Some recognizable names have worn a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform over the years, including Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and, of course, superstar LeBron James. However, these three players and many others were acquired either through the draft or by trade.
For the most part, the Cavaliers, who have been to the playoffs 18 times in 43 seasons, have not typically built their roster in any significant way with the signing of free agents.
But having said that, here are my top five best and worst free agent signings in team history.
5. Scooter McCray, 1986
On June 27, 1983, the Cavaliers dealt a second-round pick to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Lonnie Shelton, but this is not a story about Shelton, who averaged 12 points per game over 10 seasons in the NBA.
More importantly, the SuperSonics used that pick to select Carlton “Scooter” McCray. In parts of two seasons, McCray appeared in 53 regular season games and four playoff contests for Seattle before being waived on Nov. 13, 1984–less than two years after he was drafted.
McCray did not resurface in the NBA until he was signed by the Cavaliers in September 1986, in a sense bringing the 6’9″ forward’s professional career full circle.
I don’t know if McCray ever returned to full strength after his injury, but I am certain that he did not flourish in the NBA. McCray lasted just 24 games with the Cavaliers and his NBA career ended when he was waived on Feb. 10, 1987.
4. Mike Woodson, 1990
Now coaching the New York Knicks, Woodson also spent 11 seasons as a player with the Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Kansas City Kings, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and, finally, the Cavaliers.
Woodson began the 1990-91 season with the Rockets, but was waived in December, having appeared in 11 of the team’s first 17 games, with averages of 4.8 points and one rebound in just more than 11 minutes per game.
The Cavaliers decided to take a chance on Woodson, adding him to the roster nine days later on Dec. 13, 1990. Whether he knew it or not, the end was near for the 6’5″ guard-forward as a player. In four games before being waived on Christmas Eve, Woodson logged totals of 46 minutes and 11 points.
In his brief stint with the Cavaliers, Woodson was actually hurting the team’s chances of winning as his player efficiency rating (-6.8) and win shares (-0.3) were below zero.
But out of respect to Woodson, he did average 14 points in 25.5 minutes per game over his career.
3. Dirk Minniefield, 1985
Minniefield was taken in Round 2 of the 1983 draft by the Dallas Mavericks, but he didn’t actually catch on with a team until the Cavaliers signed him prior to the 1985 season. The Mavericks traded Minniefield to the Nets the day after the draft, but he was signed and waived before the start of the 1983-84 season.
One year later, the 6’3″ guard, who scored 1064 points in four seasons at the University of Kentucky and produced the highlight shown below, was again signed and waived before the season started, this time by the Chicago Bulls.
Minniefield would finally get to see some floor time in the NBA, when the Cavaliers signed him prior to the 1985-86 campaign.
He contributed little in the way of winning to the Cavaliers, posting a player efficiency rating of 14.1 (the average in 15) in his only full season with the team. Setting aside advanced statistics, though, he did average 5.5 points and 3.8 assists in 14.9 minutes per game in 1985-86.
However, Minniefield fell out of favor the next season and was traded to the Rockets in December 1986.
In his 11 appearances with the Cavaliers to that point in the 1986-87 season, Minniefield was averaging just 2.5 points per game on 31 percent shooting from the field and overall he was having very little impact on the outcome of games.
The change of scenery to Houston seemed to help him though, as Minniefields’ numbers improved across the board.
2. Jelani McCoy, 2003
It didn’t take long for the Cavaliers to realize the mistake they had made in signing McCoy, a 6’10″ center.
Drafted in the second round by Seattle in 1998, McCoy was mildly successful as a backup center. He played three seasons with the SuperSonics and one with each of the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors before signing with the Cavaliers at the start of training camp in October 2003.
McCoy, at the time a 26-year-old, lasted just two games with the Cavaliers in which he grabbed a total of four rebounds and committed four fouls in 12 minutes.
After being waived by the Cavaliers, he went on to appear in just 16 more NBA games and was let go for the last time by the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 27, 2007.
1. Jerome Moiso, 2005
Having apparently not learned their lesson, the Cavaliers decided to retread another former Raptors’ big man.
Moiso was selected 11th overall in Round 1 of the 2000 draft by the Boston Celtics and I have no problem saying that he went on to have a very disappointing career, given the potential that was seen in him. For his career, Moiso averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.6 minutes of work per game.
