Posts Tagged ‘Destination 2013’

Destination: 2013, Scenario 2

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

In this second installment of potential paths to turn the Cavs into a rising, 50 win team by 2013, the focus will be on several trades for this year.

First though, I want to discuss my expertise with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or more precisely, my lack of expertise.  Case in point is that in the first Destination: 2013 Scenario, the issue of “front-loading” contracts drew some skepticism.  I should have referred to “signing bonuses”, which may be allowable (see here and here).  Ultimately it’s not important whether the “front-loading” was legal or not; if the contracts were constructed normally, the Cavs’ salaries go up by $2.2 million in 2013 – 2014 and instead of Omri Casspi as backup SF, the scenario is forced to go with “2013 Miami 1st rounder”.  Essentially, there’s minimal difference.  And that’s the important point; any CBA misapplications in these posts should be minor enough to not affect the big picture.  If this proves untrue, I am prepared for a public scolding. 

In this scenario, three trades will continue stocking the Cavs’ cupboard with young prospects.  These trades are:

Antawn Jamison to Charlotte for Desagana Diop, Matt Carroll, Derrick Brown, and Portland’s 2013 1st round pick (owned by Charlotte) – This is a salary dump for Charlotte.  They’re able to take the $11 million they owe Diop and Carroll off the books for 2012 – 2013.  They get hometown guy Antawn Jamison earlier than planned (Jamison has discussed a desire to finish his career with Charlotte).  They would have nearly $25 million in cap space available in the summer of 2012 for Michael Jordan to pursue a big free agent in addition to re-signing Jamison and D.J. Augustin.  For this flexibility, Charlotte’s price isn’t too high; they give up a kind-of-young, kind-of-decent small forward and a future, late first round pick.  The Cavs get those assets in exchange for the right to overpay two players for a year.  Mychel Thompson and Luke Harangody would be waived.

Ramon Sessions and Cavs 2012 2nd round pick to Oklahoma City for Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson – The Thunder are a team trying to win a championship this season, and a season-ending injury to Eric Maynor has left them with a roster hole.  Enter Cleveland to the rescue!  Sessions is an experienced option to spell Russell Westbrook for 15 minutes during the regular season and 8 minutes every playoff game.  OKC parts with two young pieces they don’t need.  Cole Aldrich was a lottery pick just 18 months ago, and despite struggles in limited NBA time, he was very effective in a D-League stint last year; finishing third in blocks per game and defensive rating and fifth in defensive rebounding percentage.  In two D-League playoff wins, he averaged 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.  He’s big, young, & cheap and a more appealing back-up center option than what the Cavs currently have.  Reggie Jackson was the 24th pick in last year’s draft, and the Cavs could take a look at him as a long-term backup to Irving. 

Cavs 2012 1st round draft pick plus Hornets 2012 2nd round draft pick (Cavs owned) and Portland 2013 1st round draft pick (Cavs owned, see above) to team with #3 draft pick in 2012 draft –For now, I’m staying the course of previous posts and assuming that the Cavs win 25 games and end up with the #8 pick in the draft (this thought is fading quickly.  I may have to recalibrate after the back-to-back with Boston).  The Hornets pick will be around #35 and the Portland pick should be in the 20 – 25 range.  A third team would be brought in offering a late 1st round pick (let’s say 24th) for the 33rd and 35th picks this year.  So the Cavs’ primary partner in this trade ends up with #8 and #24 in 2012 and #23 in 2013 for the #3 and #33 in 2012.

This seems reasonable to me, considering how redundant the 2012 draft will be for big men.  ESPN projects 7 of the top 13 picks as power forwards, with 11 of the top 15 as centers or power forwards.  The #3 pick this year will likely not be viewed as a “mega-star waiting to happen”.  There is a relatively good chance that the team at #3 can say, “there will be someone we like at #8, plus we get two other decent picks…let’s take the trade.”

This scenario is counting on it and with the third pick in the 2012 draft, the Cavs select  Harrison Barnes.    The Cavs fill the roster with one-year contracts to Derrick Brown and others (Ray Allen for 1 year, $8 million anyone?), and have an up-and-down 2012 – 2013.

Heading into the summer of 2013 (approximate $62 million cap), Cleveland’s existing obligations (and salaries) would be Anderson Varejao ($9.1 million), Kyrie Irving ($5.9 million), Harrison Barnes ($4.6 million), Tristan Thompson ($4.3 million), Cole Aldrich ($3.2 million), and Reggie Jackson ($1.3 million).  After almost knocking off the Heat in the first round of the 2013 playoffs (ultimately wearing them down, leading to a third straight Finals defeat), the Cavs use the 15th pick in the draft to choose Brazilian seven-footer, Fab Melo out of Syracuse.   Melo and the other 1st round pick total $3 million.  Omri Casspi’s option would not be picked up, and Alonzo Gee was re-signed after 2011 – 2012, starting at $1.5 million per year.  Finally, Daniel Gibson would be kept at $3 million per year.  The team’s commitment to those 10 players in 2013 is $36 million; the other $26 million would be offered to:

Paul Millsap –It’s not sexy, but the acquisition adds an offensive force to the front line.  A four year, $46 million contract (starting at $11 million) will take Millsap through his age 28 – 31 seasons.  Last year, he averaged 17 & 8 on 58% true shooting.  He has one of the better power forward jump shots and is a fierce rebounder.  Utah is unable to justify spending this amount on Millsap, as they consider the upcoming contract extensions for recent top 5 picks Derrick Favors & Enes Kanter.

