Apr 24, 2013; Independence, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant (right) watches as new head coach Mike Brown (center) puts his arm around team owner Dan Gilbert during a press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers better off saving

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As it stands, the Cavaliers have close to twenty million in cap space for this offseason. That, in itself, is a tricky amount to manage. Cleveland still needs to sign two or three more players (even if they are on non-guaranteed deals) to fill out the 2013-2014 roster. Also, assuming they see guys like Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters (not to mention Anderson Varejao) in the fold long term, they’ll need to save money now to resign them. Couple all that with the fact that this free agent crop isn’t exceptionally strong, and that leads me to this conclusion: the Cavaliers should save their money this offseason.

Granted, that isn’t going to make the winning starved fan base happy in the slightest. More so than any other city west of New York and east of Los Angeles, Cleveland fans want to win and want to win now. The Cavaliers ownership, headed by Dan Gilbert, has already said that the goal next season is to make the playoffs. To do that, they’d, theoretically, have to spend money now and limit what kind of cap space they’ll have moving forward. It’s a classic catch-22 situation.

But here’s the thing: with the Eastern Conference likely going to be relatively weak next year. Playoff level teams like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have effectively taken themselves out of the hunt early by trading away their best talent for future picks and young talent. At the same time, teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic are going to remain in the cellar. And depending on how free agency shakes out, teams like the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors could continue to make moves that help them make the playoffs now, but limit their long-term growth. Thus, is how I see the East shaking out next year, assuming Rudy Gay ends up in Detroit (with or without Josh Smith).

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Indiana Pacers
  3. Brooklyn Nets[1]
  4. Chicago Bulls
  5. New York Knicks
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. Washington Wizards[2]
  9. Cleveland Cavaliers
  10. Toronto Raptors
  11. Boston Celtics
  12. Milwaukee Bucks
  13. Orlando Magic
  14. Charlotte Bobcats
  15. Philadelphia 76ers

Basically, I see the East being fairly wide open at the bottom next season. From the Cavaliers perspective, this is a good thing. For starters, assuming Irving and Varejao stay healthy, they have a more functional roster than teams that will make the playoffs like the Knicks. Their youth, combined with the roster structure, are to going to result in some growing pains that cost the Cavaliers some winnable games. So, if everything clicks, the Cavaliers are right in the thick of the playoff race, even a playoff berth results in a first round matchup with Miami. [3]

And at worst? The Cavaliers struggle again next year due to injuries and youth. If that happens, it can be another season chalked up to never having a healthy roster, which still gives the Cavaliers fan base hope for the following season.

This brings me back to my original reason for writing this post, and that’s the idea that Chris Grant and his staff should spend frugally this offseason. As laid out above, a similar Cavaliers team to last year could realistically make the playoffs next season without any drastic changes. Coupled with a weak free agent class, there is no upside to signing someone to a near or max level deal this summer. It’s not like signing Andre Iquodala to a 48 million dollar deal is going to get the Cavaliers into the top half of the East or give them a real chance of being a contender. And – this is the big point  – it severely limits their financially flexibility moving forward.

The Cavs are going to have to spend money, but only as a necessity. Deals with players like Earl Clark, Corey Brewer, Darren Collision and Greg Oden (and if the Cavaliers are both lucky and get a fair price, Andrew Bynum[4]) are fine. They won’t cost much, will be on short-term deals and help the Cavaliers fulfill their stated goal of making the playoffs next season. And with looming big money extensions (as well as the 2014 free agency class[5]) looming, it’s not worth spending lavishly right now. Not unless Gilbert, Grant and company want to be another average team that isn’t a contender loaded with bad contracts[6].

And, in the end, is that really better than being out of the playoffs?


[1] I have no idea how that team will play out, but I have high hopes.

[2] Had a better draft for this year than the Cavaliers did. Also might have a overall better young big three, even if Kyrie > John Wall.

[3] How tense would a Cavaliers-Heat first round matchup be? It wouldn’t be competitive, but the Cavaliers first playoff birth post LeBron would result take place against LeBron right before the summer where some people think he will make this return. Ba-nan-as.

[4] For the record, I am 100 percent against signing Bynum.

[5] Not LeBron. Loul Deng.

[6] The 2013-2014 are the prime example of this.

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Tags: Chris Grant Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

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