Free Agent Wing Options

July 29th, 2012 by Kevin Hetrick

The Alonzo Gee saga carries on, as his agent says the wait could last through September. Certainly a high-stakes game for a formerly undrafted player, Gee continues to keep an option to sign a $2.7 million qualifying offer, before becoming an unrestricted free agent after next season.  Without picking up Gibson’s option yet, or guaranteeing Azubuike’s 2012 – 2013 season; Cleveland’s set-in-stone, rostered wings stand at Dion Waiters and Omri Casspi.  One way or another, the team probably needs more than that.  Let’s assume, for a variety of reasons, that one of the three “loose ends” plays for another squad next year.  How do we feel about the remaining free agent options?

I'm not enough?

Currently, in the search for wing help, Cleveland brought C.J. Miles in for a two day workout.  As one of the last players to make the high-school-to-NBA transition, he enters an eighth professional season as a 25 year old.  An abysmal rebounder; according to ESPN’s Hollinger stats pages, of 63 small forwards last year who played 500 minutes, he procured the second-worst rebounding rate.  Three years ago, he ended eighth-worst of seventy players.  He also does not shoot particularly well, with career marks around 33% from three and 35% on long twos.  He is solid enough though, that he annually deserves to be one of the NBA’s 450 players.  Decent size and reasonable skill level let him function as a second-string-offense-producer, where he peaked at 18 points per 36 minutes in 2010 – 2011.  His true shooting percentage has decreased four years in a row, but short-term and at a low cost, Miles serves as a decent dice-roll to provide wing help where Cleveland most lacks: size and scoring.

The next two players have not been linked to Cleveland, other than writers basically saying, “Cleveland needs wings…they have cap space…so, that’s a possible destination.”

Carlos Delfino turns thirty before next season.  He is a solid, but non-spectacular offensive player.  His annual 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio rates amongst the best swingmen, and while jacking a couple of threes per quarter, he converted 37% over the last few years.  As a player specializing in ball-movement & shooting, he compliments the skill-sets of Kyrie and D-Wait very well.  Defensively, despite plummeting last year to allow an opponent PER of 17, he typically performs admirably.  Though not remotely linked to Cleveland; as a low-cost option, his combination of size, shooting & experience would supplement the Waiters, Gee, Gibson rotation sufficiently for a couple of years.

When I wrote my initial free agency article on July 1st, Jodie Meeks did not really register.  Not because I don’t like him, but because I was searching for short-contract, small-dollar options.  At that time, discussion about Alonzo Gee focused on 4 years, $16 million; I put Meeks at least in that ball-park.  As a starter on two consecutive playoff teams, Meeks sports a career 37% three-point mark and stellar 56% true shooting while rarely turning the ball over.  In each of the last two seasons, he held his opponent to a lower PER than himself.  Take a quick look at this assortment of advanced statistical metrics.  All numbers are combined totals from the 2010 – 2011 and 2011 – 2012 seasons, unless noted otherwise.

  • At age 23 & 24, “Young Wing A” played 3706 regular season minutes and 227 playoff minutes.  At age 22 & 23, “Young Wing B” notched 4313 regular season minutes, with 151 in the playoffs.
  • Based on Basketball-reference.com, their Win Shares over the last two seasons are 9.2 and 11.4, respectively.
  • John Hollinger’s Extra Wins Added comes in at 2.4 for Player A and 11.6 for Player B, while wagesofwins.com awarded the former with 6.28 Wins Produced in 2010 – 2011, compared to 5.86 for the latter (no numbers available for 2011 – 2012).
  • According to adjusted-plus-minus, player A provided 6.5 points per 100 possessions more value than Player B.

Pretty similar, right?  Swingmen entering their primes, playing major minutes for borderline playoffs team, with each receiving significant support from one metric, while posing as equals according to two others.

Player A is Jodie Meeks and Player B is Nic Batum, sitting pretty with ink newly dried on a $45 million contract.  I understand these two players are different; Batum is slightly younger and big for his position, while Meeks is undersized.  Batum certainly possesses higher “upside” and deserves a larger contract, but there are other takeaways here.  First, the consensus of the above numbers shows Batum’s worth at six wins per season.  When a team spends one-sixth of their luxury tax space on that, they either expect lots of improvement, or the money is not efficiently spent.  Second, if  a team can snag Jodie Meeks for 3 years and $10 million, that serves as fine value, no improvement needed.  If this option presents itself to the Cavs; I say take it.  To avoid employing three 6’ – 4” and under shooting guards though, the team may need to pass on Gibson’s option.  Additional size and athleticism can come in the form of…

Derrick Brown!  Although viewed as a tweener, he spent much of his time at the three last year, where he out-produced his small forward opponents with a PER of 15.4 compared to their 12.3 (numbers from 82games.com).  Limited minutes from his prior two seasons tell a similar story.  For a Cavs team routinely poisoned by a lack of size and athleticism on the wings, Brown is the antidote.  At 6’ – 8” with great speed and a penchant for electric dunks, he would look great on a Cavs team looking to run.  He offers nothing for floor spacing, but I am not too concerned about that.  For their careers, Gibson shoots 42% from deep, Kyrie sits at 40%, Casspi – 36%, and Gee – 35%.  Waiters flashed NBA range at Syracuse and Cleveland added floor stretching bigs in Zeller and Leuer.  Each of the metrics used in the Meeks / Batum comparison consider Brown a completely fine NBA player.  A big, athletic and reasonably productive small forward for cheap?!?  What am I missing here?!?  Sign him up for 2 years and $5 million!!

Summary: At some point, I lost track of the purpose of this article, but I am pretty sure it ended with a Waiters, Gee, Meeks, Brown and Casspi wing rotation for 2012 – 2013.  And honestly, I’m excited about it.