The Cleveland Cavaliers just came off one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, yet here we are soon after the finals trying to figure out what they need to do to keep pace with the amazing Golden State Warriors. The Warriors proved to be too much even for the super-human LeBron James and his supporting cast. Rumors have already been swirling about potential moves Cleveland could or should make to close the gap between them and the defending champion Warriors. Many of the proposed moves that are being thrown out on talk radio and other places on the web are completely insane, but some others actually make great sense.
For Cleveland it ultimately boils down to building a roster that is capable of winning a seven game series against the four-headed monster out in the Bay Area. There is no real threat to Cleveland in the East, so another trip to the NBA Finals seems inevitable, but once they get there they need to be sure they have enough fire power to stand a chance against the most potent offense the NBA has ever seen. Today we will get into 15 potential moves the Cavs could make, eight of them being absolute home runs that should make, and seven of them which would be major steps in the wrong direction.
15 Should - Trade J.R. Smith
The Cavaliers made a giant mistake when they signed JR for four years and nearly $50 million prior to the 2016-17 season. Smith showed major decline this past season, and his body has already began to show signs of breaking down. The Cavs owe him over $10 million next season, almost $15 million the following year and a whopping $15.6 million in 2019-20.
What Cleveland needs to do is take the hit and eat a big chunk of his contract and find a team that has interest in Smith. He is still fully capable of making a contribution to a team, its just that his contract does not match his production and both will be going in different directions over the coming years. Smith could be a perfect piece to throw into a potential trade this summer when the Cavaliers look to bring in another superstar or two.
14 Should Not - Re-sign Deron Williams
Deron Williams was once a premier point guard in the NBA. Heck it wasn't even that long ago that he and LeBron James shared the court together for Team USA. Sadly for Williams, however, those times have come and gone, and they are not ever going to return.
Williams was given countless opportunities during the playoffs to show what he still had left in the tank. Despite being given more minutes than a traditional back up point guard receives, Williams showed that his best days are long behind him. The Cavs should be on the hunt for a new back up point guard immediately. With his sorry showing in last year's playoffs, Williams may have played himself out of the NBA. If he is given another shot, Cleveland absolutely should not be the team that gives it to him.
13 Should - Trade Tristan Thompson
Even though he completely disappeared in the Finals last year, Tristan Thompson is still viewed as an elite rebounder, especially on the offensive end. His toughness and durability provide any potential trade partner the comfort of knowing he will show up to work day in and day out giving it his all.
With all that being said, it appears now is the right time for the Cavaliers to ship Thompson out of town. Aside from the fact that LeBron James has reportedly banned Tristan's significant other, Khloe Kardashian from Oracle Arena, there are other reasons for the Cavs to now separate themselves from Thompson. Cleveland did overpay him in 2016 which may make it more difficult to trade him, but his high level of play still gives other team a reason to be eager to acquire him. If the Cavs play their cards right, Thompson could be a major piece in a trade that lands them another superstar.
12 Should Not - Release Richard Jefferson
If it feels like Richard Jefferson has been in the NBA forever, it is probably because he has been. At 36 years old, Jefferson was tied with a few others as the oldest player on the Cavaliers roster. However, Jefferson was called upon to play crucial minutes during the Cavaliers playoff run. One thing Jefferson always brings to the game is desire, it is amazing to watch a 36 year old man out hustle 25 year olds to loose balls. In some ways Jefferson was the heart of the Cavaliers teams' over the past two years.
With RJ still under contract for the next two seasons it only makes sense for the Cavs to keep him. What makes it even easier is the minimal amount of money Jefferson is costing Cleveland against the cap. Jefferson is due just over $ 5 million over the next two seasons, compare that to the $21 million they owe Iman Shumpert over the same time period and it's easy to see why keeping Jefferson should be a priority for the Cavaliers.
11 Should - Sign Some Cheap Ring Chasers
As guys get older and into the twilight of their careers they tend to sacrifice potential earnings in exchange for a real chance at a title. Look at a guy like David West for example. The previous two seasons he has taken the league minimum to play for the Spurs and the Warriors, he could have received much more money with a non-contender, but he wanted a ring so he took less money, and he got his ring. Players like West go to contenders every summer, and Cleveland needs to take advantage this time around.
