Bubble Watch: Cavs Roster Decisions Loom

October 23rd, 2012 by Nate Smith

This post is not about the starters.

With one preseason game to go, the current Cavs roster stands at 17 players.  With an NBA roster limit of 15 players, 2 players are not going to make the team.  To complicate matters, teams often don’t like to keep more than 13 or 14 players for flexibility, payroll reasons, and because only 12 players can dress for a game.  While it is true that the Cavs can assign 2 players to the D-League, they must currently be on the inactive list.  So at least 2 players on the Cavs roster will not make the team.

So who’s on the bubble?  We’ll break the Cavs roster down into four groups, and look at each player’s chances of making the team.

Group 1: The Green Zone.

These guys are safe, and barring an earth shattering trade, they will be on the roster opening day.  They’d pretty much have to be caught running naked through the streets of Cleveland, ala Frank the Tank, to not make it (warning PG13 rated link).  Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varajao, CJ Miles, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, and Tyler Zeller represent the “core” of the Cavs right now – the guys we’re building around.  None of them are going to be waived or bought out unless they decide to “streak the quad,” and maybe not even then.  Odds of making the Cavs: 100%.

Group1a: Omri Casspi

I was going to put Casper into group 2, but he’s played so well in preseason that to say he’s only on the team or not because of his contract is doing him a disservice.  But I don’t think that the Cavs brain trust considers him part of the “core” just yet.  In the last year of his rookie contract paying him $3.8 Million this year, Omri has everything to gain by playing well this season.  Odds of making the Cavs: 99.99%

Group 2:  The Contract Men

Two Lukes and a Boobie: guys whose chances of making the team hinge around their contract.

Luke Walton: In the final year of a 6 year, $30 million dollar contract, costing the Cavs $6.1 Million this year, it seems highly unlikely that the Cavs will buy out or waive the elder Luke.  Why?  Because they don’t want to play a guy that much money to do nothing, and because he’s bad enough that once he’s off the Cavs, he’s probably out of the league.  Which means he probably won’t take a buyout.  While his preseason play hasn’t set the world on fire, it hasn’t been too bad.  With a decent game against Orlando, he showed that he can at least play NBA basketball in a meaningless game for 11 minutes.  The expiring contract could be a big chip at the trade deadline too. Look for him to stick at least till February, and fill the Anthony Parker memorial “stately veteran” role for the Cavs (but thankfully not actually play very much).  Chances of making the Cavs: 90%.

#1 in your programs, #1 in your hearts: Daniel "Boobie" Gibson

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson: Also in the final year of a 5 year, 21 million dollar contract (can you believe this is going to be his 7th year with the team?  He still seems 12 to me).  He’s on the hook for just under $4.8 Million.  The catch?  Only $2.5 million of that is guaranteed.  What I don’t know, and what I’m hoping someone can tell me, is does that mean whenever he’s released, the prorated portion of his contract is due, or once he’s earned $2.5 million he can be released without owing him any money?  He could be a release candidate because he’d save the Cavs 2.3 million.  More likely: his contract is another trade deadline asset.  Because he’s one of the Cavs stately vets, a relentlessly milquetoast twitterer, and a class act since he’s been with the team, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the Q opening night.  March is another story.  Odds of making the Cavs: 87%.

Luke Harangody: Unofficial mascot of CavstheBlog, Harangody is something of an enigma.  A shorter, less athletic version of Brian Scalabrine, most of us here at CtB don’t quite understand why he’s on the team, or why he was given a restricted free agent guaranteed contract for seven figures.  I like to think of him as the goofy yet loveable landscaper who’s going out with your hot grad schooled cousin.  You don’t know why he gets to try to score, and conventional logic would dictate that he should have been released for a better prospect years ago.  In both cases, he’s literally out of his league, but you enjoy watching him try to fumble his way through your grandparents’ anniversary party (the “preseason” of family functions) and trying to keep 6’10” pogo sticks off the board.  Still, you wouldn’t mind doing Jello shots with him at the family golf outing.  But there are a lot of players on the roster, and if they want your cousin to go out with Kevin Jones, Grandpa Gilbert may just have to slip ‘Gody $1.1 Million to go away.  Odds of making the Cavs: 70%.

