Power Ranking Cleveland Cavaliers Roster After Major Offseason Acquisitions
"Frustrated," "concerned" and "in a peculiar place" are not the words you'd want your best players to use when describing a team's offseason.
Such were the sentiments of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving when referring to the Cavs' inability to do anything of significance to close the gap on the Golden State Warriors. The signings of forwards Jeff Green, Cedi Osman and point guard Jose Calderon were fine, and bringing back sharpshooter Kyle Korver on a three-year deal was smart, but every attempt at bringing in another star has fizzled.
Cleveland may not be done, of course. The Cavs still have one open roster spot and $2.4 million left of their taxpayer mid-level exception to use.
Given how close they were to acquiring Paul George, it appears Cleveland is comfortable moving Kevin Love in the right package as well.
With roughly two months remaining until the start of training camp, here's how the Cavs roster ranks out.
14-10: Felder, Tavarez, Calderon, Osman, Jefferson
14. Kay Felder, PG
Contract Remaining: Two years, $2.9 million
Felder is coming off a strong summer-league performance, leading the team in points (15.8) and assists (3.5) while also registering 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game.
"I'm just trying to show that I can lead, trying to show that I can do the things that I did in college," Felder said, via Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon. "Last year I didn't know what to expect. I'm still trying to prove myself, but I know what to expect, know what's expected of me."
He'll begin training camp as the third-string point guard behind Kyrie Irving and veteran Jose Calderon, likely getting another run with the G-League Canton Charge in an attempt to break into the rotation.
13. Edy Tavares, C
Contract Remaining: Two years, $3 million (non-guaranteed)
As the second member of the Cavs' summer-league team officially on the big-boy roster, Tavares averaged 7.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-best 2.8 blocks in 20.1 minutes.
He's the closest thing the Cavaliers possess to a true center and rim protector, as he doesn't even need to jump to contest shots with his 7'3" frame.
However, he's another project on a team that needs to win now. If the Cavs feel they need to clear another roster spot for a veteran, Tavares and his non-guaranteed salary would likely be the first to go.
12. Jose Calderon, PG
Contract Remaining: One year, $2.3 million
Calderon was a serviceable backup as recently as 2015-16, but he'll be 36 by the start of the season, is a poor defender and an overall downgrade from Deron Williams as the team's reserve point guard.
Cleveland can hang its hat on the fact Calderon is a lifetime 40.9 percent shooter from three and that he brings playoff experience with three different franchises. At the least, he gives the Cavs a veteran to begin training camp—something they missed at the start of last year.
11. Cedi Osman, F
Contract Remaining: Three years, $8.3 million
Osman is exactly what the team lacked: young, affordable talent with considerable upside. If Osman cracks the rotation and plays well, great. If he gets beat out by veterans and is reduced to a trade chip come February, that works too. Per Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com:
"An NBA executive texted this to me about Osman: 'He's a 6'8" Delly type of human with a high BBIQ [basketball IQ]. He's shooting [threes] better. Grit. Toughness. Winning player.' He added it was important for the Cavs to be patient with him. He supposedly plays with a Matthew Dellavedova/Anderson Varejao type of hustle."
The Cavs lacked Dellavedova's inspiring hustle and tough play last season. If Osman can bring that same spark while playing defense and knocking down shots, he'll pass some of the team's senior members in the rotation.
10. Richard Jefferson, F
Contract Remaining: One year, $2.5 million
After briefly retiring after the Cavs clinched their 2016 championship, Jefferson will now be playing until he's nearly 38 years old. Despite his age, he was the most durable Cavalier, playing in 79 games last season.
He can still contribute on both ends of the court, as ESPN's Dave McMenamin noted:
"He was the Cavs' strongest bench performer in the NBA Finals, averaging 5.8 points on 44.4 percent shooting against the Golden State Warriors. He was also tasked with guarding Kevin Durant. He defended Durant, the series MVP, on 55 percent of the Warriors' half-court possessions in Game 4, which turned out to be the Cavaliers' only win in a 4-1 series loss."
At less than $3 million, Jefferson is a bargain to have around as a great locker room guy.
9-6: Green, Shumpert, Frye, Korver
9. Jeff Green, F
Contract Remaining: One year, $2.3 million
As Cleveland's "big" outside signing, Green is this year's version of Derrick Williams. Both are former top-five draft picks whose primary strengths are athleticism and versatility. Although neither are good shooters, Williams thrived playing in transition and getting open looks with all the spacing the Big Three created.
Tyronn Lue worked closely with Green as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, where the nine-year veteran averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds from 2010-2015. Cleveland likes his perimeter defense in a future Warriors matchup, as he held opponents to 31.0 percent shooting from deep last season, per NBA.com.
8. Iman Shumpert, SG
Contract Remaining: Two years, $21 million
Shumpert is still fairly young, on a reasonable contract and can be a solid perimeter defender, so naturally the Cavs want to get rid of him.
Despite hitting on most of the team's needs, Cleveland tried to pawn Shumpert off on the Houston Rockets to help ease their luxury-tax bill. After the Rockets signed P.J. Tucker, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com said the team would still try to deal Shumpert.
When healthy and locked in, Shumpert can be a valuable asset, but his inconsistency has prevented him from living up to the $40 million deal he signed in 2015. For now, he's the third-best shooting guard on the roster.
7. Channing Frye, PF/C
Contract Remaining: One year, $7.4 million
One of the most likable players you'll ever come across, Frye is still a tremendous shooter and locker room guy despite his shortcomings. He's not a great rim protector and is slow to close out on three-point shooters, who torched him 42.1 percent of the time, per NBA.com.