The 6’10″ forward probably could have earned more playing time with a better attitude and work ethic, but that never happened in his four stops before signing with the Cavaliers.
Quite frankly, Moiso was lucky to be given another chance. Moiso was signed by the Nets in late December of the 2004-05 season, was let go and then returned to the Nets on consecutive 10-day contracts before settling in with the Cavaliers for the rest of the season on Feb. 1, 2005.
Moiso spent most of his time on the bench, getting called into action on just four occasions for a total of 27 minutes.
Moiso did not catch on with another NBA team after the 2004-05 season and has since played for eight different teams in Europe and China, but he left the NBA with a cool $8 million for his five years of work.
5. Mark West, 1984
When West signed with the Cavaliers in November 1984, he was in the early stages of an 17-year career that spanned from 1983-2000. After one season in Dallas and a brief stop in Milwaukee to start the 1984-85 season, West settled in with the Cavaliers to play in 264 games over parts of four seasons.
The Cavaliers reached the playoffs in 1984-85, with the 6’10″ West making 25 regular-season starts, after a six year absence and despite a 36-46 record.
In February 1988, after another two-year drought but on their way to a playoff berth, the Cavaliers were able to package West in a trade with the Phoenix Suns that netted forward Larry Nance and ignited a successful run for the franchise that culminated in a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1992.
West returned to the Cavaliers as a free agent for the 1996-97 season, during the twilight of his career.
4. Anthony Parker, 2009
This time the Cavaliers got it right in reaching out to the services of a former Raptors’ player.
Parker struggled in his first three years in the NBA, leaving after the 1999-2000 to gain playing experience in Europe, but he returned to the NBA in the summer of 2006 as a much improved player, evidenced by the three-year,$13 million deal that he agreed to with the Raptors.
The 6’6″ guard provided an outside touch, double-digit scoring and veteran leadership during his time in Toronto, qualities that led to competition for his services when he became a free agent at the end of the 2008-09 season.
The Cavaliers, who at the time were searching for pieces to complement James, secured Parker for three years and $7.7 million and slotted him in as the starting shooting guard.
Things didn’t necessarily go according to plan as James was sent to the Miami Heat, his destination of choice, in a sign-and-trade arrangement in in the summer of 2010 after the Cavaliers had fallen to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
However, Parker remained a reliable option at shooting guard over the next two seasons as the Cavaliers franchise shifted into rebuilding mode.
3. Alonzo Gee, 2010
After bouncing around the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs, Gee, a 6’6″ guard, finally found a home when he signed with the Cavaliers on Dec. 28, 2010.
After the 2010-11 season in which the 25-year-old averaged 7.4 points per game, the Cavaliers and Gee agreed on a new three-year, $9.75 million deal and he appears to be a part of the plan going forward.
Gee, who has been a steady force for a young Cavaliers’ team, started in all 82 games in 2012-13 and averaged 10.1 points in 31 minutes of action.
2. Earl Boykins, 1999-2000
The Cavaliers had the right idea with Boykins, but unfortunately the team just couldn’t make up its mind. Boykins was first brought in on a 10-day contract in March 1999, was waived, signed to a second 10-day, signed for the remainder of the season and then waived again prior to the start of the 1999-2000 campaign.
Realizing the spark that the 5’5″ guard could provide in a reserve role, the Cavaliers turned to Boykins again in February 2000 in similar fashion by signing him to consecutive 10-day contracts and then to a contract for the remainder of the season.
Boykins appeared in 25 games for the Cavs in 1999-2000, pouring in 5.8 points in just over 10 minutes per contest and was lured away by the Clippers in the fall of 2000.
Although Boykins moved around a lot, suiting up for 10 different teams in 13 years, he went on to have a very productive career after his time in Cleveland and really hit his stride with the Denver Nuggets, beginning in the 2003-04 season.
Very impressive numbers for the journeyman guard during the prime of his career.
1. Larry Hughes, 2005
To this day, Hughes is the highest profile free-agent signing in the history of the Cavaliers. After averaging 22 points per game in 2004-05 with the Wizards, Hughes left for Cleveland and the chance to pair up with James.
The team ended a seven-year playoff drought in Hughes’ first season and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals. A year later in 2006-07, the Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals for the only time in franchise history, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Nevertheless, the signing paid off and in February 2008, while the 6’5″ guard’s value was still high, Hughes was sent to the Bulls in a blockbuster three-team trade that brought Ben Wallace to Cleveland.