Free agency 2013 is now about 2 days old and we are seeing a pattern develop thus far for the Cavs. The free agent chatter with the Cavs is minimal to none. Names are scattered around and “linked” to the Cavs but only one seems to be serious thus far. Earl Clark, at best a minor upgrade to the current roster, may be coming back for his second visit. I am not trying to downgrade a Cavs player before he even becomes a Cavs player but really? Now I have heard from some good NBA fans who know Clark a bit better than I that he is a decent player. Plus, he is only 25 years old. So those are good things. But if this is the type of player the Cavs are targeting in free agency, they are not likely to upgrade the team much or at all. I do think that the Cavs draft will help some as I outlined in my Cavs Draft Analysis. But I think the early stages of free agency is supporting my view of the Cavs front office strategy being very passive in free agency as in previous years.
A few recent tidbits that have been reported support my contention that Cleveland will be a very hard sell, especially to star level free agents. Brian Windhorst tweeted that an agent told him there is a “Cleveland Premium” that must be paid for Cleveland to land any free agents. Our abysmal record over the past three years also makes the Cavs more a place to go and die in your career as opposed to catapulting your career to a championship. Kyrie Irving certainly helps but most free agent contracts would end after he is eligible to leave as a free agent. And we already know that when we had the best player in the game, he wasn’t able to get a high profile star to come to the Cavs. (Yes, I know, Larry Hughes had something to do with that as well.) So the evidence points early along to two ways for the Cavs to get significantly better: 1) A major trade or two major trades 2) Another “Wait for Next Year” season with the hope of signing 2 stars for next year and get one excellent player in the draft. I honestly do not think the Cavs will take the totally passive and very risky approach outlined in number 2. So I believe that leaves us with option 1 or, what I hope, that neither option is correct and the Cavs are simply playing possum in free agency.
Maybe I am wrong and even very good near star players like Collison, Jefferson (who is the best name in the group), and Pekovic will not be possible to attract to Cleveland. If that is the case, then we have NO reason to wait for the 2014 class because that is a laundry list of stars who will have no incentive to come to the Cavs unless no one else can offer them equal money (which might be the case in 2014). I still would like the Cavs to sign one of the 2013 group at least to boost our chances of playoffs and maybe a round one upset. If we don’t sign a player who can significantly upgrade our roster, we are left with trades and minor free agent signings.
Sam Amico from Fox Sports Ohio has made it clear that the Cavs are much more likely to take the trade approach as opposed to signing any significant free agents. As more information comes out, it seems a bit clearer that the Cavs might have some trade possibilities available as this free agent class begins to sign with other teams. Although I welcome a good trade that upgrades our team without trashing our cap space and flexibility, I am worried that we might not be able to pull that off. Is it really better, for instance, for the Cavs to get a couple of years out of Pau Gasol and lose Tristan Thompson? I really don’t think so. But am I wrong? Why not try to sign a free agent player or two and see how this team does without trading away our high draft pick core young players? And if we are helping a team stay under the luxury tax by taking on a high priced player, why should the Cavs have to give up much? I would love to add to the young core we have so patiently drafted and see how they do together. If it isn’t going to work, it will show on the court and the Cavs can adjust from there. Almost no risk in that approach.
If the Cavs do trade, I will restate my case that it would be very dangerous to trade Waiters or Tristan. I believe they have substantial upside remaining (most certainly Waiters) and Tristan has become the leader on the team of the young group. His maturity and intensity were unmatched on the Cavs last year. We just MUST find a way not to trade Kyrie, Dion, Tristan or Bennett. As I size this up further, despite the reduced trade value of Andy, I really think Andy, Alonzo, or maybe Zeller would be the ones we could best part with in a trade. Also, we need to be ready to start including some draft picks in deals if necessary. So I am hopeful if we have a trade ready to go, it includes some combination of those players and pics. If we trade any of the 4 I suggested we don’t trade, it had better be a phenomenal deal for the Cavs bringing back a multiyear All Star and draft pics.
I tried in this post to update my thinking as I see the information unfold in this free agent season. I am beginning to accept the fact that the Cavs will not use my recommended approach and that a trade is coming. I wish Chris Grant the best in his search to improve next year’s Cavs team and beyond. If a trade happens, I will be make sure my thoughts are known.