The Cleveland Cavaliers have made their big swings in free agency this summer, adding a bevy of shooters and overhauling what was last season’s biggest weakness. Yet they are also not done yet; with 12 players on guaranteed deals, plus Sam Merrill’s non-guaranteed contract, they have at least one and as many as three slots still to fill.
Where should they look to fill those final spots? Point guard seems to be mostly locked down, with Ty Jerome and Ricky Rubio backing up Darius Garland and the combination of Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert able to handle the ball at times. Add in Isaac Okoro and Max Strus and there is not need for a guard of any kind.
The rotation at forward is fairly solid as well, with Strus and Evan Mobley expected to start, and Georges Niang and Dean Wade very capable reserves. They probably could use another forward for depth after trading away Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens.
At big, Mobley and Jarrett Allen will see all of the rotation minutes at center. Damian Jones is a new addition at center, but the Cavs will likely be disappointed if they need to rely on him. Therefore, that backup center spot remains the most obvious place to add another player.
Could the Cavaliers sign another big in free agency?
They could go the internal route, elevating Isaiah Mobley off of his two-way contract to fill that void. His strong play in Las Vegas Summer League thus far suggests he may be ready for it.
What if they took a larger swing? There are a few free agents still on the market who were expected to be signed much earlier and to much larger contracts than a veteran’s minimum, but the market has dried up on them. Signing a minimum deal is probably the only option remaining for them.
One such player averaged 21 points per game as recently as 2020-21, and 10.1 rebounds as recently as 2021-22. He is rumored to be targeted by the Los Angeles Lakers to join their crowded frontcourt. Could the Cavaliers step in and steal him away?
The player in question is Christian Wood, who is both incredibly talented and incredibly disrespected by the market. That’s partially his own doing, as his brand of offense-first basketball hasn’t been accompanied by much defensive intensity over the course of his career. The Dallas Mavericks were desperate to improve their center position this summer and did everything (draft, trade and sign) but bring back Wood.
Yet it’s also true that Wood is the most talented scorer available on the open market at any position right now, and he can score inside and outside (37.9 percent career 3-point shooter). The Cavs don’t have a big like that, and he would add a very different element to their frontcourt.
Wood could also give Mobley some tricks of the trade on offense, while Mobley and Allen could hopefully be positive influences on Wood defensively. Even on a team in Dallas last season with postseason aspirations, he has never been on a good defense. Could solid coaching and a positive ecosystem help Wood take the next step forward as a defender and earn minutes in the rotation?
It’s not out of the question by any means, and even with his flaws, he is a bargain at the minimum. The Cavaliers may want to shore up a different part of the roster, be that shot-blocking, the wing rotation or adding an athletic defender at forward, but they should think long and hard about offering Christian Wood a contract if they haven’t already.
The result could be an offensive powerhouse who comes in for spot minutes and drops eight points and five rebounds in a four-minute stint. The Cavs are a winning team, and that could attract a player like Wood for a one-year make-good deal.