The Cleveland Cavaliers face a team-building problem, one that is hardly unique to them but will make their path forward much more difficult. Having spent most of their draft assets and operating as an over-the-cap team, their primary means of improving the roster this offseason is the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, or “MLE” which should amount to something around $12.2 million.
The Cavs have to use the MLE to find a fifth starter, and specifically a starter at small forward. That isn’t their only option — they could continue to put faith in their internal candidates, or try to find a budget option on the trade market — but most likely, their only hope of finding a starting small forward is using that MLE.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will have a hard time finding a starting small forward
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, at least a half dozen other teams will be in the market for starting small forwards, and over 20 teams are after 3-and-D players. That’s going to drive up the market on the already-slim pickings on the free agency market. When you factor in that there are maybe six starter-level small forwards on the market, and perhaps another four or five power forwards who could shift to the 3, the problem becomes nearly impossible to solve.
What if there were another approach to the problem? Could the Cavaliers play the turtle game, moving their need from small forward to center? In that scenario, the needle becomes a bit easier to thread, and the resulting team would instantly vault into true title contention.
Let’s break down the two-step process to give the Cavaliers a starting lineup that might be the very best in the entire league.