Even if nothing else is done before the start of the 2014-2015 season, this offseason will inevitably go down as the best offseason that the Cleveland Cavaliers have ever had. From the return of LeBron James, to the fluke lottery win for Andrew Wiggins, it’s been an exceptional couple months for the franchise that has historically had little to cheer about.
The Cavaliers ended last season with too many questions to answer: Who will be making the decisions as General Manager? Will Mike Brown still be coaching, and if not, who should replace him? What should be done with Kyrie Irving if he won’t sign an extension? Is it worth bringing Luol Deng back to try to solidify the Small Forward spot? What can we be done to actually make the playoffs next season?
A few months later, and all of those questions have been answered in ways that even the most cynical fan would celebrate: David Griffin has shown solid leadership as GM. Mike Brown was let go and replaced with an impressive strategist in David Blatt, who has had plenty of success in Europe and at the Olympics. Kyrie Irving happily signed an extension to stay with the only team he has ever known, and Luol Deng was not retained since the Cavaliers were able to bring LeBron back home.
What an amazing couple of months! But with there being a few weeks before Andrew Wiggins could be factored into any potential trade for Kevin Love (August 24), and an unknown amount of time before the NBA Schedule is released (expected to be in the next two weeks sometime), the Cavaliers roster still has questions that need to be answered…thankfully, the questions just feel a lot easier to answer than they were a few months agggo.
Barring any trades, the roster currently looks like this:
PG: Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova, John Lucas III
SG: Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Joe Harris
SF: LeBron James, Mike Miller, James Jones
PF: Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy
C: Anderson Varejao, Brendan Haywood
A trade for Kevin Love (or someone else), would obviously change things drastically, but without a trade being made this is roughly the team for this coming season. Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy and John Lucas III all have fully non-guaranteed contracts and were acquired for just this reason (sweeteners in the aforementioned Love pursuit), and could easily be removed from the roster.
The Cavaliers currently have $64,974,359 committed salary for the 2014-2015, not including the not yet signed contracts for Mike Miller and James Jones. If the Cavaliers were to waive Thomas, Murphy, and Lucas III, Cleveland could drop that salary to $61,609,714 (Note: this won’t happen until a Kevin Love trade has been removed as a possibility).
If these contracts were waived, Cleveland would move below the salary cap, but wouldn’t actually open up any further money due to minimum contract cap-holds that would be created by the new open roster spots, and with their “room exception” already committed (but not yet signed) to Mike Miller, the Cavaliers are left with the likelihood of only having minimum salaries to offer to any new signings.
James Jones has already been an example of the LeBron James Effect, as he willingly accepted a one year minimum contract to play alongside of James. So barring any trades, what players can Cleveland realistically pursue with minimum contracts to improve the roster as it currently stands?