The Cleveland Cavaliers have received solid reviews for their moves this offseason, but the Cavs still have some work to do.
The Cavs have mainly kept their 2016 World Championship squad intact this offseason, with LeBron James officially telling the team (July 18) that he will be definitely be back next year, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Windhorst added that there is currently no timetable for James to sign a contract, as he is currently on vacation and spending time with his family.
With James essentially back in the fold, Cleveland now has 12 players under contract. The Cavs have already re-signed Richard Jefferson, brought in Chris Anderson, and traded for Mike Dunleavy this offseason. They did lose Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova in free agency, though.
Cleveland’s next order of business is to sign its two remaining free agents, J.R. Smith and James Jones, as well as agreeing to a contract with 2016 second-round draft pick Kay Felder. Both Smith and Jones reportedly want to return this upcoming season.
There are several hang-ups to the Cavaliers plan, however. Cleveland is already over the salary cap, and both Smith and Jones have other options. Plus, Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting the Cavs and Smith are far apart from a deal, as Smith is apparently seeking $15 million a year.
Smith was the Cavaliers fourth-leading scorer last year, averaging 12.8 points a game while canning 2.6 three-pointers and shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. The 30-year-old also posted a double-double and had his highest assist-to-turnover ratio of his career (2.20-to-1).
“I’ve thought about that situation and I’ve thought about it the other way too — going back and winning again,” Smith said when asked if there’s a chance he won’t be back with the Cavs. “I’m actually kind of nervous about that choice when it gets presented to me.”
It should not be a surprise that Smith is seeking around the number he is purportedly asking for given the fact that other players have received around that figure – such as Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. He became a free agent after opting out of his two-year, $10.37 million contract that he signed last summer. Cleveland does own Smith’s Bird rights.
The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have been among the teams in the Eastern Conference rumored to have interest in the veteran shooting guard. Per Pro Sports Daily, Smith has not received an offer from any other team
Jones and the Cavs also have been in talks about a deal, but nothing has materialized yet. RealGM noted that the soon-to-be 36-year-old has other teams interested in him.
Jones appeared in 48 games last season, seeing around 9.6 minutes of court time. He averaged 3.7 points and 1.0 board while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Jones’ importance to the Cavs and James expands beyond what he does on the court. A longtime teammate of James, Jones has been lauded for his leadership and relationship with the media.
Felder, who was selected in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks, had a fantastic summer league campaign. The Cavs acquired the 5-foot-9 point guard for cash considerations.
Felder averaged 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in seven games in Las Vegas recently. He shot 42 percent (42-of-100) from the floor after having a few poor shooting games down the stretch. Felder was 5-of-22 from long-distance (22.7 percent) and will need to be able to knock down his three-point attempts on a more consistent basis if he wants to make the Cavs’ 15-man roster.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Felder, Jordan McRae and DeAndre Liggins along with Dahntay Jones will likely battle for the team’s last roster spot — this is assuming the Cavaliers indeed sign Jones and Smith. McRae and Jones have non-guaranteed pacts for this season.
McRae was named to the Las Vegas First Team All-Summer League, averaging 24.3 points along with 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists. The 6-foot-6 wing reached double-figures in each of his seven contests, topping the 20-point plateau five times and twice pouring in 30. He did struggle shooting from the floor, making 37.6 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.
McRae averaged 4.5 points and 1.1 assists over 8.9 minutes of action in 22 games last year for the Cavaliers.
Liggins is a 3-and-D type player. The 28-year-old averaged 5.9 points and 5.0 rebounds this summer while shooting 50 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from long-distance. He played for the D-League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce this past season.
Liggins has not played in the NBA since making one appearance for the Miami Heat in 2o13-14. The 6-foot-6 wing has logged time in 57 NBA games, producing career averages of 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds.
Jones, like McRae, was a late season addition. The 35-year-old appeared in just one regular season game, though he managed to get limited time in the playoffs.
[Ron Schwane/AP Photo]