With three open roster spots and cap flexibility following a silent trade deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers will shift their focus to the buyout market to add another veteran presence in the locker room.
The NBA's new CBA restricts teams above the first tax apron from signing any mid-season free agent who was making more than the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception before their buyout agreement or waiver. This eliminates the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and more. It does not, however, prevent the Cavaliers from making additions post-trade deadline.
As the Cavs hold the second seed in the East with a 33-16 record, they will be an attractive landing spot for the best veteran buyout players who are looking for a chance to contribute in the postseason. Cleveland's jump into contention in the latter half of the regular season came thanks to tremendously improved depth, a free-flowing offensive gameplan and a leading defense.
While certain players were expected to find their way into the buyout market, others were surprising additions. One shocking waived player at the deadline was former Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. After being traded to the Toronto Raptors from the Nets, Dinwiddie suddenly found himself in search of a new NBA home.
The 30-year-old point guard has averaged 12.6 points and 6 assists on efficient shooting splits in a starting role with Brooklyn. He may be the best player in the pool of available veterans. Given his value as a veteran backcourt player, should Cleveland join the race for Dinwiddie's services?
Could Spencer Dinwiddie fit on the Cavaliers?
Since Ricky Rubio's earlier buyout and retirement from the Association, the Cavaliers reportedly explored the trade environment for a backup point guard before the deadline. While they did not come to any agreement, Dinwiddie could be the answer Cleveland wanted.
Since the 2022-23 season, Dinwiddie has been a positive offensive talent but a slightly negative defender, per BBall Index's LEBRON stats (subscription required). This season, Dinwiddie's efficiency is also down, but he has shown flashes of his best years with the Dallas Mavericks. If the Cavaliers can tap into the best version of Dinwiddie, then he would be a solid tertiary option for Cleveland's backcourt.
Unfortunately, the Cavs' backcourt rotation is already filled. Even if healthy, Rubio likely would have only played minimal minutes with a healthy lineup. Since Evan Mobley and Darius Garland faced extensive injury setbacks, Cleveland has implemented a 9-to-10 man rotation. They have continued using their depth but have relied on Garland and Donovan Mitchell to facilitate over the course of all 48 minutes.
Dinwiddie is unlikely to choose a squad that could not provide consistent playing time such as the Cavaliers. Even Cleveland's surprise rookie Craig Porter, Jr. has fallen out of the rotation, making a fit for Dinwiddie relatively unpredictable. The veteran guard has already narrowed down his decision to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, two teams in need of another point guard.
Ultimately, Cleveland's packed rotation and Dinwiddie's desired role likely pushes him out as an option. The Cavaliers would appreciate him as a mentor, but he would rarely see the court as much as he wants. While watching Dinwiddie succeed for another rival after missing out might sting, the Cavs will only miss out due to a problem they are happy to have.
As the buyout market emerges further, the Cavaliers will still be a premier option for plenty of vets. They will be forced to sign at least two more players before Tristan Thompson returns from his 25-game suspension, meaning the front office will undoubtedly keep their eyes on any new free agent. The Cavaliers have proven that they can bring the best out of players who teams gave up on, considering Sam Merrill's burst into the upper echelon of sharpshooters this year.