Among the many decisions the Cleveland Cavaliers will face this offseason is whether or not to bring back their own unrestricted free agents.
Small forward Luol Deng, center Spencer Hawes and shooting guard C.J. Miles will all hit the open market this July. Cleveland can still offer them an extension at any time or choose to wait and gauge their value around the league.
While the Cavs should be open to potentially bringing all three back, money will definitely be the deciding factor. The Cavaliers should have some cash to spend, as the salary cap is expected to rise by $5 million to $63.2 million for next season. Going off of this, the Cavs should have over $20 million in cap space, assuming they decline the $3 million team option on Alonzo Gee (via shamsports.com).
What should Cleveland offer each player, and at what price would the Cavs be better off to walk away?
C.J. Miles, SG/SF
2013-14 Salary: $2,225,000
Miles came to Cleveland on a two-year deal back in 2012. While he's battled injuries, been in and out of the starting lineup and at times struggled with his shot, Miles has played well overall with the Cavs.
This past season Miles averaged 9.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 three-pointers in his 19.9 minutes a game. He shot a career-best 39.3 percent from deep and set the team record by knocking down 10 three-pointers in a Jan. 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Miles was a nice complementary guard to have mixed in with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters because he prefers to catch and shoot rather than operate with the ball in his hands. A whopping 89 percent of his jump shots came off an assist this past season, with 83 percent of his shot attempts coming via the jumper (per 82games.com).
Miles' value to the Cavs is compounded by his ability to play both wing positions.
In two seasons in Cleveland, Miles has spent 55 percent of his time at small forward and 45 percent at shooting guard. With no true small forward currently under contract for next season, Miles would be a nice option to keep around. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal recently talked to Miles about his future:
He is open to returning next season, but hasn’t had any formal talks yet and doesn’t believe the injury will affect summer negotiations with the Cavs or any other team. 'We haven’t had any conversations [about returning], but I don’t feel like they’re kicking me out the door at all. I know what that feels like. I definitely don’t get that vibe.'
Miles would be a nice player to bring back, but his departure wouldn't cripple the franchise, either.
Given his recent injury history, anything more than a two-year deal would be a bit risky. Cleveland should keep the offer around the amount he made the past two years, which would represent a nice value for the Cavs if Miles is healthy.
Contract Offer: Two years, $6 million
Luol Deng, SF
2013-14 Salary: $14,275,000
Deng played just 40 games for the Cavs following a trade from the Chicago Bulls, yet he proved to be a calming influence in a tumultuous locker room.
While his 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds a game were the most Cleveland had gotten from a small forward since LeBron James, they were a steep drop-off from his production in Chicago. Deng just never seemed to fit into whatever sort of offense Mike Brown was attempting to run and often looked slow moving around the court. It's very possible that an Achilles injury that Deng suffered with the Bulls was holding him back from being his normally ultra-productive self.
Cleveland was 19-21 since the trade for Deng, compared to 14-28 without him. His veteran leadership was very much needed on a team sporting nine players 24 years old or younger.
Despite the Cavs' improved play with Deng, some doubt the team's willingness to re-sign him. Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer offered this insight on Deng:
I'm assuming Luol Deng won't be back. My sense is Deng would prefer to be on a more mature team that is ready to win. Furthermore, the Cavs are concerned about his back, legs and general physical condition after 10 years in the league.
Durability is a huge concern for Deng, now 29 years old. Twice he's led the NBA in minutes played (2011-12, 2012-13), not to mention the 40.3 minutes per game he's averaged over a five-year playoff career.
Deng knows this is likely his last big payday and should be seeking a four-year deal. Even the Chicago Bulls were hesitant to go this long in extension talks, instead offering Deng a three-year, $30 million contract, which he quickly shot down (via Yahoo Sports).
A few months back, I suggested that for Cleveland to have any hope of re-signing Deng, they would have to offer him a four-year, $48 million deal similar to the one Andre Iguodala signed last season with the Golden State Warriors.
While that still may be true, there's just no way the Cavs will offer him such a large amount. That's too much money for the type of production they got from Deng, no matter how good he would be for the team off the court.
Cleveland should still discuss numbers but will likely end up parting ways with Deng this summer.
Contract Offer: Three years, $27 million (team option for final year)
Spencer Hawes, C
2013-14 Salary: $6,600,000
After posting career-best numbers in points (13.2), rebounds (8.3), assists (3.0) and three-point shooting (41.6 percent), it's safe to say Hawes is due for a raise.
Coming to Cleveland on a trade-deadline deal that netted the Philadelphia 76ers a pair of second-rounders, Hawes played extremely well for the Cavs. Despite standing 7'1", Hawes was the Cavaliers' best three-point shooter at 44.8 percent.
Head coach Mike Brown is a big fan of Hawes and everything he brings to the table, telling Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer:
He's very intense about games and situations and very in-tune. He's an intelligent player. He's long. Obviously, he's shot the three-ball well for us throughout the course of the year. He can pass the basketball. He doesn't necessarily have the athleticism that Blake Griffin has, but his determination and hard work and length and intelligence makes up for what some people may think is a lack of athleticism.
Hawes works well with driving guards like Irving and Waiters because he can play from multiple areas on the court instead of clogging the lane. Cleveland used him on the perimeter quite a bit, playing a pick-and-pop game or passing to a teammate cutting to the basket. Hawes' 3.0 assists per game ranked him fourth in the NBA among all centers.
At this point, Hawes' strengths and weaknesses are obvious. He's an outstanding shooter and passer with a high basketball IQ. His defense is poor, as Hawes is slow of foot but occasionally blocks a shot or two. While the Cavs scored 3.2 more points per 100 possessions with Hawes on the floor, they allowed 6.1 more points while on defense (via 82games.com).
Despite his defensive shortcomings, the Cavs need a center with Anderson Varejao entering the last year of his deal. Hawes has proven he can play with Cleveland's current roster and should be welcome back in town.
Contract Offer: Three years, $24 million
All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.