So, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers are heading into free agency this summer, with June 11 being the first day that free agents can begin signing with teams, with a bleak outlook. As much as the Cavs overcame the odds of team parity among teammates, issues with point guard leadership and a general slack that was evident throughout the 2006-07 season, the team is now looking to upgrade the roster. But at what cost?
This is the time where young players like Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic, both international players from Brazil and Serbia, respectively, can cash in on their growth in the league and truly get a chance to be catered to by the league’s brethren of teams. The problem is that the Cavs only have so much money to spend. With Damon Jones going into the second half of a four-year, $16 million deal, franchise center Zydrunas Ilgauskas making $10 million (even though his productivity has been limited within the past two seasons) and oft-injured combo guard Larry Hughes making the maximum amount of money allowable for a then-7-year veteran, expensive deals for Varejao and Pavlovic can really throw a wrench in the Cavs’ plans to proceed with those two in tow.
It’s possible that Varejao could make $8 million, but that would possibly undermine Pavlovic cashing in on a deal with Cleveland if he’s offered anything near $5 million from another team (as both players can be signed away from other teams, as they are restricted free agents). What’s the solution for a low-stress offseason?
First, the Cavs should wait on both players to bring outside offers from other teams. In the case of Varejao, if he gets a high-dollar contract, try at all costs to retain him if the annual value for his services falls between $6-8 million. Cleveland needs to keep an energetic big man on the roster, it’s that simple.
In Pavlovic’s case, it’s a matter of the state of the guards on the Cavalier roster. The season(s)-long issue for Cleveland has been solving the backcourt problem, with special regards placed on point guard. The 2007 Playoffs proved that Larry Hughes at point guard with either Pavlovic or Daniel Gibson was the most responsive solution, as Hughes provided great size and decent handle for the position. Considering all three players are also combination guards who really aren’t true at the point or wing position, the pressure is lessened (especially when your best player is really a point guard himself in LeBron James).
How this affects Pavlovic is simple: don’t overpay for him. While he showed growth at the defensive end, his development came about from the season-long injuries suffered to rookie Shannon Brown, who would’ve occupied his starting position. For $3 million, the Serbian is a great deal with a great mix of size, skill, and potential, but anything more than $ 4 million would already put the Cavs’ in a financial red area, because Brown is now ready to take on the load he sought to carry for the upcoming season. In that case, making sure that Cleveland could get compensation in the form of a future 1st-round pick or skilled shooter would be appropriate.
In a perfect world, the Cavs would be able to unload the heavy-laden contracts of Ilgauskas, Hughes, and even Damon Jones, if he weren’t such a horrid defender and streak shooter. But in the end, if the Cavaliers have their hats hung on keeping the wild-haired Brazilian and Pavlovic for relatively decent and fair deals (not to mention the growth of Gibson and Brown), everyone else in Cleveland should remove their overcoats as well and have a party … for a trip to next year’s Finals.