Call me crazy but the Cleveland Cavaliers are a great team for free agents to join this upcoming off-season. While their record, off the court drama and concerns related to Mike Brown make this statement seem crazy there are a number of reasons to think this way even as the team pushes to try to get into the playoffs. First we will look at the free agents, and possible free agents, that could fill the Cavs biggest need at the small forward position.
The Would Be Free Agents
Opt Out Options: Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay
Restricted Free Agents: Gordon Hayward, Evan Turner,
Unrestricted Free Agents: Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Shawn Marion, Paul Pierce
Team Fit: For the Cavaliers the best fit is a player with multiple skills including 3 point range, ability to handle the ball and team oriented offensive and defensive skill set. Obviously this sounds like a great player but those qualities eliminate a couple of the players on this list. Anthony, Gay, Turner and Marion while quality players would not be great fits with the current skills of the players on the Cavs. Those players fit best when they are able to dominate the ball offensively and aren’t expected to guard high level wing players. That leaves James, Hayward, Deng, Granger and Pierce to fit in with talent currently on the team.
Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, No One, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller
Bench: Anderson Varejao, Anthony Bennett, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, ’14 first round pick
For any of the 5 players that could fit perfectly with the Cavs being placed in a lineup with those 4 players might not seem like much, to the naked eye. Yet All Star Irving provides a second star who has the ability to take people off the dribble as well as hit an outstanding rate from 3 point range. Waiters showed during the Rising Stars game that he can star with the ball in his hands. In his second season he has improved his overall understanding of the game, his shooting and defense. He is an athletic two guard in the mode of a Dwayne Wade but with a little better range.
Thompson and Zeller may not be the most imposing inside presence but each has skills that are invaluable to a star player. Thompson does all of the little things for the team, getting 50/50 balls, fighting for rebounds, setting screens and play solid interior defense. Zeller’s defense has improved dramatically, in concordance with his increased strength, but he still lacks elite rim protection desired from a center. His offense, as it continues to develop, is perfect to go with Irving, Waiters and a big deal small forward. Zeller can hit jumpers from 15 feet and beyond as well as dive to the rim on pick and rolls. His spacing provides huge advantages over other centers in the league limited to around the basket. That spacing will allow the offense to stay spread out or the defense will pay.
With Bennett developing, including a good shooting form, the Cavs have a young athletic big to build there second unit around next year. He will be put into heavy rotation with Anderson Varejao providing the gritty interior defense and hustle he is known for but with less wear and tear on his body as a backup. Jack should improve from this season, which has been an abject failure so far. He can run the second unit with Karasev improving his defense to go along with his sweet shooting stroke. The ’14 first round pick could be used on a defensive first center, Willie Cauley-Stein is an example of a player who could fall into the Cavs range.
Whether its James returning home, Hayward returning to the Midwest, Deng staying put, Granger reviving his career or Pierce making one less run with an Eastern Conference team these small forwards have a great option with the Cavaliers. With Irving, Waiters, Bennett and Zeller providing stellar shooting, compared to others at the same positions, and Thompson and Varejao providing the grit needed on a winning team the star 3 has all they need. While all of the players may have better locations they could go to, Miami, LA and Phoenix are beautiful, or places they could win, Cleveland is a real possibility as the best fit for them. Adding the talent of a small forward like those listed takes the team to the next level, even if Deng stays he gets an off-season to gel with the team.
Do you have the optimistic view that we have? Do you think any of the listed players do? Should? How good do you think the Cavs have a chance to be? Are you willing to accept James back if that is best for the Cavs?