Quick disclaimer at the start of this post: this is my first attempt at a fanpost, and this will primarily be from the perspective of a fan. I'm not that great with statistics. This post will attempt to include some statistical backups, but it will primarily deal with what I've seen and how I've felt about Luke.
I spent a lot of time lurking on this site, and only really started becoming an active poster on game threads and articles at the beginning of this season. My participation in game threads consisted almost exclusively of Luke Walton hate. I couldn't stand his inability to score, the dumb defensive breakdowns, and the guaranteed two airballs per game. To me, Luke Walton represented everything that was bad with the Cavs about the 7-25 start. It annoyed me to no end that, in a season that is all about developing young talent, we were wasting minutes on a complete stiff.
Since the new year, however, my attitude towards Luke completely changed. The things that I hated about him haven't particularly changed - he's still barely scoring (averaging 4.1 ppg since 1/2), still is athletically outmatched on defense, and an airball 3 is guaranteed every game - but I have come to appreciate the good things he brings to the table as well. Luke provides to essential things to this current iteration of the Cavs every game - he calms down the team with his experienced presence, and he facilitates ball movement when the young team starts standing around and watching the ball. Over the same stretch since 1/2, Walton has averaged 3.4 assists per game.
Since the Jon Leuer trade, Walton has found success with 5 man units such as Walton/Livingston/Speights/Miles/Ellington that is averaging 4 more points per 100 possessions than their opposition, and Walton/Irving/Waiters/Thompson/Livingston/Gee that is averaging 8.6 more points per 100 possessions than their opposition. To be fair, there are also some complete dumpster fire 5 man units, such as Walton/Irving/Waiters/Zeller/Gee that is giving up -57 points per 100 possessions to opponents - though it's hard to think of a worse defensive 5 the Cavs could trot out there.
So, what do we know we're getting from Luke Walton? We know we're getting some bad shots and some bad defense. We know we're getting some excellent passing from a big man, and a veteran presence that is desperately needed by this young team. We're getting a player with supreme court vision. We're getting a member of a bench unit that has been a huge part of the recent success of this team. We're getting airballs - oh Lord, the airballs. We know Coach Scott trusts him to play between 15-20 minutes per game. And yes, we're getting plays like this.
Four months ago, if you told me that I would have considered using a bench spot on Luke Walton for 2013-14, I would have laughed. I might still be laughing. But, if you told me right now that we signed Luke to a 1 year contract somewhere between the veteran's minimum and $2 million, I would be pretty happy. I think we need the veteran presence, and I think he has skills that the young guys on the team could do well to learn from. The question is, do we have the space to keep him around?
I mentioned in the comment section of the Cavs/Raptors game recap that I would love to keep him around. User HaroldRamis responded with the potential Cavs roster for next season, assuming we re-sign our current bench unit. The team would be comprised of Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Varejao, Zeller, Gee, Livingston, Ellington, Speights, Miles, and 2 drafted rookies. That's 12 players right there. Personally, I think it's a long shot that all four of Livingston, Ellington, Speights, and Miles return, but even if three out of the four return, that means we'd be using one of our final roster spots that could be used to sign another, more skilled veteran that could help us win and take a run at the playoffs on Luke.
Having said all of that, my opinion is as follows. I would imagine Luke knows that there aren't many doors open to him in the NBA at this point. We know that Coach Scott trusts Luke and wants him around the team. I bet Luke would take less money to stick around this young team and try and help it go places if we have a roster spot for him. If we don't, and Luke doesn't seem to think he can make it on another team, perhaps he could end up with a coaching spot on Scott's staff. So in the event that we have a roster spot, I'd love to see him stick around on a cheap contract. If there is no spot and he has no offers from other teams, I'd love to see him stick around and help the team as an assistant coach. All I know is that in 2 months he completely changed my mind on how I feel about him.
Of course, I could be entirely overreacting to a small sample size. I want the opinions of the rest of the FTS community. How about you? Would you like to see Walton in the wine and gold next year? Or would you prefer to say thanks for the good times, and good luck?
All stats are from Basketball Reference, and averaged with potentially terrible math skills.