Ring Chasing: Veteran Free Agents Cleveland Cavaliers Could Still Use
Veteran free agents just keep jumping on board the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff-bound ship.
ESPN's Marc Stein reports that 15-year-vet Shawn Marion will sign a one-year deal with the Cavs sometime this month.
Marion's signing follows longtime NBA players Mike Miller and James Jones' agreement to join LeBron James in Cleveland.
Despite all these additions, the Cavaliers could still use some help. They lack a proven backup at center behind Anderson Varejao and have Matthew Dellavedova as the primary reserve to Kyrie Irving. Nothing against Delly, but a little more experience would be a nice insurance policy.
Since the Cavs are over the salary cap, they can only add players via veteran-minimum contracts.
Lucky for them, plenty of former big names are still on the market who may be interested in chasing a ring, even at such a discounted price.
Kenyon Martin, PF/C
Key Skill/Stat: Attitude/Toughness
The Cavaliers need that extra big behind Varejao, someone who can help protect the rim, defend and bring a little energy off the bench.
Martin could be that guy.
Now 36 and 14 years removed from being the first overall pick of the 2000 NBA draft, K-Mart can still be a valuable role player on a contender.
He averaged just 4.3 points and 4.2 rebounds a game for the Knicks last season but played solid defense and brought some intensity to his position. According to 82games.com, opposing centers registered just a 10.9 PER against him, well below the league average of 15.
Martin could fill the same role of Chris "Birdman" Andersen of the Miami Heat: check in for 10-15 minutes, throw down a dunk and block a shot while letting out a yell. It may seem small, but even simple plays like that can ignite a team.
Martin's passion, defense and leaping ability would be welcome in Cleveland.
Chauncey Billups PG/SG
Key Skill/Stat: Leadership, former NBA Finals MVP
While he may yet retire, Billups has been on the Cavaliers' radar for a few weeks now.
Scott Sargent of Waiting For Next Year had this to say back in early August:
Could Chauncey Billups be the next veteran to join the Cleveland Cavaliers? Multiple sources tell WFNY that Billups, a five-time NBA All-Star, spent Tuesday in Cleveland with Cavs head assistant coach Tyronn Lue, ultimately finishing up his trip with a Warehouse District dinner meeting alongside Lue, Cavs general manager David Griffin, head coach David Blatt.
Bringing in Billups would probably help more off the court than on it. Highly respected around the league with a possible future in coaching or front office work, Billups would bring a wealth of knowledge to the Cavaliers.
Cleveland is currently just two-deep at the point guard position with Irving and Dellavedova, with only four years of experience between the two. Billups' playing time would be sparse, but his working with Irving on a daily basis would be huge for Kyrie's development.
After all the battles between the Detroit Pistons and Cavaliers from 2005-10, seeing Billups on Cleveland's side may be weird at first, but definitely a sight worth getting used to.
Emeka Okafor, C
Key Skill/Stat: 9.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game for career
Yes, Okafor played the same amount of NBA games as you and I did last year, but he's still a player worth keeping an eye on.
The former No. 2 overall pick of the 2004 draft, Okafor is 31 and coming off surgery following a herniated disk in his neck that caused him to miss the entire 2013-14 season.
While his current status is still very much a mystery, one has to assume Okafor may not be ready for the start of this season either.
Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated tells us more:
The fact that he has not publicly worked out for any teams nor drawn much attention in the rumor mill at the very least suggests that Okafor might not be ready, perhaps setting up the veteran center as a target for a midseason signing.
Whenever he's ready to contribute, the Cavs should pounce.
Okafor averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game for the Washington Wizards during the 2012-13 season. He's a thick 6'10", 250 pounds and would give Cleveland some much-needed muscle inside.
Ray Allen, SG
Key Skill/Stat: 40.0 percent career three-point shooter
Allen turned 39 this summer but may not be ready to call it a career just yet.
The NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made can still light it up from deep. Allen converted 39.8 percent of his long-range shots the past two seasons while a member of the Miami Heat.
James, Miller and Jones have all reached out to their former Heat teammate about coming to Cleveland, and Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cavs are "optimistic" about signing Allen sometime before training camp begins.
At this point, Allen would be sprinkles on Cleveland's cake instead of the actual frosting. Irving, Miller, Jones and Dion Waiters can provide plenty of outside shooting. Allen's addition would be nice, but certainly not necessary.
His big-game experience would be a welcome addition, however, as would his possible mentorship to young guards like Irving and Waiters.
Elton Brand, PF/C
Key Skill/Stat: 1.8 blocks per game for career
Another former star player turned bench contributor, Brand would be a perfect backup center to Varejao.
Like Okafor, he's a bruiser who can bang down low and doesn't shy away from contact. Unlike Okafor, he should be ready to play right away, providing retirement isn't on the horizon.
After Al Horford was lost for the season, Brand stepped up for the Atlanta Hawks despite being undersized at center. Primarily a power forward during his 14 seasons, Brand spent 94 percent of his court time with Atlanta at the five.
The results were actually quite positive.
Brand averaged the equivalent of 10.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes of play. The Cavaliers were next to last in the NBA in blocked shots a season ago, a skill Brand has excelled at throughout his career.
While Cleveland could always use another shooter, their biggest need is now at the center position. Brand may just be the best unrestricted free agent out there to fill the role.
All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.