With the Cleveland Cavaliers backing out of being a third party in the Brooklyn Nets attempt to snag Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, the Wine and Gold have officially had one of the quietest free agency periods in the NBA this season. The Cavs have flirted with players such as Brandon Roy, but have had no luck in landing any of their targeted players besides Luke Harangody.
Even undrafted free agent Kevin Jones, who signed a partially guaranteed three-year deal with the Cavaliers, will be out three weeks with a bone bruise on his foot, making him not available for the Cavaliers Summer League. However, other rookies have been asked to join the Cavaliers roster this summer. That includes T.J. Campbell, Michael Eric, Justin Holiday, Rob Jones and Matt Pressey. First-round picks Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will also be joining the team in Las Vegas.
The Cavaliers still have their eyes set on some free agents, however. Cleveland may wait to see how the players they invited to their Summer League pan out before they try signing any free agents out there. Alonzo Gee would be the only exception to that statement, as I believe he will sign with the Cavaliers before summer play ends. Gee could really benefit from playing with the Cavaliers this summer. Gee spent most of the 2010-11 season with the Cavaliers as well.
The athletic Gee saw his performance from two previous seasons, in which he played a total of 66 games, drastically increase. Combining stats from his 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Gee averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals in his first two NBA seasons. In 63 games last season the emphatic Gee averaged 10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals, bursting off the bench for most nights and becoming the Cavaliers best bench player. Gee would assume a starting role this season if he can work out a contract agreement with the Cleveland front office.
With that said, Cleveland will look to players such as Jonny Flynn (a possible backup for Kyrie Irving) and Bill Walker (a formidable filler at two) in the coming days to sign a deal with them. Players like Derek Fisher (who doesn’t have much gas left in the tank), Alexey Shved (who signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves instead) and Ersan Ilyasova (who just recently signed a multi-year contract with the Milwaukee Bucks) have been targets by the Cavaliers without much avail.
Russian guard Shved averaged 10.6 points and shot 49.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc last season in the Euroleague and averaged 11.3 points and 3.3 assists in Russia. Although Shved’s defense is shaky at best, he has been on the NBA radar for some time now and could’ve been a reliable backup at the one or a potential starter at the two.
Ilyasova was an early target for the Cavaliers, and talks were progressing as the weeks went by. I don’t think that Cleveland was all that concerned when they heard that the Bucks had reached a multi-year agreement with Ilyasova. The power forward averaged 13.0 points and 8.8 rebounds last season while shooting 49.2 percent from the field. Although he could’ve been a starter in Cleveland, the Wine and Gold see a lot of upside in Tristan Thompson, who averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in his rookie campaign. The 2011 No. 4 pick did way better than Ilyasova in his first season and I see Thompson as having the potential to yet again take on a starting role this season. No love lost with the Ilyasova signing within the Cavs camp.
The veteran leadership that Cleveland is looking for in players like Fisher (16 NBA seasons) could prove to be helpful, but I would much rather stick with the young and developing Donald Sloan, who made big impressions whenever the Cavaliers called upon him last season. Sloan joined the Wine and Gold more than halfway through the season, playing in 25 games and starting in 11. The backup point guard didn’t show much range in his shot selection, but was a formidable filler for whenever Irving needed a breather.
In 24.3 minutes per game Sloan averaged 6.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 40.3 percent from the field. Fisher, on the other hand, averaged 4.9 points, 1.4 assists and 1.5 rebounds while shooting 34.3 percent in 20 regular season games with the Thunder this season. In a rebuilding atmosphere I see why the Cavaliers would want someone like Fisher around to shower experience on the young roster, but I don’t think Fisher is worth the hassle to sign for only that sole purpose. The five-time NBA champion should call it quits before his game completely falls off.
With the three players mentioned above (most likely) out of the question, the Cavs are still looking to Flynn and Walker as potential role players next season. Flynn came roaring out the gates his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the 2009 No. 6 pick played in all but one game and averaged 13.5 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 28.9 minutes. He also started in every game that he played. A rough second season, in which he shot 5.2 percent lower than his first NBA season, had him heading out the door in Minnesota and seeking a new opportunity with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers in the 2011-12 season.
More rough times fell on Flynn, as the three-year player saw his averages sink once more to 4.5 points, 3.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds while shooting a poor 35.1 percent from the field and only playing in 29 games. Teams still see a lot in Flynn, as he has already worked out with the Atlanta Hawks, is visiting the Chicago Bulls on Friday and will meet the Cavaliers in Las Vegas this weekend according to Marc Spears. The shaky start to Flynn’s career doesn’t phase him, as he still believes he can be a starter in the NBA. Although things haven’t worked out yet for the former Syracuse basketball player, he could find a nice home in Cleveland as part of Kyrie’s second quarter breather.
Walker could also fill in some holes in the Cavaliers roster as a great bench player who just happens to be a shooting guard, a position that is lacking on the Wine and Gold roster at the moment. Although he has been fighting for playing time throughout his four-year career, Walker is a career 37.9 percent three-point shooter and a career 47.1 percent from the field.
According to Patrick Frazier of Naiditch Entertainment, Walker has already met with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Hawks and the Cavaliers. He averaged 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds with the Knicks in 32 games last season. He scored a season-high 21 points on January 27 against the Miami Heat, converting on seven of 10 three-point attempts. The Cavaliers could really use a player like Walker on the bench, but I think Cleveland already has their crunch-time shooting guard in Waiters. Walker, if signed by the Cavaliers could still be of great use, as the two guard position on the roster is depleted and unproven at the moment.
Whether the Cavaliers continue their chase for Walker and Flynn, I still think the team’s most important task to get completed during the free agency period is to sign Gee to a two-year deal. Flynn hasn’t expressed much interest in the Cavaliers, but we will see in the coming days if a deal gets done.
Do you think the Cavaliers should go after players like Flynn, Gee and Walker? Who else should the Cavaliers target in free agency?