Critical Offseason Decisions Cleveland Cavaliers Must Face
Having missed out on the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers' players can now rest, go on vacation or simply take it easy for the next few months.
For owner Dan Gilbert and the Cavs front office, now is when the real work begins.
Cleveland is in a critical state right now. Question marks surround the team's general manager, coach and many of its players. Having underachieved so badly this season, it's crucial that the Cavaliers have a plan in place this summer to ensure better results next year.
Anything and everything appears to be up in the air right now, and even interim GM David Griffin has admitted that “Everyone in this organization is under review," according to Bob Finnan of The News-Herald).
Here are the seven biggest decisions that Gilbert, and the people he puts in charge, must make this offseason.
All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Keep David Griffin?
Deciding on a full-time general manager should be Cleveland's first priority.
Griffin is considered the favorite, having taken over for the fired Chris Grant on Feb. 6. His biggest move on the job has been the trade for Spencer Hawes, who performed quite well while spacing the floor and providing additional offense for the Cavs.
While Gilbert may prefer a bigger splash of a hire, he may have to work quickly just to retain Griffin.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that the New York Knicks may have interest in Griffin for their own GM position, a move that could come to fruition quickly if Steve Kerr becomes the team's next head coach. Kerr and Griffin previously worked in the Phoenix Suns front office together.
Almost all of Cleveland's big offseason decisions will have to be made by the general manager. The Cavaliers need to make their own decision on Griffin quickly before another team swoops in and steals him away.
Griffin has earned the right to be a full-time GM. Let's hope Cleveland gives him this chance.
Keep Mike Brown?
After a general manager is in place, he along with Gilbert will have to make a decision on Brown.
The Cavs' head man led the team to a 33-49 record this season despite many picking them to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference. While Brown did improve the defense as we expected, the team often seemed unresponsive to his coaching while young players like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson failed to take the next step.
There are quite a few reasons to bring back Brown, headlined by the three guaranteed years remaining on his contract. Defense was a strong point, and continuity is always important as well.
That being said, the list of reasons for firing Brown is much larger.
The offense was once again simple, young players didn't develop like they should have, and the locker room was extremely chaotic at times.
I personally believe the Cavs should look elsewhere for a head coach, starting with these five candidates.
Brown's hiring was a mistake, one that the Cavaliers can make up for this summer by bringing in a proven leader and winner. Someone who can coach an offense would be nice as well.
Kyrie Irving's Extension
As soon as a GM and head coach are in place, the Cavs need to make a decision on an extension for Kyrie Irving.
Irving will be entering his fourth pro season this fall and is eligible to sign a five-year max deal valued around $80 million.
Shortly after the regular season ended on April 16, Irving discussed his future with the Cavs, via Bob Finnan of The News-Herald.
“Obviously, I’m aware I can be extended this summer. It’s a big deal for me if they do offer me that. It will be exciting. I’ll make the best decision for me and my family. That’s what it will boil down to.”
While some in the organization have questioned whether Irving is even worth a max deal, the Cavs will almost certainly offer him one.
I asked in a previous article if Irving was worth such a large contract, to which 80.8 percent of the 1,215 readers polled said yes.
The question shouldn't be whether or not to offer Irving such an extension, as he's easily the most talented player on the roster and the team's best chance to attract free agents. Instead, Cleveland should be asking what to do if Irving chooses not to accept the deal.
Tristan Thompson's Extension?
While on the topic of contract extensions, what should the Cavs do about Tristan Thompson?
Like Irving, Thompson will also be entering his fourth season with the team and will be eligible for a raise very soon.
Unlike Irving, the Cavaliers may not be so quick to offer Thompson an extension. While he's an excellent rebounder, extremely hard worker and has proven to be durable (starting every game the past two years), Thompson's upside is somewhat limited.
After making a big leap from years one to two, Thompson showed little improvement this season. His averages of 13.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2012-13 were actually higher than his 2013-14 stat line of 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in the same amount of time.
I asked Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio if he thought the Cavs would offer Thompson an extension this summer or wait and match any deal he would get in restricted free agency in 2015. Amico said the team would prefer to wait and match a deal. While Thompson may seek an extension valued at $10 million to $12 million a year now, waiting to match an offer sheet next summer may be more financially beneficial for the Cavs.
Cleveland would certainly like to have Thompson for the foreseeable future, but only if it doesn't have to overpay.
We won't find out exactly which pick the Cavaliers will own in the 2014 NBA draft until the lottery on May 20.
Unlike previous years, Cleveland should now start drafting on team need instead of overall talent. Seriously, enough with the power forwards already.
With starters Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes set to hit unrestricted free agency, the Cavs' biggest needs are at small forward and center. Shooting guard could also be addressed, as C.J. Miles will become a free agent as well.
Small forward has been a problem since 2010. Because the draft comes before free agency, the Cavs may have to make a decision on their free agents before deciding whom to select.
Looking at players who would fill these positions of need and should be available around that No. 9 spot, a few names stick out.
Doug McDermott of Creighton would certainly fill an outside-shooting need. Kyle Anderson of UCLA has proven to be a great ball-handler and rebounder. Noah Vonleh of Indiana can play both power forward and center and give the Cavs a shot-blocking threat inside should he slide that far.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that this appears to be a deep, talented draft class. They may not come away with a star, but the team should at least secure a solid rotation player to complement its existing talent.
Re-Sign Deng, Hawes?
As touched on briefly in the previous slide, the Cavs will need to make a decision on whether or not to re-sign Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes as they enter unrestricted free agency.
Deng played in 40 games following a trade from the Chicago Bulls. While he didn't produce at the high level he did in Chicago, Deng did average 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists while stabilizing the small forward position. At 29, he's a valuable leader with playoff experience that Cleveland's young roster needs.
Hawes was acquired at the trade deadline and performed quite well during his time in Cleveland. In 27 games, Hawes put up 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 three-pointers per contest. His 1.0 blocked shot per game was enough to lead the team, and Hawes' outside shooting was also a team-best 44.8 percent.
Deng is likely to command the higher salary between the two, as he previously turned down a three-year, $30 million extension by the Bulls, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Deng could pursue a deal similar to the four-year, $48 million contract Andre Iguodala signed with the Golden State Warriors last summer. If the bidding for his services does escalate to that number, Cleveland would be wise to pass. A salary of $12 million a year is a lot for 14 points and five rebounds' worth of production.
Signing Hawes would be a nice move for Cleveland, as his outside shooting spaces the floor and opens the lane for driving guards like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Hawes made $6.5 million this season and should be in line for a raise. A three-year deal valued around $21 million to $24 million would be fair for both sides.
The final part of the offseason will consist of free agency and trades.
This is really where Cleveland can make a splash and elevate itself to becoming a serious playoff contender next season.
Obviously, a decision will have to be made on LeBron James and how much the team plans on pursuing its former star. While James would instantly make the Cavs a playoff team, going after him and failing would look extremely desperate. Cleveland needs to devise a careful plan on how to handle James' courtship, should he opt out of his current deal with the Miami Heat.
James certainly isn't the only free agent worth pursuing, however.
If the Cavs want to sign a small forward, names like Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gay and Trevor Ariza could all be available.
If it's a center they covet, then Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol and Marcin Gortat would all be welcome in the Wine and Gold.
The new (or current?) GM needs to be assembling their wish list as soon as possible. Cleveland is expected to have $26 million in cap room this summer, according to Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer. Using it to land a big free agent will be key to the Cavs' 2014-15 success.