Projecting the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2014-15 Roster
It is a good time for Cleveland sports. (I can't believe I just said that).
The Cleveland Cavaliers just keep getting lucky.
Much like the Cleveland Browns in the NFL draft, the Cavaliers are presented with the opportunity to become relevant again with the right moves this offseason.
David Griffin had the "interim" tag removed from his title earlier this month and Mike Brown was fired for the second time in four years. Despite having three No. 1 overall picks in the last four years, the Cavaliers, in typical Cleveland sports fashion, have been in a constant state of rebuilding since LeBron James bolted for South Beach following the 2009-10 season.
Since then, Kyrie Irving seems like a big win, while last year's top pick, Anthony Bennett, has looked like the biggest bust in recent memory.
Owner Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers now have the opportunity to throw out all their mistakes from the last five seasons and make the Wine and Gold relevant again.
The following slides project the Cavaliers' plan this offseason, including coaching changes, good-fit free agents and the draft class of 2014.
Though it is not out of the question, I do not anticipate George Karl stalking the sidelines for the Cavaliers next season. At this stage in his career, he seems like a more viable candidate in the Cavaliers’ front office in an executive role similar to Phil Jackson's (New York) and Pat Riley's (Miami).
With that out of the way, the most exciting candidate on the market right now is longtime Portland Trail Blazers point guard Lionel Hollins.
Barring a fourth stint as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Hollins would be a perfect fit in Cleveland.
Much like Mark Jackson’s recent termination in Golden State, Hollins was relieved of his duties because of personal conflicts with team management. After years of notorious nice guys like Mike Brown and Byron Scott leading the Wine and Gold, Hollins would bring a welcomed attitude to the Cavaliers bench. One of the NBA’s hottest unemployed coaching commodities, Hollins is a proven winner. His last appearance on the sideline came in the Western Conference Finals with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 and, perhaps more importantly, the Grizzlies improved in each of his four years at the helm.
The Grizzlies defense climbed from No. 19 in the league in defensive rating when Hollins took over in 2009-10 and finished at No. 2 in 2012-13 (per the San Jose Mercury News), a year in which the Grizzlies posted a 41-25 record in a lockout-shortened season.
As a tough defensive-minded head coach, Hollins would need to bring in an offensive assistant. According to Marcus Thompson II of the San Jose Mercury News, one name that is closely linked to Hollins is respected offensive mind Paul Westphal, who has head coaching experience with the Phoenix Suns, Seattle Super Sonics and Sacramento Kings.
Still Under Contract
Cleveland will likely exercise their team option on forward Anderson Vareajo and keep the Wild Thing on Lake Erie for at least one more season. If Hollins is indeed the Cavs’ coach next season, Varejao fits perfectly into a defense-first system as, even despite all the nagging injuries for the last three seasons, Varejao remains one of the most active bodies in the league.
While Jarrett Jack is under contract for next season, I would expect newly appointed general manager David Griffin to explore a trade for the eight-year veteran. Coming off an excellent year in Golden State in 2012-13, Jack was largely inefficient in 2013-14 in Mike Brown’s defensive-minded game plan. The Cavaliers will need another guard to play behind Kyrie Irving, but there are less-expensive options on the market that can get the job done.
The first order of business for the Cavaliers from a player-personnel standpoint this offseason has to be extending an offer sheet to budding superstar Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 20.8 points and contributed 6.1 assists per game during an All-Star season and, most importantly, he and Dion Waiters began progressing as a duo as the season wore down. Will he sign the offer sheet? If so, can he and Waiters coexist with former point guard Hollins at the helm?
Last season’s No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett looks like the biggest bust in recent NBA draft history after one year with the Cavaliers. He reported to training camp out of shape and never recovered, as he continued to look lost for much of the season. Bennett does display some incredible athleticism at times, just as he did when former general manager Chris Grant drafted him last season, and his miserable 2013-14 may turn out to be an anomaly in an otherwise productive NBA career. We will just have to wait and see.
After recently voicing his displeasure with the Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson seems like a likely trade candidate this offseason. According to Sam Spiegelman of XN Sports, the deciding factor behind such a trade scenario is the Cavaliers realizing Thompson will require a contract similar to the one Derrick Favors received last year. General manager David Griffin may be unwilling to pay that kind of money for Thompson's services—especially with the impending free-agency class of 2015.
Can Dion Waiters and Irving coexist? To this point, the duo formed by former general manager Chris Grant has left a lot to be desired. While both players are outstanding contributors individually, neither Mike Brown nor Byron Scott could get their backcourt tandem on the same page.
When Waiters and Irving are clicking, this is one of the most talented backcourt tandems in the league. When they are not? Well, the Cavs are 33-49.
After a season that saw Alonzo Gee's minutes decrease drastically from start to finish, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the fourth-year player is back in wine and gold next season. The Cavaliers hold a team option on his contract that one would assume will not be picked up, especially given the plethora of more talented options (i.e. Trevor Ariza) on the open market.
In limited minutes during his second season with the Cavaliers, Tyler Zeller proved he can be a valuable piece to the Cavaliers moving forward. While he is unlikely to be starting center material, Zeller provides an excellent spark off the bench. In just 15 minutes per game last season, Zeller scored 5.7 points and pulled down four rebounds per game.
In his last five games, however, Zeller saw an increase in minutes, scoring 13.6 points and grabbing 7.6 rebounds over 22.4 minutes per game.
