Which Young Players Shouldn't Be Part of Cleveland Cavs Future?
Regardless of how they end this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers need to keep an eye on the future.
With one of the youngest rosters in the NBA (13 players are age 26 or younger), the Cavs need to decide which young pieces they want to build around in the upcoming years.
Some players, like Kyrie Irving for example, seem to be locked in as a franchise centerpiece. What about less experienced guys like Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters?
For the sake of this article, we'll consider "young" to be 26 years old or below.
The following players, given their skill set, fit with the team or upcoming contract situation, shouldn't be considered part of the Cavaliers' future.
Carrick Felix, G/F
Felix just can't catch a break with the Cavs this season.
A second-round pick of the Cavaliers in 2013, he has battled injuries and inconsistent playing time all year. After a sports hernia cut short his preseason, he is now sidelined with a left patellar stress fracture in his left knee that he suffered back in January.
Before that, playing time was hard to come by for the 6'6" swingman. Felix has played in just six games for a total of 26 minutes. He's averaging 1.5 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.2 assists in 4.3 minutes with the Cavs.
Despite not being able to crack the rotation, he has gotten some experience in the D-League with the Canton Charge. Unfortunately, he's done nothing of significance to earn any real time in the Association. In nine games with the Charge, Felix has put up 11.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 28.8 minutes. While he's primarily a defensive specialist, these are still disappointing numbers for a guy who is trying to earn NBA minutes.
Hopefully he can recover in time to get some more experience at either level before the season ends. Even though he's a rookie, he will turn 24 this August. His days of a developing prospect are numbered.
At this point, it's hard to envision him becoming a long-term fixture on the Cavaliers.
Alonzo Gee, SF
Gee has enjoyed a nice run in Cleveland, but it's time for both parties to go their separate ways.
Now 26, he is slowly transitioning from prospect to veteran. He hasn't shown much progression in the past few years but should still be a serviceable piece off a contender's bench.
After starting all 82 games for the Cavs a season ago, he has been in and out of the rotation this year. He's found himself playing behind Earl Clark and now Luol Deng at small forward, and Mike Brown often elects to bring a third guard into the lineup rather than play Gee.
For the season, the five-year veteran is averaging just 3.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists in his 15.2 minutes per game. These numbers are down from his 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists of a season ago.
It's up to the Cavaliers if they want to bring him back or not next year. According to HoopsHype.com, Cleveland holds a team option on Gee, which is valued at $3.25 million for the 2014-15 season.
Despite the failure to find a long-term answer at the small forward position, it's highly unlikely the Cavs will want to keep him around, especially at that price.
Expect these to be the last few weeks of Gee in a Cavaliers uniform.
Tristan Thompson/Anthony Bennett, PFs
My initial reaction when the Cavs selected Anthony Bennett first overall in the 2013 NBA draft was: What does this mean for Tristan Thompson?
After all, Thompson was coming off his second pro season and showing a remarkable improvement over his rookie year. Unfortunately, due to his 6'9" height and lack of outside shooting, he is limited to the power forward position.
When the Cavs drafted Bennett, also a power forward, it raised a lot of questions.
Cleveland has tried Bennett at small forward, which was a complete disaster. According to 82games.com, he registered a player efficiency rating of 0 while allowing a PER of 25.0 to opposing small forwards. It's clear he also belongs at power forward exclusively.
Thompson is obviously the better player right now. He's averaging 12.1 points and 9.5 rebounds to Bennett's 4.1 and 2.9. When talking long-term upside, though, Bennett has the advantage. Thompson is extremely limited offensively, while Bennett has shown the ability to score from inside and out.
In two years, both will deserve to be starters and receive 30-35 minutes per night. Unfortunately, this can't happen on the same team.
Unless Bennett can transform himself into a small forward sometime soon, either he or Thompson will likely be moved.
C.J. Miles, SG
C.J. Miles picked a bad time to suffer his longest injury of the season.
The 26-year-old Miles has missed Cleveland's last 10 games and counting due to an ankle injury that he suffered February 19 against the Orlando Magic. While he has been solid for the Cavs, he's set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Would the Cavs like to have Miles back? Sure, he's played well for them and is one of the few players who have actually progressed over a season ago.
There's that little issue of money, however.
Miles should see a raise over the $2.2 million he's making this year. He has posted 10.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game while shooting 39.3 percent from the three-point line. His PER of 16.26 ranks third on the Cavaliers behind only Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao.
How much is Cleveland willing to pay? After all, the team drafted Sergey Karasev in the first round this past summer, who could fill Miles' role of outside shooter at a fraction of the cost. After a summer of adding weight and competing in the NBA Summer League, Karasev should be able to handle the 19.6 minutes per game that Miles has been getting this season.
He will certainly draw interest from a number of teams this summer.
Don't expect the Cavaliers to be one of them.
Dion Waiters, SG
To be clear, I'm not advocating that the Cavaliers should part ways with Waiters just for the sake of parting ways.
However, I wouldn't be opposed to moving him if the right deal presents itself.
Why? We're two years into the Irving-Waiters backcourt experiment without any substantial evidence that both are better together.
Actually, Mike Brown has tried to prevent the two from being on the court with each other as much as possible. Just nine games into the season, Waiters was moved to the sixth man role. Since both are ball-dominant guards, sharing and spacing the floor have been a struggle at times.
To be clear, both Irving and Waiters are phenomenal offensive talents. Waiters also brings a toughness that this team has, at times, desperately needed. It's still possible both could form one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but how long can Cleveland wait for that to happen?
Cleveland needs to find a second star to place next to Irving. Waiters could technically still be this person, but so far this doesn't appear to be the case.
He is a great young player but is far from untouchable in a potential offseason trade.
All stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.