There are a long list of players who could fill this role for the Cavaliers next season. Players like Vince Carter, Nick Young, Taj Gibson, and Zach Randolph immediately come to mind. Players who were once the center piece to a team, but have seen their skills slide in recent years are ideal candidates. Players such as the ones listed above still have plenty to contribute to a team skill wise, but they also bring a fire and a hunger to a team that can help put them over the top.
10 Should Not - Re-Sign Kyle Korver
This one might be the hardest for the Cavs to avoid doing. Kyle Korver had a less than average playoff run and an especially terrible Finals series, however, looking at such a small sample size is not quite fair to one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters the game has ever seen. Korver is still a quality NBA player, who given the right situation can be a legitimate offensive option for a team.
The problem with Kyle in Cleveland is that the Cavs roster is not set up for him to succeed. Best case scenario Korver is the third or fourth offensive option in any line-up Cleveland uses. Being hidden on offense is not good for Kyle, he needs to have plays ran for him, and in Cleveland that is just not going to happen with all the offensive star power they have. The Cavs should go in the direction of a 3-and D type of player in place of Korver. A Danny Green, or Thabo Sefalosha type would be more suited for the Cavaliers roster.
9 Should - Trade Kevin Love
Kevin Love was supposed to round out one of the best "Big 3's" in league history, and for the most part he did that. With Love on the team, the Cavaliers have reached three straight NBA Finals, however, only winning one of them. Over his three years in Cleveland Kevin has been somewhat reduced to a spot-up shooter, and he has proven that he is capable of much more than that.
Love is now a champion, and a multiple time All-Star. His contract is not entirely outrageous for what he is able to bring to a team. After losing to the Warriors in dominating fashion it has become clear that Cleveland needs to make a major move. There have been rumors swirling lately that the Pacers and 76ers would be willing to make a three team deal in which Love goes to Philly, and the Cavs acquire Paul George. If that deal in still on the table tomorrow, the Cavs should jump all over it!
8 Should Not - Trade Kyrie Irving
Kyrie has had a plethora of injuries in his young career, and in the 2017 Finals he seemed to take the first two games off. Some have suggested that the Cavs move in a different direction from Kyrie, saying he is too ball dominant and that he doesn't mesh well enough with LeBron James. There are rumors everywhere suggesting Cleveland may send Kyrie to the Clippers in exchange for Chris Paul, its even been said that they should trade him for draft picks and try to sign Rajon Rondo.
At only 25 years old, Kyrie is one of the most accomplished players in the league. His contract size is appropriate for his output, and he is still getting better. To trade him now would be a major mistake for Cleveland, even if they would receive CP3 or Rondo in return. Kyrie has shown that he has the killer instinct and he thrives when the lights are the brightest. If the Cavs want to sustain their level of dominance over the Eastern Conference they would be wise to keep Kyrie right where he is.
7 Should - Fire Tyronn Lue
It has been a long running joke about the Cavaliers that LeBron James is the actual coach of the team, and that be it Ty Lue, David Blatt, or whoever else has the title of coach is simply there as a place holder. After replacing David Blatt mid-way through the 2016 season Lue has "led" the Cavs to back to back NBA Finals. It is the worst kept secret, however, that LeBron doesn't always let Lue call the plays for the team. James has still been forced to play the role of player and coach due to Cleveland's inept ability to sign a quality established NBA coach.
There are plenty of viable options for Cleveland to pick from if they do decide to move on from Ty Lue, that list includes ABC's commentating duo of Jeff Van Gundy and Marc Jackson. Also potential coaches on the market are guys like Maurice Cheeks, Mike Woodson, and Mike Brown.
6 Should Not - Trade for Carmelo Anthony
Once one of the premier scoring threats in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony has taken a step back over the past few seasons. It appears the losing culture in NYC has taken a toll on his passion for the game, and his body has begun to look softer than it ever has before. Still an threat to drop 30 points on any given night, Melo is no longer the guaranteed 30 per night he used to be.