Sergey Karasev saw very few opportunities last season for Mike Brown.
Last year's No. 19 overall pick, Karasev is unlikely to see many opportunities for the Wine and Gold in 2014-15. He just is not ready to contribute at the NBA level, especially with Waiters and Miles absorbing a bulk of the minutes at shooting guard.
The Cavaliers own a team option on Scotty Hopson heading into next season and, like Gee, it is unlikely they pick it up. Owed better than $2.4 million if he is kept on the roster, Cleveland can do much better on the open market than settling for an unproven shooting guard.
Good-Fit Free Agents
David Griffin seems to be putting a premium on shooting guards, as he sees the potential for the Cavaliers offensive to revolve largely around the drive-and-dish game of guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
By all accounts, C.J. Miles seems to be well-liked in the locker room and is a familiar face in Cleveland. Griffin should move quickly to re-sign Miles to a deal, allowing the eight-year veteran to provide the spacing Irving and Waiters need to operate.
Cleveland needs a productive small forward.
Ariza has been a perfect fit in Washington beside the youthful backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and he could be the answer to unite Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters in the Cleveland backcourt. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cavaliers had interest in Ariza at the deadline, and there is no doubt Cleveland will be interested when Ariza hits the free-agent market.
His first move as newly appointed general manager should be to re-sign his prized center.
The former No. 10 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Hawes posted 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and one block per game after joining the Cavs. He quickly developed great chemistry with Irving and Waiters, providing the young guards with the perfect pick-and-pop partner. At 7'1", Hawes shot an impressive 44.8 percent from three-point range while with Cleveland.
If David Griffin is able to unload Jarrett Jack and his ridiculous contract this offseason, Avery Bradley would be the perfect fit. As a defensive-minded point guard, Bradley would provide an excellent complement to sixth man Dion Waiters and provide the Cavaliers with a reliable defensive point guard off the bench.
Bradley averaged 14.9 points, 1.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game with the Celtics this season. Showing glimpses of brilliance in parts of three seasons, Bradley will likely come at a bargain price due to his injury history. Bradley appeared in just 60 games this season and has averaged just 51.25 games per season since being drafted No. 19 overall by the Boston Celtics in 2010.
While he would be an excellent fit for the Cavaliers, Channing Frye will be difficult to pry away from the Phoenix Suns.
Frye signed a five-year, $30 million contract back in July 2010 and holds a player option for the fifth year worth nearly $7 million. If he decides not to exercise his option and hits the open market, Cleveland might jump at the chance to sign the 30-year-old veteran.
The former No. 8 overall pick by the New York Knicks in 2005, Frye started all 82 games for the Suns last season, averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. At 6’11”, he would play a significant role in the Cavaliers’ drive-and-dish offense, as he shot 37 percent from deep and connected on two three-pointers per game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers must hit on the 2014 draft. And they hit pretty big on Tuesday night by claiming the top pick—despite 1.7 percent odds—in a loaded class.
Fans, along with owner Dan Gilbert, are have grown increasingly impatient with the current product. Former general manager Chris Grant whiffed on forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, so all eyes will be on David Griffin to draft Kyrie Irving's future franchise mate with the No. 1 pick.
Unlike last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers really cannot go wrong with the No. 1 overall pick in 2014.
With talented class members Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker topping the draft boards, Cleveland will get a potential superstar to pair with Kyrie Irving.
Which of those players is best for the Cavaliers?
Even if he passes a physical, Joel Embiid is too great a risk coming off a significant back injury that kept him out of the Jayhawks' lineup in the NCAA tournament. And while Parker may be the most polished offensive performer, his ceiling just is not as high as Wiggins'.
With the No. 1 overall selection, David Griffin should put his stamp on the franchise by drafting Kansas Jayhawks guard Wiggins. At 6'8" and 200 pounds, Wiggins is an immediate impact player on the defensive side of the ball. He might be the most freakish athlete to come out of the draft since the Cavaliers took LeBron James with the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft.
Wiggins has the length and athleticism to guard both wing positions. He has a quick first step and would be an outstanding complement to Irving on the perimeter.
Where does Dion Waiters fit into this equation?
While Wiggins translates better as an off-guard early on, his size and strength would allow him to make a flawless transition to small forward if he packs on a few pounds. If whomever is brought in to coach this team can get Waiters and Irving on the same page, Cleveland could have an incredibly dangerous backcourt consisting of Irving-Waiters-Wiggins moving forward.
Isaiah Austin may have been a first-round selection in last year’s draft had it not been for a torn labrum in his shoulder. Instead, the 7’1” center elected to remain at Baylor for his sophomore season to compile career averages of 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
Austin, who suffered a torn retina in middle school and has been blind in his right eye ever since, is a similar player to Channing Frye. He is an excellent outside shooter and would join Cleveland to form a dynamic pick-and-pop threat with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
He is essentially a big man who likes to play outside ... His feet are quick and his lateral quickness is good for a big, long player like him and it allows him to be very aggressive in defense on P&R and contain PGs on switches thanks to his great size ... His greatest asset offensively right now is the ability to finish on both blocks turning over both shoulders, however he would get the best out of his career if he can improve his outside shooting percentages.
At No. 33, Austin would be a great value pick for the Cavaliers. Austin could combine with Wiggins to form one of the best combos in this year’s draft.