The NBA is just one series away from the official beginning of the offseason. By the time the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat finish battling for the championship, the majority of NBA teams will already be finalizing offseason strategies designed to move themselves into the upper echelons of the Association.
The perpetual struggle to improve provides the NBA rumor mill with the fuel to stay in constant motion. Every franchise is looking to gain an edge, whether it's through free-agent signings, a new head coach or taking a chance on long-shot players.
Our latest roundup of NBA rumors covers all three of these particular situations and more as some of the league's weaker franchises look to make up ground on the rest of the league.
Cavaliers Will Offer Kyrie Irving a Contract Extension
The Cleveland Cavaliers will offer Kyrie Irving big money to stay in town. That is the end of this part of the discussion.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides the details:
My sources tell me that the Cavs have had no doubts about offering Irving the 5-year deal, and will do so. Once July 1 arrives -- the first date that an extension can be offered -- the Cavs will set up a meeting with Irving. They will present their All-Star guard with a contract extension, a 5-year deal in the $90 million range (or whatever is the maximum number).
It is difficult to say if Irving is truly deserving a $90 million contract.
Irving might not even be the best point guard in his draft class. Take a look at how close point guard Isaiah Thomas of the Sacramento Kings was to Irving's level of production in 2013-2014:
Basketball-Reference.com (all stats per game)
Thomas was the No. 60 pick in the 2011 draft; Irving went No. 1 overall that year.
It should also be noted that a max contract is quite a bit of money to fork over to a player who is a poor defender. Irving will have to improve this aspect of his game if he is to truly justify the large contract extension.
The Cavaliers want to keep Irving in town, as he is their most talented player and a known commodity. With the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and improving young players like Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson currently in the fold, the Cavaliers have the potential to become a playoff contender within a year or two.
Or perhaps this is all a ploy to entice LeBron James to come back to his home state and resurrect the franchise with Irving as his expensive sidekick.
Are the Cleveland Cavaliers Honing In on a Head Coach?
So the Cavaliers might have Irving locked up, a roster full of young players and the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
What they lack is a head coach to lead this team through the second post-Mike Brown era.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, two candidates are garnering advanced interest from the Cavaliers brass:
Along with Alvin Gentry, Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue will get a second interview for Cleveland's head coaching job, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 9, 2014
Wojnarowski provided further details on what the second interviews entail:
Gentry and Lue will meet with owner Dan Gilbert in this round of interviews, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 9, 2014
The coaching candidates—both currently members of Doc Rivers' staff with the Los Angeles Clippers—provide the Cavaliers with two very divergent choices.
Alvin Gentry is a veteran coach, having served as either an assistant or head honcho in the NBA since 1989. He's coached the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons to middling results; his career record is 335-370, good for a .475 winning percentage.
Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times notes that Gentry was close to nabbing another high-profile NBA coaching job:
Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry lost out on Utah job to Quin Snyder. But Gentry has a 2nd interview with Cleveland Monday, sources said.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) June 6, 2014
Experience can often lead to trust in a head coach, especially for a young team looking to reverse their recent fortunes. However, the NBA has seen an uptick in young coaches who aren't far removed from their playing days. Tyronn Lue fits into this category.
Lue last played in the 2008-2009 season and was a career backup at point guard, starting just 173 of 554 games in the NBA. He won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of his career, but then bounced around the league after leaving the West Coast. He's been a member of Rivers' staff in Los Angeles and in Boston.
Which potential head coach would be the better fit for the Cavaliers?
Gentry is the safer choice thanks to his wealth of experience, but the Cavaliers will need a stronger presence on the bench if they are to model themselves as a viable free-agent destination, not to mention ensure the approval of Irving.
Lue offers a fresher start to a franchise looking to turn a veritable goldmine of top draft picks into a legitimate contender. He will likely get the nod over Gentry should they find themselves as the finalists in the Cavaliers' coaching search.
Lamar Odom Might Not Be a Big Risk
Phil Jackson seems intent on getting the band back together as team president of the New York Knicks. He strongly pursued Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr—both former players of his—for the role of Knicks head coach.
He also signed former disciple Lamar Odom on the last day of the 2013-2014 regular season; Odom won two championships as a member of the Jackson-coached Los Angeles Lakers.
According to ESPN.com's Ian Begley, Lamar Odom is set to arrive at the Knicks practice facility later this month after working out and rehabbing his back in Los Angeles. It all sounds fairly simple: Odom is a reclamation project of sorts for Jackson.
However, there is another wrinkle to this deal, as the intriguing signing of Odom isn't necessarily as hazardous as it first seemed.
According to a league source, Odom’s deal contains an unguaranteed option for next season. It will be up to the Knicks to exercise the option. This gives the team an opportunity to work Odom out and determine his fitness before committing to him for the 2014-15 season.
It has been quite some time since Odom has been an effective NBA player. After winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2010-2011, Odom struggled mightily over the next two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers. He averaged just 4.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with the latter franchise in 2012-2013.
NorthJersey.com's Steve Popper sees at least one possible role for Odom in New York:
Is it possible that Phil Jackson could make Lamar Odom the Knicks version of Boris Diaw? That would help.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) June 6, 2014
Odom offers Jackson the chance to utilize one of the few NBA players well-versed in his legendary triangle offense. Should Jackson deem that the Knicks coaching staff install his wildly successful system, Odom would provide tactical support on the hardwood along with the requisite veteran leadership.
It is a calculated risk, but the Knicks might not have a problem shedding Odom's contract if he is unfit to play in the NBA.
Can the Charlotte Hornets Draw More Stars to North Carolina?
Michael Jordan, in his esteemed position as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, appears to finally have good reason to be optimistic about the future of his franchise.
According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Jordan has his sights set on bringing another big name to his franchise this summer.
Via Bonnell, Jordan said:
I think we can make a big difference. We did last year with Big Al and some of the other acquisitions. I don’t anticipate this being any different. I think we’ll try to improve on what we did last year, which I’m very proud of.
Last year's signing of Al Jefferson helped the team kick open the door leading out of the NBA basement and move into the bright lights of the playoffs. The master of the left block put up some of the best numbers of his career, averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while forming a great partnership with point guard Kemba Walker.
Charlotte's status as a small-market team makes it a rather unlikely free-agent destination in most NBA epochs.
This incarnation of the team does offer more hope than usual, though. The Hornets quickly vaulted into the playoffs this season—they improved their record by 22 wins to 43-39 last season—and can make even bigger strides in an Eastern Conference currently bereft of quality franchises.
A rising star like the Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons, a likely restricted free agent this offseason, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, checks off most of the boxes on Charlotte's needs list, but he isn't quite the superstar player Jordan likely has in mind.
How many games will the Hornets win in 2014-2015?
The Hornets also own three picks in this year's draft, including the No. 9 overall choice, which could prove enticing to some teams thanks to the perceived quality and depth in this year's draft.
Head coach Steve Clifford will likely require that any player coming into his system is committed to strong defensive play; Charlotte finished sixth in defensive efficiency last season according to ESPN.com's Hollinger rankings.
The Hornets will have to continue their strong effort at this end of the court, as they lack enough quality shooters to overrun their opponents on offense.