The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their full complement of weapons to start the season after re-signing J.R. Smith on October 14.
The Cavs and Smith agreed to a four-year,$57 million deal ending a stalemate that lasted over three months on Friday. The fourth year of the pact is non-guaranteed, unless Smith is on the team following the 2018-2019 season, meaning that he will earn $45 million over the first three years of the pact according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
As a result of signing Smith, Cleveland waived veteran point guard Toney Douglas in a corresponding move to get back down to the league maximum 20 training camp players. Douglas was considered a long-shot to make the team after joining the team less than two weeks ago. The 30-year-old made five preseason appearances for the Cavaliers and owned averages of 2.2 points to go along with 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 11 minutes per game.
With Smith finally in the mix, Cleveland’s 15-man roster is almost set though there are still a few more decisions the team has to make. Smith is slated to join Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love in the Cavs’ starting lineup when the Cavaliers open the regular season at home against the New York Knicks on October 25. Iman Shumpert, Mike Dunleavy, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson will likely see the most time off the bench. Chris Anderson, Kay Felder and James Jones, and Jordan McRae are also assured a roster spot.
That leaves six players theoretically battling for the team’s final roster spot as retired point guard Mo Williams still occupies a slot on the roster reports Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Pluto wrote that the Cavs are working on a settlement with Williams, who just had knee surgery, but until the stalemate ends the Cavaliers won’t be able to carry 15 players. He added that DeAndre Liggins and Dahntay Jones are probably the leaders to earn the final roster spot.
Liggins scored a preseason-high 12 points in his last outing against the Chicago Bulls (October 14). He has put up 6.2 points along with 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game while 42.9 percent from the field through five games. In the meantime, Jones has contributed nine points and five rebounds in 41 minutes over two preseason contests. The 35-year-old does have experience on his side, though.
Cory Jefferson, Markel Brown, John Holland and Jonathan Holmes are also in training camp. All four players are candidates to be assigned to be to the D-League’s Canton Charge as affiliate players for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland’s biggest issues heading into the season appears to be who will get minutes at point guard behind Irving, and the team’s luxury tax issues. Head coach Tyronn Lue told Sam Amico of Amico Hoops that he is still working on point guard issue.
“We’re still working on that. We may have to do it by committee. Different nights may call for different players.”
The Cavaliers 2016-17 payroll currently stands at $125 million, meaning that their luxury tax bill could be around $30 million. The Cavs paid a record-setting $54 million in taxes last season.
Cleveland could reduce its payroll by trading Shumpert, but that scenario is highly unlikely per Joe Virdon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Shumpert is coming off his worst season of his career in 2015-16 and is owed $31 million over the next three seasons — including $9.7 million this season.
Shumpert also has looked great this preseason, totaling 5.6 points along with 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists while turning the ball over twice a game. He has made 6-of-13 shots from the field (46.1 percent) and 4-of-6 on three-point attempts (66.7 percent).
In other news, several other teams have reportedly inquired about McRae’s availability in a trade. McRae is a pure scorer and has been fabulous this preseason for the Cavs. The six-foot-five combo guard has scored in double-figures in each of the five preseason games thus far, averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. He is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from the three-point line.
Also, Stein said that the Cavs could pursue free agent Mario Chalmers once he is fully recovered a ruptured Achilles that ended his 2015-16 season prematurely.
“…rumbles persist that Cleveland has strong interest in reuniting LeBron James with his old Miami teammate Mario Chalmers when the veteran point guard is sufficiently healthy to return from Achilles surgery in March.”
Before getting injured, Chalmers was having an excellent season with the Memphis Grizzlies. The 30-year-old averaged a career-high 10.8 points and 3.8 assists over 22.8 minutes a game in 55 contests with the Griz. He shot 41.7 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from beyond the arc after being traded from the Miami Heat. Chalmers averages 9.0 points as he shoots 42.1 percent from the field and 35.8 percent on his three-point attempts for his career.
[Featured Image by Ron Schwane/AP Images]