NBA Free Agency Grades: Cleveland Cavaliers
Signings: Darius Garland (5 year, $193 million extension); Ricky Rubio (3 years, $18.44 million); Robin Lopez (1 year, $2.91 million); Raul Neto (1 year, $2.46 million)
The Cleveland Cavaliers came into this offseason with three primary needs to fill: a third center, a backup point guard and a 3-and-D wing. Yet again they ignored that last need in free agency, although it’s possible they intend rookie Ochai Agbaji to play minutes at the 3. Instead, they will rely on a combination of power forwards and shooting guards to stretch across to cover the small forward position.
The other two questions they answered very well. Robin Lopez is an excellent signing at the veteran’s minimum as their third center, a high-character locker room guy who can be relied upon when there are injuries. Raul Neto is something similar, a steal at the minimum and a luxury as their third point guard, although he will be the backup to start the year.
Ricky Rubio is coming off yet another serious injury, and there is some question as to whether he will have lost a step when he does return sometime after the start of the year. That being said, he was a revelation in Cleveland to start last season, and he will be very inexpensive the next two seasons if he plays anything close to how he played last year.
Finally, the Cavs inked their young All-Star point guard Darius Garland to a five-year, maximum extension. He looks like the real deal, a sharp-shooting dynamic passer who can knife into the paint and loves to hit his bigs on the roll. He marks the first real star post-LeBron and will now be in Cleveland for a long time.
Thus far, the Cavs have also avoided overpaying for restricted free agent Collin Sexton, talk of an extension for trade deadline acquisition Caris LeVert has been quiet, and they are on track to have max cap space next summer. Not finding a small forward is a choice, but at least the Cavs seem to have a plan.