The Golden State free agent situation is as important to the Cavs as any team in the league’s. The Warriors cap situation next year is brutal. They have $24 million committed to Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush who have ETOs they won’t exercise. Carl Landry will probably opt out of his $4 million dollar option. This leaves $69 million in salary commitments next year for the Warriors with the current luxury tax at $70 million. There is a lot of speculation as to what the tax threshold will be next year. There are estimates that NBA revenue will be up 20% this year. The big question is, how much of this will be “basketball related income,” which is the number upon which the luxury tax is based? A huge BRI increase would actually be devastating for the Cavs’ free agent hopes, and small market teams everywhere. One of the theories behind the 2011 collective bargaining agreement was that the deal would help small market teams compete in luring and keeping free agents, because it would punish big market teams that overspend on player salaries. But if the NBA revenue pool increases faster than salaries, those teams won’t hit that limit. If this happens, teams like the Thunder will definitely kick themselves, as they would have easily been able to keep Harden.
With the luxury tax threshold higher, teams will be able to throw around some crazy money at NBA free agents, and the theory that the Cavs could pay more because teams would be reticent to wander into luxury tax territory will be blown out of the water if teams suddenly have $14 million more to spend to be under the tax. Suddenly Miami will have an easier time keeping the axis of ego together… *(correction: the Warriors wasted their Amnesty on Charlie Bell. If the tax threshold goes up, $14 million should still be enough to sign Jack, Landry and a rookie). Someone smarter than me needs to investigate this.
Now that that pessimism over optimism is over, let’s get to the talent. Yesterday, we covered the pending free agents and trade targets in the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. The available talent in the western conference is clearly superior.
Oklahoma City Vs. Houston: Only Francisco Garcia, who has a $6.4 million team option which probably won’t be exercised (though given the above, who knows) will be free from the Rockets. The 6’7″ swingman played in only his second playoffs in eight years, and after only playing 18 minutes in the first two games, started the next four. He had a very nice series, scoring 14 points per 36 off .440/.459/.600 shooting. He averaged 8.1 three point attempts per game, but his hot zone is the corners, and the Cavs need a guy who can hit corner threes. Garcia probably garnered a nice little payday, and there is an outside shot the Rockets pick up his option. If they do, a trade for a one year hitch with the Cavs might be in order. As for defense, Garcia contested shots, averaging 1.3 blocks per 36, and finished with a very scrappy +4 for the series. Garcia fits the Dunleavy/Korver veteran shooter role, but with a little more spring in his step than those two. Additionally, his career minutes are only about 10,000, due to injury, so there’s less mileage in his legs. But, he’s been hurt a lot off some pretty fluke injuries.
Speaking of corner three shooters, Kevin Martin will be available from the Thunder. 30 years old, 6’7″, and 185 pounds, Martin is an elite shooter, but struggled from inside the arc, shooting .348/.375/.880 for a very pedestrian .513TS% . In 28.9 minutes a night, and 22.8% usage Martin’s funky sidearm release might finally be catching up to him. While it’s quick, it’s a little easier to close out on than a classic release. For the money he’ll command, at least $8-$9 million, I’d like to see the Cavs grab a younger player who’s a better defender. Martin’s always been a little twiggy.
San Antonio Vs. Los Angeles Lakers: The Spurs have a bevy of pending free agents, starting with Manu Ginobili. The odds of the Cavs signing one of the best sixth men of all time are pretty low. Manu didn’t have a dominant series, totals wise. Coming off an injury, it’s not as if San Antonio needed him to be so. Still, 20.8/5.5/8.8 with 3.2 steals per 36 minutes is, um, pretty good, even if he didn’t ever play more than 20 minutes.
The Cavs could do a heck of a lot worse for a bench big than DeJuan Blair. When Blair did play for the Spurs this year, and in the playoffs, he played well, but his minutes were pretty limited. In 45 total minutes, Blair scored 26 points on .706 shooting, and grabbed 13 rebounds. Still, he was set up for a lot of wide open looks and putbacks. He’s not a natural shotblocker either, and he gets most of his buckets at the basket. He duplicates a lot of what TT does, in a wider frame. It remains to be seen if he’s really as productive as his offensive numbers, or whether he is a product of the San Antonio system.
6’11” Tiago Splitter (restricted), one of my top free agent candidates, didn’t play very well in the first round, scoring only 7.6 and 3 rebounds per 36 minutes of .357 shooting. Splitter sprained his ankle in game 3 and gets an incomplete here. Look for him to bounce back in the next round, when the Spurs are playing a good team. The fear is though, that Splitter is a good regular season player and a bad playoff one. Bounce Tiago, bounce.
Gary Neal (restricted) should have played better than he did, going against the defensive sieves that are the LA Laker guards. Shooting .355/.250/1.000, Neal struggled but he does have some size at 6’4″ and rebounded well for a guard at 4.5 per 36. He wouldn’t make the worst bench guard for the Cavs but it better not be at anything more than the veteran minimum. At that price, the Spurs will probably keep him.
