Cleveland Cavaliers: Predicting Final 15 Man Roster for 2012-2013
With training camp right around the corner, NBA teams must start considering who to keep and who to cut as the season draws ever closer.
An NBA roster is allowed to carry 15 players, 12 of which can dress for a game. According to the Cavaliers official website, Cleveland currently has 18 players on their roster and will need to cut at least three players if they don't add anyone else.
While some players are signed to non-guaranteed deals or have a team option awaiting, 12 players are already under contract for next season.
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, Luke Harangody, Jon Leuer, Jeremy Pargo, C.J. Miles and Luke Walton all carry guaranteed deals and would be owed the full value of their contract if waived.
This leaves Daniel Gibson, Donald Sloan, Samardo Samuels, Kelenna Azubuike, Michael Eric and Kevin Jones with team options or non-guaranteed deals that may get left out.
Here is a look at what the final 15 man team should look like, broken down position by position.
Definite Lock: Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller
Likely but Not Certain: Samardo Samuels
Pack Your Bags: N/A
The Cavaliers deepest position right now is in the post, with eight of the teams 18 players coming from center and power forward alone.
When looking at center, it's safe to assume Varejao will once again be the teams starting center, with rookie Tyler Zeller serving as the primary backup.
After this, it gets a little cloudy.
Samuels has been less than spectacular in his two seasons in Cleveland, but underwent a dramatic offseason change in which he dropped 18 pounds and went from 13 to nine percent body fat.
Had Samuels not shown the determination to improve his conditioning and overall game in this, his third pro season, he would likely have been released.
As it stands, Samuels is on a partially-guaranteed deal and may have to have a strong training camp and preseason to stay on the team.
Definite Lock: Tristan Thompson
Likely but Not Certain: Jon Leuer, Michael Eric
Pack Your Bags: Kevin Jones, Luke Harangody
When looking at the power forward position, it's likely only one player should feel safe right now.
With Antawn Jamison leaving via free agency, Thompson should be a shoo in for the starting power forward job.
Behind him is a collection of young, unproven players, all of which have a lot to prove if they want to make the team.
Leuer was claimed off waivers from the Houston Rockets and according to HoopsHype.com, has a guaranteed deal this season paying him $762,195. A big man with range, Leuer can help stretch the floor on offense.
Eric is somewhat of a mystery, as the undrafted free agent from Temple has been compared to a young Serge Ibaka defensively by head coach Byron Scott. While Eric could easily be cut due to his inexperience and overall raw game, his potential alone should warrant a spot on the bottom of the roster.
Moving on to the cuts, Kevin Jones was also an undrafted free agent, signing with the Cavaliers after a standout four year career at West Virginia where he made the All-Big East 1st Team as a senior. A foot injury prevented Jones from playing in the summer league, however, and may end up costing him a spot on the team.
Luke Harangody was brought back on a one year deal, but shouldn't even last that long in Cleveland. A hard worker and hustle player, Harangody just doesn't have the potential that the other players at his position have. Even though he's on a guaranteed deal, the Cavs may be best to eat the $1 million he's owed and see what they have in Michael Eric and Jon Leuer instead.
Definite Lock: Alonzo Gee
Likely but Not Certain: Omri Casspi, Luke Walton
Pack Your Bags: N/A
The weakest position on the Cavs, small forward will once again be a concern this season.
Cleveland did the wise thing by giving Gee a multi-year deal, as he'll likely be the team's starter once again.
There were rumors that Casspi might be bought out due to his terrible play last season, but according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer, the Cavs have been pleased with his work this summer and fully plan on keeping him for 2012-2013.
Walton is the worst player on the team, and only brings value with his $6 million expiring contract. Look for the Cavs to use him in a possible trade this year or just use the cap room after this season.
For different reasons, expect all three on the Cavs this season.
Definite Lock: Dion Waiters, C. J. Miles
Likely but Not Certain: Daniel Gibson
Pack Your Bags: Kelenna Azubuike (if not fully healthy)
Waiters isn't going anywhere, and neither is newly signed shooting guard/small forward Miles.
Despite his six seasons in Cleveland, a return to the Cavaliers isn't guaranteed for Daniel Gibson.
Of the $4.8 million left on his contract this season, only $2.3 million is guaranteed, meaning the Cavs would owe him very little should they choose to part ways.
Arguably the teams best perimeter defender and three-point shooter, Gibson has only played in more than 68 games one time in his career, and last season missed 31 games with various injuries.
At this point, since Cleveland is under the cap and doesn't have to worry about money, it's expected that they would retain Gibson for now.
Azubuike was a throw-in from the draft day Tyler Zeller trade and has only played in 12 games over the past three seasons as a result of numerous surgeries.
Early reports from Sam Amico at Fox Sports Ohio say that Azubuike is moving around better and that his knee looks healthy.
If Azubuike isn't ready for a return to the NBA yet, he's an easy candidate to get cut. If the Cavs feel what they see from him in preseason is enough to warrant a roster spot, expect either Jon Leuer or Michael Eric to take his place on the cut list.
Definite Lock: Kyrie Irving
Likely but Not Certain: Donald Sloan, Jeremy Pargo
Pack Your Bags: N/A
Kyrie Irving will once again have to carry the load at point guard as the depth behind him is extremely thin.
Donald Sloan played well for stretches last season when given the opportunity, but at this point can't be relied upon on a nightly basis.
Jeremy Pargo was brought over in a nice little trade from the Memphis Grizzlies, which also netted the Cavs a second round pick in exchange for D.J. Kennedy. Pargo is already 26 with just one year of NBA experience, averaging 2.9 points and 1.3 assists in 9.6 minutes a game for Memphis last season.
Cleveland also worked out free agent Jonny Flynn this off-season, but no deal was ever reached.
While Sloan and Pargo aren't exactly ideal second point guards, it's likely the team will keep both for some additional depth behind Irving.
Point Guards: Kyrie Irving, Donald Sloan, Jeremy Pargo
Shooting Guards: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Daniel Gibson
Small Forwards: Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton
Power Forwards: Tristan Thompson, Jon Leuer, Michael Eric
Center: Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Samardo Samuels
Final Cuts: Kevin Jones, Luke Harangody, Kelenna Azubuike
When looking at first cuts, expect at least two power forward/centers to be on the list. The Cavs have a lot of them with partial or non-guaranteed deals and little to no NBA experience.
Azuibuike is the wildcard at this point, and his roster spot could depend entirely on his health. Even though Pargo and Sloan are among the weakest players on the team, expect the Cavs to keep both due to the teams lack of ball-handlers.
While this roster is nowhere near championship-caliber, it is a step up from last season and boasts several promising young players. Led by Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and now Dion Waiters, don't be surprised if the Cavs make a playoff run as early as this season.