Adding Melo would cost the Cavs, at minimum Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. A trade like that would be a wash at best for the Cavs, they would be better off staying pat. The style of offense Cleveland plays would probably suit Melo well, but it would be everything else that scares me off of this trade if I was Cleveland. The rebounding and defense you lost with Love and Shumpert would be too great a lose, and even Carmelo's added scoring would not make up for what they lose. As tempting as it is, and we all know LeBron and Melo are BFF's, but this would not be a good move for Cleveland.
5 Should - Hire Marc Jackson
This one seems like a no-brainer doesn't it? Why would you not want to take the guy who helped set up everything the Warriors are doing and bring him to your team? Marc Jackson got the raw end of the deal when the Warriors fired him just as they were getting ready to go on a run of three straight NBA Finals appearances. Jackson was a great coach who was loved by his players and respected by his peers.
During his time with the Warriors he cultivated an environment of unselfishness, as well as grooming Steph and Klay to become the greatest shooting backcourt to ever play together. If he were willing to make a comeback to coaching, which he has hinted at several times, Cleveland would be fools not to pick him up immediately.
4 Should Not - Sign Chris Paul
This is a tough one as well. Its a known fact that Chris Paul and Lebron James have wanted to play together since they were teenagers. Paul and James are the same age and have had chemistry dating back to the 2003 McDonald's High School All-America game. However, with all the chemistry and nostalgia, it would not make a whole lot of sense for Cleveland to sign Chris Paul.
The Cavaliers already have a proven star at point guard, so bringing in Chris Paul assumes you are going to either move Kyrie off ball, or trade him. As Kyrie is entering his prime years, Chris Paul is getting further and further away from his, and as LeBron James ages, the Cavaliers are going to want as many young studs as they can have. Although it may seem tempting, it is fools gold for Cleveland to pursue Chris Paul at this time.
3 Should - Keep LeBron Happy
With the Cavaliers dismissing GM David Griffin just days before the draft, LeBron came out and said he was disappointed with the decision to let the team's GM walk. We don't know how much of an influence LeBron has over the decisions made in Cleveland; whether it was in fact LeBron who voiced some displeasure with Griffin's work, or if it was in fact the decision of upper management, this could very well be LeBron's last season in Cleveland if the Cavs don't do everything in their power to keep LeBron happy.
Rumors have kept swirling that LeBron will in fact opt out of his deal in Cleveland and move on next summer, so this could be Cleveland's last shot at a title. They have to keep their star happy and motivated and get him the pieces he wants.
2 Should Not - Trade LeBron James
How... ? Why... ? I guess when you lose the championship everything is on the table, but it would shock the entire sports world if the Cavaliers decided to trade LeBron James. However, it has been discussed. The justification for potentially trading the best player in the world is that after next season James will have the opportunity to enter free agency once again, and we all remember what happened last time he was a free agent in Cleveland. So to protect themselves, Cleveland could perhaps consider trading James now and receive a bounty in return.
This is just flawed logic in many respects though. If you have the best player in the world and a good supporting cast, you do not throw that away simply out of fear for what may happen in the future. Any sports general manager will tell you if you have a chance to win it all, you throw everything into that opportunity because nothing is guaranteed in sports.
1 Should - Trade for Paul George
Paul George recently informed the Indiana Pacers that he plans on entering free agency after next season, and he will likely not be signing back in Indy. The Pacers are now the most contacted team in the league. Paul George is a top ten player in the league, and he is openly saying he wants to play somewhere else, Cleveland NEEDS to go after him with all they have.
The rumors have already started to fly, and early reports are they Indy would be interested in a 3-team deal involving the 76ers and some of their young talent and draft picks. The Cavaliers would be forced to involve Kevin Love in this trade scenario, but that may not be the worst thing. If Cleveland is able to land Paul George with only losing Love, that would leave them with enough pieces to peruse a trade with the Bulls to get Jimmy Butler as well. Could you imagine a Cleveland line-up that includes LeBron, Kyrie, Jimmy Butler and Paul George, that would certainly rival the "big 4" of Golden State.