For the Lakers, it wasn’t pretty. Andrew Goudelock provided some scoring punch for the Lakers in garbage time after Kobe went down, but it wasn’t efficient. Despite a 23.1% usage, Goudelock had a TS% of .488 in 80 minutes and despite scoring 16.2 per 36, posted a negative wins shares and only a 10 PER. Maybe the D-League MVP will catch on somewhere. He did show that he could score when nothing hangs in the balance and he might be worth a training camp invite. Darius Morris put up similar stats in blowout losses, but did not get a trophy.
Regular season breakout player, Earl Clark (restricted) laid an egg in this series, shooting .350/.0/.0 attempting no free throws as he left the starting lineup for Pau’s return. And then there’s Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison. Dwight’s not coming to Cleveland… Move along, there’s nothing more to see here.
Denver Vs. Golden State: This was as entertaining a six game series as I can remember, and there were a lot of players playing for a paycheck this summer. I was super high on Corey Brewer mid season, but he cost himself a lot of money in this series. In Dino Gallinari’s absence, Brewer had the opportunity to show what he can do as a major contributor for a playoff team. The results? Yikes! Brewer posted a negative -.051 Wins Share per 48 minutes. He shot .309/.250/.667 for 16 points and only 2.7 rebounds (he’s 6’9″!) per 36 minutes. In the last two games of the series, Brewer was 1-11 and 1-8 and was outplayed by rookie Draymond Green. Brewer’s agent, Happy Walters just pulled a mackerel out of the freezer to mail to Corey.
Jarret Jack, conversely, made himself a lot of bank this of series. He had a monster series against Denver, exploiting Ty Lawson and Andre Miller when they were put on him. Jack doesn’t start for the Warriors, but he often finishes, and the Jack/Curry backcourt is another example of the dual hybrid guard offense that so many teams are going to, Cavs included. Jack shot .526/.308/.906 against the Nuggets and got to the line 5 times per 36 minutes. He scored 17.8/4.9/6.6 with 3.8 turnovers per 36, with an 18.9 PER, and +35 for the series… The scary thing is he had really good numbers and only shot 30% from 3. If he hit his regular season average (.404), he’d have been even scarier. Also a solid defender, If he keeps it up, Jack may end up in a starting gig making $8 million plus somewhere (probably Golden State) this offseason. This would probably price him out of the Cavs range. Still, he would be a fantastic 2nd or 3rd guard to have on the Cavs to always keep the pressure on the defense.
Carl Landry is another Warrior who’s had a fine regular season and an even better post season. He’s scoring 22 points and 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes off .569 true shooting. He’s posting a 20 PER in 21 minutes a night, and is a great bench power forward who constantly puts pressure on the defense. He can shoot from almost anywhere inside the three point line. Consider him a cheaper version of Paul Millsap. A 3 year gig as the Cavs backup power forward would lock up that spot till 2016.
Timofey Mozgov (restricted) didn’t even get to play, and wasn’t very happy about it. By all accounts, he desperately wants to go somewhere he can get some playing time, and doesn’t want the Nuggets to extend him a qualifying offer. With a PER of 12.37 in 9 minutes a game, Mozgov is a big body who could have some utility to the Cavs. Did I mention he’s 7’1″ and 250 pounds?
Which brings us to perhaps the best pedigreed free agent of 2014, Andre Iguodala who is expected to opt out of his contract this summer and look for a deal with long term guaranteed money. Denver may have lost, but it doesn’t look like the fault was Iguodala’s. AI averaged 16 points, 7.1 boards, and 4.1 assists per 36 with just under 2 steals and only 2.5 turnovers. Shooting better than he has in any playoffs, Iggy posted splits of .500/.483/.720 for a .621 TS%. The biggest problem? Given how well he was playing, Denver didn’t use him enough. His usage probably should have been higher than 18.3%. He was -3 for the playoffs and played well on and off the ball. His defense seemed adequate, but much of Denver’s problem was that Golden State had too many weapons to guard, and Iguodala couldn’t guard everyone. Iguodala is a polarizing figure because many feel he won’t be able to compete when his athleticism fades. I still would like to see him on the Cavs. A four year deal with a non-guaranteed fourth year starting at $12 million would be the limit of what I’d spend, and it would keep me up at night if it kept me from getting a premier free agent next year. Also, if the cap goes up, Iguodala will make a lot more than that. Also, I would regret people the Cavs would be forced to pass on if they had Iggy.
Wilson Chandler, the man with two last names, is a frequently mentioned trade target, as he often seemed superfluous on the Nuggets. 6’8″, 225 pounds, and 25 years old, Chandler struggled with a hip injury to start the season, but finished strong. Chandler can play at the 2,3, and 4, and spent a lot of time this series guarding Carl Landry and Harrison Barnes. That didn’t go so well. Wilson struggled offensively in this series, scoring just 12.6 per 36 with 5.8 boards with splits of .335/.310/.750, with a usage of 18.4. Wilson is an extremely streaky player who will go on long bouts of above mean and below mean play. He could be had if Denver looks to cut salary, but my bet is that they let Brewer walk, and hang on to Wilson for now, especially with Gallinari out for the better part of next year.