Kevin Martin – To reach an even higher level, Cleveland pursues a fourth source of offense along Irving, Millsap, and Barnes.  Martin has been one of the NBA’s best scoring two-guards for over a half-decade.  A high-salary, short-term offer is made for 2 years and $20 million, similar to, but more pricy than recent contracts for Jamal Crawford and Richard Hamilton.  Houston decides it’s not justified to tie up this money on a thirty year old, as they go all-in pursuing James Harden, Steph Curry, Tyreke Evans or Demar Derozan.

Tiago Splitter – With Varejao, Millsap, Tristan T, and Fab Melo in fold; this is a luxury buy.  Nearly 7 feet tall, Splitter rebounds well and scores efficiently, providing a 4th big man to keep the rookie from being overly relied on.  Also it’s a gimmick; once you start amassing tall Brazilians, it’s hard to stop.  Andy, Tiago, and Fab can do whatever it is that giant Brazilians do in Cleveland.  In order to steal him from the Spurs, the Cavs offer 4 years, $20 million (starting at $4.8).  The Spurs start a rebuilding process that summer and can’t justify paying Splitter through his age 32 season.

The 2013 – 2014 roster is (ages in parantheses):

PG – Kyrie Irving (21), Reggie Jackson (23), 2013 2nd round pick, – With Irving in his 3rd year in the league, he’s makes his first Eastern Conference All Star team.

Wings – Kevin Martin (30), Harrison Barnes (21), Daniel Gibson (27), Alonzo Gee (26), Miami’s 2013 1st  round draft pick – Martin and Barnes represent a huge offensive upgrade from the current roster.  Gibson, Gee, and the first round pick are relied upon for defense.  Barnes would be the team’s 6th man, with a defensive minded player starting over him.

Front Court – Paul Millsap (28), Anderson Varejao (31), Tristan Thompson (22), Tiago Splitter (29), Cole Aldrich (25), Fab Melo (22) – Millsap and Varejao operate as one of the league’s better starting tandems.  In his age 22 season, TT has developed into a great first big man off the bench.

The team probably isn’t a future champion, but an all-star point guard, three additional quality scorers, and a deep front line – that’s a 50+ win team and the average age is only 25.

The most crucial step towards building a champion relies on trading “assets” for the “final pieces”.  There are 5 players under age 25 not named Kyrie, Harrison or Tristan.  There are also seven draft picks total in 2014 & 2015.  Ideally some of this can be packaged with an expiring contract to acquire the right veterans to push the team over the top, similar to the Pistons acquiring Rasheed Wallace in 2004. 

And there it is, through a hazy future I can see it…the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers!

Destination: 2013, Scenario 1

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Obviously no one is talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers as contenders this year. Just as obvious though, Cavs fans want this to end soon. Once a month in this “Destination: 2013” series, a strategy to turn the Cavs into a young, 50 win team by 2013 – 2014 will be explored. These posts will be an optimistic diversion over the course of another rebuilding season.

In this first installment, an idea for building with existing draft picks and cap space will be addressed. Since the season has just started, this scenario assumes that the Cavs aren’t horrible this year; the draft picks should be viewed as 8th in 2012 and 10th in 2013. (Editor’s note: I wrote this before last night’s game. Losing to Toronto at home doesn’t make it look like an 8th pick is coming. If the season goes south fast; in scenario 2, the Cavs will win the draft lottery again. Also, trades will surely be a part of future columns.)

In this first scenario, items of note regarding existing Cavs include:

• Irving, Thompson, Varejao, Gibson and Casspi are the only current players on the 2013 – 2014 team.

• Antawn Jamison – his contract is allowed to expire. The Cavs choose not to take on another team’s “bad” contract to obtain draft picks. There are two high-lottery rookies on the roster and seven first-round picks in the next four years; there are enough draft picks.

