman, Obi Toppin, and Onyeka Okongwu.
The Offseason Playbook
The Cavs essentially have no cap space this offseason, however they will be able to utilize the full mid-level exception which, depending on the salary cap and luxury tax lines, should be around ~$10 million. They could look to sign a young forward with potential such as Christian Wood or Harry Giles. Both Wood and Giles could play alongside Drummond, and they both match the timeline the Cavaliers are on. Or, if Wood commands a deal bigger than the mid level and the Cavs are scared off by Giles injury history, they could look to split the mid-level up and shore up the wing position. Two intriguing prospects that should be cheap this offseason the Cavs could look at are Sterling Brown and Josh Jackson. Brown showed potential as a wing defender and scorer in his very limited minutes in Milwaukee but was never given an everyday role with real minutes. Jackson is a former number 4 overall pick who has yet to really break through in the league yet. He dominated in the G League last year in 26 appearances for the Memphis Hustle, putting up 20/8/4 on 49/39/63 shooting. He has shown flashes while playing in the NBA as well but hasn’t been able to consistently put it together. Both could provide the Cavs with a low risk, high reward opportunity. The most important decision facing the Cavs this offseason is what to do with their 5th overall draft pick in the NBA draft. If I were running basketball operations in Cleveland, I would be ecstatic walking out of the draft with either Deni Advija or Onyeka Okongwu. Advija gives the Cavs some much need playmaking and versatility on the wing, giving the team a point forward that they desperately need. Okongwu provides the Cavs with a versatile defender, one who can protect the rim and switch onto smaller, quicker guards. With the meteoric rise of Bam Adebayo, the value of players in his mold are rising as well. Either way, the Cleveland Cavaliers have some important decisions to make this offseason.
-5th Pick: Deni Advija, Onyeka Okongwu, James Wiseman, Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton
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Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.