Starting on June 30, teams and players around the league will be free to meet and discuss terms on a potential contract. With the amount of all-NBA talent set to become free agents, this offseason promises to be chaotic.
Players like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can create significant shifts around the league. If a player like Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Western Conference would appear exponentially stronger. In turn, the Eastern Conference gets much weaker.
While the offseason should create chaos, the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t have anything to do with it. This comes as no surprise, however. Their financial situation doesn’t open up until 2020. Right now, the organization is tied down with poor contracts, including Tristan Thompson and Brandon Knight.
Cleveland will remain relatively silent during the 2019-2020 offseason, but like every team, they’ll make subtle moves. Their first moves will be signing draft picks Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter, Jr. But what exactly is their plan after that?
Cut or Trade JR Smith
The Cavaliers entered the 2019 draft hoping to trade JR Smith, but nothing significant materialized. Smith was still a member of the Cavaliers. Smith is currently under contract for next season, which will pay him $15.7 million. There’s a catch, however. If Smith is waived or traded, his new team only has to pay $3.9 million.
According to the New York Post, Smith signed his 4-year/$57 million contract before the new collective bargaining agreement was grandfathered in. Because of this, Smith’s contract is only partially guaranteed here for his final season.
In a report by Chris Fedor of cleveland.com, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said the organization will continue to investigate a possible Smith trade. According to Altman, however, a trade seemed unlikely before June 30, when Smith’s contract becomes fully guaranteed.
“We’re definitely going to investigate what we can do there. There’s a pain threshold of doing it, going into the tax, which we would have to do in terms of taking back money and the rest of the NBA knowing that we’re in the tax and my job would be getting us out of the tax,” Altman said.
If the Cavaliers traded Smith, the team would be required to take on another player’s salary. Since the organization is currently over the luxury-tax threshold, it seems unlikely they want to dig themselves any deeper.
Sign a few veterans to the minimum
Entering the offseason, the Cavaliers sit with one of the league’s worst financial situations. The organization remains tied down with poor contracts, as mentioned before. However, the majority of these contracts are set to expire after the 2019-2020 season.
Since the Cavaliers have no spending money this offseason, they should sign second-tier veterans to minimum contracts. While the team won’t contend for any division titles or championships this season, they can sign veterans with the promise of more playing time than most contenders. If these veterans perform well, they could trade them to actual contenders for additional assets, including draft picks.
After accounting for the eventual departure of Smith and adding all three rookies, the Cavaliers will enter the latter part of free agency with 13 players on their roster. Considering the rookies will need to develop behind veteran players for a short while, this plan make sense.
They won’t attract quality veterans, but two or three second-tier veterans will prove attractive for Cleveland. They can easily help establish a relationship between the entire teams’ veterans and their young draft picks.
Talk about trading Kevin Love, again
Since he first arrived in Cleveland back in 2014, Kevin Love remains the epicenter of most trade rumors involving the Cavaliers. Whether it’s justified or not, the rumors persist. Given the team’s plan to get younger for the future, does Love remain a significant piece to the Cavaliers puzzle? Maybe.
Former Cavaliers teammate Channing Frye recently suggested Love’s best move would include him getting traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. In addition, every offseason has fans and media drumming up mock trades for the Cavaliers and another franchise which would include Love.
Truth be told, his contract isn’t ideal for several contending teams, plus the Cavaliers wouldn’t get enough in return at this point to justify any trade. While the team continues to get younger, Love still remains the de facto “face-of-the-franchise.”
The front office still holds the team would only trade Love if the return was nothing short of great. Since they likely won’t get that great return, Love stays with Cleveland through the offseason. If Cleveland really wanted to trade Love, it’s most ideal to let him play the season and hope his game improves and he stays healthy.
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