2012 – 2013 Cavs
Estimated salary cap for this season is $60 million. The Cavs have eight players under contract for $30.8 million. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky is selected with the Cavs’ first round pick (previously covered here) and William Buford of Ohio State in the second round. Two free agent acquisitions are made:

• Omer Asik – 4 years, $24 million. Did you know the Bulls were 9.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Asik played? Asik will be 26 years old and is a legitimate 7 footer who is a quality team defender and a good shot blocker / rebounder. Of 57 centers that played 40 games last year, he ranked 12th in rebounding rate and 12th in defensive plays per minute (blocks + steals + charges drawn). Offensive contributions will be sparse, but the Cavs need another big body in the frontcourt and I’m willing to splurge on a quality defensive center. Asik is a restricted free agent, but the Bulls probably won’t match. The contract would be frontloaded; $9 million in 2012 – 2013 with $5 million for the other three seasons. Generally speaking, Cleveland will be overpaying in these posts.

• Ryan Anderson – 4 years, $29 million. The team needs a big man with some shooting range; Anderson is a career 38% three point shooter and puts the ball in the basket at a decent rate (18 points per 36 minutes). Also a restricted free agent, he’ll be only 24 years old and while just an average defender, he is big (6’10”, 240 lbs) and rebounds well. During his two years in Orlando, advanced evaluation stats like him; he’s a winning player according to PER, Win Shares, Adjusted +/-, and Wins Produced. He will also be signed to a front loaded contract; $11 million in year one with $6 million per year after that.

Regardless of the players that are pursued, this seems like a decent re-building concept: draft well in the lottery, sign two good role players to front loaded contracts in 2012, then sign a max player in 2013. If the Cavs are a high lottery team and draft Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond, the free agent targets would be adjusted. The 2012 – 2013 roster outlined above is filled out with one year contracts and the total payroll is $59 – 60 million.

2013 – 2014 Cavs
With the Cavs’ first round pick, P.J. Hairston of North Carolina is selected and with their second rounder, Aaron Craft of Ohio State. With the Heat and Magic picks, the Cavs choose another wing and a 5th big man. Casspi is re-signed for 4 years, $16 million and Daniel Gibson is re-signed for 3 years, $7.5 million.

The big, final free agent piece is James Harden. Harden is a restricted free agent and the Cavs can offer him a max contract of 4 years and approximately $66 million. As some background, OKC’s payroll for 6 players in 2013 – 2014 is $38.3 million. This doesn’t sound bad, except none of those players is Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Serge Ibaka. Given that the Cavs have offered Harden $15+ million per year and Westbrook and Ibaka could cost $30 million a year; that leaves OKC looking at $84 million for 9 players. The luxury tax limit will be approximately $74 million. Are they willing to go $15 – $20 million into the luxury tax given the new CBA’s strict provisions? OKC can do a lot to juggle their roster between now and then; but for the purposes of this extremely hypothetical scenario, an assumption will be made that they won’t spend 70% of the luxury tax threshold on three backcourt players. So the Cavs convince Harden that a max contract and his ability to be a focal point of the offense make Cleveland his best destination.

The final 2013 – 2014 roster (with November 2013 ages in parentheses) is:

• PG – Kyrie Irving (21), Daniel Gibson (27), Aaron Craft (22). Irving is a big part of the future of the franchise and will need to be a key member of any near-future 50 win team. This will be his third season and the hope is that he is establishing himself as a top flight point guard.

• SG / SF – James Harden (24), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (20), Omri Casspi (25), P. J Hairston (20), William Buford (23), 2013 Miami 1st rounder. This is a young group, but it has a lot of good pieces. Other than Harden; this group isn’t “ready” in 2013 – 2014. But within a couple of seasons, this group will be experienced and well rounded. Harden, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Hairston should be capable scorers. All players give good effort and Kidd-Gilchrist is a beast of a defender. Harden and Casspi provide quality shooting and Hairston (or whoever is the 2013 first round pick) is drafted based on his long-range marksmanship.

• PF / C – Anderson Varejao (31), Tristan Thompson (22), Ryan Anderson (25), Omer Asik (27), 2013 Orlando 2nd round pick. That’s a very good defensive front line and Ryan Anderson adds some offensive firepower.

The combined 2013 – 2014 salary of these 14 players is $60 – 61 million, which should be under the salary cap. Nine of these players are signed through 2015 – 2016: Irving, Harden, Kidd-Gilchrist, Hairston, Casspi, Thompson, Asik, Ryan Anderson, and the Miami first rounder. The Cavs have 2 first round picks each in 2014 & 2015 (assuming Kings pick); so there will be opportunities to add “cheap” talent to supplement the bench. Varejao and Gibson can be re-signed to short-term contracts, and voila! The fifteen players on the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers! The team would be similar to the 2004 Pistons championship team; no star, lots of quality players and great defense. Can this team score 100 points per game, while allowing 90? Because if so; that’s a championship level team. I’m going to answer yes; the defense will be great and 20 points per game can come from Harden, 18 from Irving, 15 from Kidd-Gilchrist, 12 from Anderson, 8 from Hairston, 6 from Casspi, 18 from the rest of the front-court (Varejao, Thompson, Asik) and 3 from Gibson. Who knew that building a champion was so easy?