The Athletic’s FA grade is a bit generous, but Cavs moves were alright

Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images /

Recently, The Athletic polled their beat writers (subscription required) from each respective NBA team, and asked them to provide their grade of their teams’ free agency, and seemingly add some of their rationale. So with that in mind, how did the Cleveland Cavaliers pan out in their grading?

Kelsey Russo, the Cavaliers team reporter for The Athletic, gave the Wine and Gold a “B+” for their free agency grade. She essentially hit on how Cleveland brought Ricky Rubio back via three-year, $18.4 million deal, with the last season non-guaranteed, as an aside, and signed Raul Neto and Robin Lopez via one-year, veteran’s minimum deals.

Russo thought it was key to sign Darius Garland to a rookie scale max deal, also, to ensure the team had their offensive engine for the long haul to further build with. Russo did note how Cleveland had to use another roster spot for a reserve point guard with the Neto signing, with Rubio set to be out for a good chunk of the upcoming season. She touched on Collin Sexton‘s situation is still one that’s not led to an extension yet, also, for what it’s worth.

Anyway, when it comes to the aforementioned free agency grade for the Cavs, I’d probably say it was a bit too high, personally, but it’s not as if the Cavaliers had high hopes, necessarily.

The Athletic’s free agency grade for the Cavs was a bit optimistic, in my opinion. That said, their moves were alright, all things considered.

Going into free agency, it was often rumored that there’d be a strong possibility that Rubio would be brought back by the Cavaliers; there was reportedly mutual interest, even dating back to near when the then-expiring Rubio was traded to the Indiana Pacers as part of the Caris LeVert deal.

Rubio did a hell of a job for Cleveland in a supersub-type role, and had 13.1 points and 6.6 assists per contest in his 34 appearances prior to tearing the ACL in his left knee in late December. Rubio might not be back until January, feasibly, and he tore that same ACL in his left knee back in 2012, so it’s reasonable to question if he can be near the same player he was last season.

The reasoning for Cleveland bringing him back was understandable, though, given how he helped Darius Garland behind the scenes, and with Rubio’s game not being reliant on athleticism, he still could make a difference when he’s back this season as a passing wizard.

As for the other two free agency signings, Neto is hardly the player of Rubio, but he should provide some viability for Cleveland until Rubio is back as a player to give Garland some relief, and Neto can hit some runners.

He’s a solid defensive lead guard for rotational stretches, also, and with more opportunities the past two seasons with the Washington Wizards, gave them some productive energy minutes. I did get the rationale for that move.

As for Lopez, while his minutes will be matchup-dependent with Jarrett Allen and to some extent, Evan Mobley, in mind, Lopez for a minimum signing can be serviceable as an interior presence for stretches. He’s a capable low-post rotational scorer with good touch on hooks and push shots, can help with rim protection in spurts as a 7-footer, and he’ll be a great teammate that can aid younger bigs as a mentor, at least somewhat.

Lopez can function as playable injury insurance for spot starts if needed as well from time to time, which is something to consider in the grading.

From there, as we touched on, the Garland max, despite some maybe thinking that’s a little premature, was not something that was shocking in any way, given the breakout season he had last year, and him having a very encouraging second season.

Going forward, Garland is the straw that stirs Cleveland’s drink, with his playmaking and multi-faceted scoring abilities, so locking him up long-term was not something I’m going to grill the Cavs for. It was a move that frankly was probably necessary, and them getting that done was reassuring.

Now, Sexton and the team are seemingly a ways away from having his situation resolved, based on recent reports. I personally want Collin around long-term and recognize his value, however, we’ll have to see what plays out there. And it’s reportedly a real possibility he may play out next season via the $7.2 million qualifying offer.

As far as Russo’s grade for the Cavaliers free agency, a B+ seems somewhat generous, and I’d probably go with a B, given Cleveland essentially having minimums as an option, and the non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

Sure, it’d have been better if Rubio’s signing could’ve been via sign-and-trade, to help the team clear some space away from the luxury tax threshold to aid in signing Sexton to a more lucrative deal than the reported three-year, nearly $40 million that was offered to him, which was declined.

Maybe the team and Sexton eventually come to terms on a long-term agreement this offseason still, but we’ll again have to see what transpires. It could reportedly be a negotation/scenario that lasts into training camp or even longer.

Next. Cavs trade idea with Rockets swaps Sexton for veteran wing. dark

Overall, though, while I’d probably go with a B grade for the Cavaliers 2022 free agency, as opposed to Russo’s at a B+, all things considered, the moves were alright. Nobody expected fireworks this offseason from the Cavs, and they’re at the moment set to have a bunch of cap space next offseason. Cue the LeBron James potential return rumors.