Group 3: Definitely Maybe

These guys are probably on the roster, unless they try to get a Ricky Davis triple double against Indiana tonight.

Jon Leuer: A low risk waiver pickup from this offseason.  He came to Cleveland when Houston traded Milwaukee for him and then waived him when they tried to either get Howard or get awful.  Leuer’s had flashes, but is shooting 33% and 25% from the field and 3 this preseason, and is struggling to score and rebound against stronger, more athletic players in the last couple games.  Still the praise was effusive early on, J-Leu has a high basketball IQ, and had a good rookie year.  He seems like a solid prospect.  Odds of making the Cavs: 85%

Samardo Samuels: The big bodied Jamaican purportedly got in shape this offseason, and dropped his body fat to 8%.  He definitely looks more cut, and his preseason play, when he gets minutes, has been decent, scoring 23 points on 60% shooting and grabbing 11 boards points in 59 minutes.  His preseason minutes beg the question though: is Scott not playing him because he knows what he has, or because Samardo has used up all his chances?  I would not mind seeing him go, because I believe the Samardo we’re seeing now represents his ceiling.  He’s still not a great rebounder, still takes dumb shots, but at least he’s hit some this preseason.  On a minimum contract he costs the Cavs only a roster spot, but the news that he trained this offseason with Antawn in an attempt to emulate ‘Twan’s pick and pop game scares me a little lot.  Odds of making the Cavs: 65%

Group Three: There can be only two (or maybe one).

These guys are all playing for one or two spots (or maybe three) and the privilege of playing in garbage time and in the D-League.  The question about these guys, is do the Cavs want to carry three point guards?  (Or two or four if you consider Boobie and Dion point guards or not).   A Highlander-esque beheading contest will probably not solve the debate.  (If you’re under twenty-something, just ignore this reference).

I might never have another chance to post this picture.

Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo: Sloan has shot decently this preseason.  (44% FG and 60% 3), but his 1.2 assist to turnover ratio isn’t exactly scintillating.  Pargo has been the better distributor at almost 5 dimes a game, with 3 turnovers, but his 19% FG and 25% 3 shooting has been awful.  Sloan definitely has better steal numbers, and played in Byron Scott’s system last year.  But we have not watched practice either…  Odds of making the Cavs: 0% (for both to stick).  Individually: Sloan: 50%;  Pargo: 25%.

Kevin Jones: An intriguing prospect who led the big east in scoring and rebounding.  He had 5 rebounds in 13 minutes against Orlando, and attempted no shots in two games, which tells us nothing.  He has long arms, but was a doughy 11% body fat at the combine.  From his college scouting report, I like him better than anyone else in group three.  With comparisons to Chuck Hayes and Udonis Haslem, and a rank in the top 5% in postup scoring in college, I’d much rather see him stick and get some run in Canton than anyone else in this group.  He most likely hurt his draft stock by hiring his brother as his agent, but has early second round talent and an intriguing skill set.  Odds of making the Cavs: 35%

Michael Eric:  To call him a long shot would be insulting Raja Bell, Rudy Ruettiger, and Vince Papale.  He does not have any stat lines in the NBA.com database, nor a profile on DraftExpress.com.  He’s been compared to Serge Ibaka because they’re both tall and from Africa and can block shots.  The difference ends if you watch Eric play, which I did for all of 3.5 minutes in Canton.   He was ambulatory.  Odds of Making the Cavs: 10%


What probably happens is that Eric and Pargo are cut, and that ‘Gody and Jones end up in the D-League.  After cuts, Eric and Pargo probably do too.  Life at the end of the roster won’t be fun for them.  Sometimes it is hard to remember that this is a job and a dream for these guys, and being flippant about their prospects for playing even 5 minutes a game seems funny in the moment.  It’s probably not that funny when the choice is between garbage time, per diem, private jets, and luxury hotels; or flying coach out of Akron, playing for $35,000 a year, and checking each hotel on the bedbug registry.  Such is life on the bubble.