Still, given the lack of quality bigs behind Love and Tristan Thompson, expect Frye to be a mainstay in Lue's lineups.
6. Kyle Korver, SG
Contract Remaining: Three years, $21 million
With fellow shooting guards J.J. Redick getting a one-year, $23 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers and Tim Hardaway Jr. breaking the New York Knicks' bank for $71 million, getting Korver to come back for $7 million per year was a great signing for Cleveland.
Korver averaged 10.7 points on 48.5 percent shooting from three in 35 games following his trade to Cleveland last season. He's still an elite floor-spacer who shows great effort on defense.
As the Cavaliers' best reserve, Korver can drop 15-20 points on any given night, giving the starters a spark off the bench.
5. J.R. Smith, SG
Contract Remaining: Three years, $44.1 million
Last season was the toughest of Smith's career in Cleveland. After missing all of training camp in a contract dispute, Smith played just 41 games following a broken thumb. His daughter, Dakota, was born five months premature, causing both Smith and his wife, Jewel Harris, to spend much of the year in the hospital.
Now, Dakota is home and healthy, Smith's contract is finalized and he appears to be 100 percent healed.
Cleveland needs the Smith of 2015-16, as he's one of the team's few two-way players who can hit a big shot and shut down an opponent on the other end.
In the postseason, Lue assigned Smith to guard the likes of Paul George and DeMar DeRozan so LeBron James could conserve energy for the offensive end. At 6'6" and 225 pounds, Smith remains an elite defender when locked in.
After making just 35.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers in the regular season, Smith caught fire for 56.9 percent of such attempts in the playoffs.
He has to become the ultimate three-and-D guy again this season while mixing in the occasional circus shot.
4. Tristan Thompson, C
Contract Remaining: Three years, $52.4 million
Despite his lackluster NBA Finals performance (5.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.6 BPG), Thompson still had a great 2016-17 campaign.
In his first season as a full-time starting center, Thompson put up 8.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while making 60 percent of his shots. While not a traditional shot-blocker, he did hold opponents to nearly 9 percent below their regular shooting mark from inside six feet, per NBA.com.
While he does everything the Cavs ask him to (defending the paint and pick-and-roll, screening, rebounding), it would be nice to see Thompson develop some resemblance of an offensive game heading into the prime of his career. Only about 4 percent of his total shots came from outside 10 feet last season, a total that's dropped each of the past four years.
As the financial landscape of the NBA changes, his $17 million annual salary doesn't seem bad. On a team full of stars and shooters, Thompson is the necessary glue that holds it all together.
3. Kevin Love, PF/C
Contract Remaining: Three years, $72.6 million
It has to be a little awkward for Love to report to training camp this fall knowing full well the Cavs attempted and failed to trade him away.
It's not that the Cavs don't value Love. They do. But a player like Paul George would have proved to be a far better matchup against the Warriors. Love remains the team's best trade chip, provided they refuse to deal Kyrie Irving.
If they do keep Love moving forward, they're getting a 19-point, 11-rebound third option who made great strides on defense and is only getting more acclimated to playing with LeBron James. The Cavs were plus-9.0 points per 100 possessions better with Love on the floor, second only to James' plus-17.0.
Cleveland doesn't appear willing to flip Love for Carmelo Anthony, which is smart, but the team could use him later in case another perimeter star comes on the market. He was far from the team's biggest problem against the Golden State Warriors, but he also serves as their best chance to upgrade.
2. Kyrie Irving, PG
Contract Remaining: Two years, $39 million
Although he can opt in to a third year worth over $21 million, Irving will almost certainly choose unrestricted free agency and a bigger payday in 2019. That's not to say he'll leave Cleveland, but rather that the Cavs have just two more guaranteed years to maximize his prime.
After hitting the series-deciding shot in the 2016 Finals, Irving followed it up with his best overall regular season. There's still room for improvement, though, as Brady Klopfer of BBallBreakdown.com notes:
"Irving is an elite scorer, finishing this year 11th in the league with 25.2 points per game and a true-shooting percentage of .580. When a possession ends in Irving shooting, it's bound to be a net positive for his team. But basketball is a fluid game, with all five pieces influencing each other at all times.
"Irving is an isolation scorer, not a system scorer, which means he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. On the year, Irving's touches were an average of 4.85 seconds long, with 4.71 dribbles—incredibly high numbers that were only surpassed by garbage-time players and assist-hunting point guards."
As long as Irving has a pass-happy star to play alongside, he should thrive. Ask him to carry a lineup or unit, and trouble can appear.
Although he'd be the team's best trade piece, there's been no mention of dealing the 25-year-old as he heads into year seven with the Cavs.
1. LeBron James, SF
Contract Remaining: One year, $33.3 million
James registered another herculean season, putting up 26.4 points on 54.8 percent shooting to go along with a career-best 8.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He took the Cavs to the Finals for the third straight time, and his seventh in a row, and still was completely left off some MVP ballots.
Before Los Angeles, Houston or other franchises come calling, this is the best situation for James.
His legacy of coming home for good and delivering a title would be secure, the Cavaliers still have little competition in the Eastern Conference, and players like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson should be improving.
James' oldest son, LeBron James Jr., is just two years away from entering St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Not only is this James' alma mater, but his former head coach, Dru Joyce II, roams the sidelines. They won their seventh state title this past spring, a number that should only climb with James Jr. on board.
With just a short drive to watch his sons play, moving across the country would be a tough decision for James, no matter how successful his personal career may be.
Although right to be frustrated by the Cavaliers' lackluster offseason, this is the best place for James.