Los Angeles Clippers Vs. Memphis: +33 for the playoffs so far, trick or treat Tony Allen averaged 2.4 steals and .7 blocks in the first round, playing his normal brand of harassing defense for the Grizzlies. Not a prolific scorer, but an adequate one in this series, Tony had 12 points and 6.5 boards per 36. Allen shot decently, rebounded well, and generally caused havoc against the Clips, especially in the closeout game where he posted a 19/7/6 line with four steals. With a 19.1 PER for the season, the offensive utility of Tony Allen is still questionable, but his defense is not. 31 years old, and 6’4″ and 213 pounds, Allen is a stat geek’s dream. He’s consistently one of the better +/- players in the league. He’s aging, though, and he’s not particularly long. How much longer can he be this effective? If he looks to leave, it would behoove the Cavs not to overpay him, and only give him a one year deal with an option or non-guaranteed year beyond that. Shorter defensive role playing wings generally do not thrive into their mid-30s. However, he would help change the defensive culture.
Jerryd Bayless (player option) might be a younger version of Jarret Jack. However, Bayless seeems content to let it fly even when he’s not hitting. With a whopping 30+ usage in 16 minutes a night, Bayless shot .383/.318/1.0, chucking 8 three attempts per 36, with poor rebounding numbers and a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. Bayless was also lit up early by Jamal Crawford, but adjusted to play better defense as the series went on. Let’s pass. No, really. I mean stop shooting so much, Jerryd.
Matt Barnes desperately tried to keep the Clippers in this, with a monster closeout game of 30 points and 10 boards. He frankly, played the best playoff series of his career at 33, scoring 15.8 with 6.7 board per 36, with a .678TS%, but most of his damage came in three games, and he had four games where he shot .400 or below. Still, he beat a path to the line this series and attacked the basket, but his inability to consistently recover to the likes of Quincy Poindexter hurt the Clips. I don’t think he’s worth bringing in. He’s always been volatile on the court, and he seems like a west coast guy, which is my way of saying he’ll be 34 next year.
Chris Paul played, of course, like the best point guard in the league, which he is. With a monstrous PER of 29.4, and 22/3.4/6.1 per 36, Paul shot a lot this series and was less of a distributor, posting a career playoff low assist percentage, but no one is complaining. Paul effects the game every second he’s on the court. It may seem like a done deal, but Dan Gilbert ought to give Chris a call. Of course Paul is probably irritated by Dan’s attempt to block his trade to the Clippers a couple years ago, but they went to dinner during the famous summer of 2010. Maybe Dan should call, smooth it over and tell Chris to come play in Cleveland for a max salary and hook up with his buddy from South Beach next summer. Between Paul, KI, and Akron’s finest, the Cavs would be pretty good. I put the odds on this happening at .002%, but my notes on Mike Brown coaching the Cavs consisted of a video of Bradley Cooper saying “that’s not gonna happen,” so I’m liking the reverse jinx here.
If the Cavs can’t get Paul, they should consider going after Eric Bledsoe. I know, they already have two ball dominant guards, but Eric Bledsoe is second only to Mike Conley as the most underrated player in the league. The Clippers probably won’t have the money to pay him what he’s worth, and they already have an all world point guard. Would an Andy for Eric trade make sense for both teams? Bledsoe posted a PER just under 20 in this series and a 22 PER last year. How athletic is Eric Bledsoe? He’s a 6’1″ guard who averaged over a block per 36 minutes against Memphis. He’s absolutely one of the most beastly on ball defenders in the NBA and a pretty good off ball one. Advanced stats consistently rate him as one of the best +/- players in the league and he was +9 in this series. Bledsoe scored 14.5/5.6/6.7 per 36, and shot .500 from the field but struggled behind the line converting only .110 this series. He’s also a bad free throw shooter. But in the coming hyper athletic NBA, you can never have too many great guards who can defend.
I’d scout Lamar Odom, but I think he’d literally turn into a homeless vagabond who spouted lines from Camus and the Roots while constantly high on tootsie pops if he left L.A. again to play on the north coast.
Chauncey Billups: 18.8 minutes, 4.6 points 1.2 assists, .250/.308/.883. Time to hang ‘em up Mr. Big Shot.
Ronny Turiaf posted an 11.1 PER in 59 minutes over 5 games. At 30, he might be a vet minimum big to give the Cavs bigs some toughness and to lay some wood on a guy when the situation calls for it….
DNP (or barely played): Keyon Dooling, Austin Daye (restricted — a Nate fave), Jon Leuer (restricted, sorry Kevin), Ryan Hollins (restricted — not by contract, only by talent and ability to play without looking like a doof).
*Correction: the article originally stated that “With the ability to amnesty a guy like Jefferson, the Warriors would suddenly be under the cap, and have almost $25 million under the tax threshold.” This was untrue as the Warriors amnestied Charlie Bell instead.