It seems that Cleveland’s NBA free agency has mostly come to a conclusion. Alongside acquiring a long-range shooting wing in Max Strus via sign and trade with the Miami Heat, the Cavaliers signed Georges Niang to a three-year deal, Ty Jerome to a two-year deal, and re-signed Caris LeVert for the next two seasons.
In the midst of their free agency moves, the Cavaliers also traded for Damian Jones from the Utah Jazz as a potential backup big man.
Cleveland’s moves brought four new faces to the Land and retained one of their best role players from last season. Both Strus and Niang were considered some of the best 3-point shooters available in the offseason, finally giving this Cavs squad real floor-stretching opportunities. Additionally, Cleveland’s moves did not cost the Cavaliers any of their existing rotational talent.
The Cavaliers are in the Central Division among the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and Detroit Pistons. Of those teams, only the Bucks and Cavaliers reached the NBA Playoffs (the Bulls lost in the Play-In Tournament).
Out of all five teams, Cleveland’s moves improve their roster’s failures on team-friendly deals that do not take away future flexibility. Last season, the Cavaliers were only one smart roster move away from contending with the best in the Eastern Conference. This offseason addressed those moves more than once without breaking the bank.
Looking at the moves by their division rivals, it is clear the Cavaliers had the best free agency period and will be a serious force in the East next season.
How Cleveland had a better free agency than the Bucks.
While the Cavaliers earned the fourth seed in the East, they were still a tier below the Bucks, who finished in the first place spot, in contention for the NBA Finals. Both teams lost in the First Round despite their home-court advantage, but the Cavaliers seemed humiliated by the New York Knicks in their five-game defeat.
On offense, Cleveland’s biggest flaw was its lack of 3-point threats outside of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and LeVert. With Strus and Niang filling that void, the Cavaliers seemingly had the best free agency period of their five-team division.
In Milwaukee, they are essentially running it back with no roster changes. The Bucks’ only major move in the offseason was firing Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and hiring Atlanta’s Assistant Coach Adrian Griffin.
It makes sense for the Bucks. They won a championship with their core in 2021. Though they lost to the Miami Heat, it came after an injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 1 of the series.
How did the Cavaliers outdo a recent championship team in free agency? While the Bucks core has had success together, last season began showing cracks in the foundation. Brook Lopez had a great season but will turn 36 years old by the end of next season. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are both over 30 years old as well, leaving Giannis as the only core player under thirty.
Accumulatively, the Bucks will likely owe around $140 million to those four players alone next year. Their massive cap sheet with an aging core leaves room for a competitor to overtake their reign in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers remain one of the best young cores in the NBA, and their additions only improve their areas of doubt. Additionally, Cleveland is still under the NBA luxury tax threshold, giving them room to continue improving their roster during the season in either trades or the buyout market.