There are many, many Cleveland Cavaliers fans that spent the NCAA basketball season falling in love with Otto Porter of Georgetown. It makes sense. He is a smart and young player that showed tremendous improvement from his freshman to sophomore season, particularly in his three point shooting, has great length, can pass, and doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. Given the Cavaliers woes at small forward, Porter seemed like he would be a perfect fit for a team likely picking between three and eight in the lottery. Well, we all know now that the Cavaliers won the lottery and now have the ability to Nerlens Noel, another player who fits a position of need and likely has a lot more upside. But if the Cavaliers don't draft Porter, who will start at small forward next season? While people have spent time denigrating the 2013 free agent class, there are some pretty good options.
First, though, we should take a look at who we are trying to replace, and why we are trying to replace him. Alonzo Gee holds a special place in the hearts of many Cavaliers' fans that have hung in there over the past three seasons. He was a developmental league cast-off that came to Cleveland, made the most of his opportunity, and got himself a guaranteed contract. He is now a millionaire. After giving serious minutes to at least a dozen fringe NBA guys, Gee is the only player who made had both the talent and drive to make it. Unfortunately, a guy that deserves a bench role at best played the second most minutes of any Cavalier last season. This is a recipe for sadness. Gee played 2500 minutes, shot 31.5% from three point range, rebounded poorly for his position, was a disaster (a hilarious disaster) in transition, and showed a lack of understanding of fundamental defensive concepts. It was fun watching him use his length to slow down point guards and shooting guards, and he was our best option guarding small forwards, but the Cavaliers simply can't give that many minutes to a small forward who can't shoot from distance and finishes with a Player Efficiency Rating of 10.5.
And this leads into the point I have made time and time again. The Cavs don't need a small forward with a PER of 20. They just need to stop giving so many minutes to guys who aren't even close to league average. Here are a few guys who would represent major upgrades to Gee, and will likely be free agents this summer.
Tempting, but probably not
Andre Iguodala - Iguodala has a player option for next season worth over $16 million, but he will still likely opt out. Look for him to get a three year extension, around $40 million. Denver likely wants him back, and has the ability to re-sign him for that type of a deal, but teams like the San Antonio Spurs will be after him as well. I am not sure he would consider Cleveland, but he instantly becomes the team's best perimeter defender. While he is getting a little older, a lot of his defensive prowess comes from a really high basketball IQ, and I think he does have 3-4 years left of top quality defense. He is an excellent passer, but struggles to shoot from distance. He is a good fit, but not a perfect fit. Would hurt Cavs financial flexibility moving forward.
Paul Pierce - Bob Finnan is reporting that Pierce's contract will probably be bought out and Chris Grant will make inquiries about bringing him in. As a veteran who is still an alright defender and can shoot a bit from distance, it isn't the worst idea. I can't imagine Pierce not going to a contender, though.
Andrei Kirilenko - Also likely to opt out of his option next year, would probably get a deal of 3 years and $30 million or so. Great passer, defender, and can't shoot from three. He is now 31 years old. A huge upgrade from Gee, but not a perfect fit for Cleveland.
Alright, now we are getting somewhere
Chase Budinger - He just turned 25, is a tremendous athlete, is coming off of an injury and could probably be had for a pretty cheap deal that preserves financial flexibility, Budinger is a fringe NBA starter. In his third season in Houston it looked as though he might have turned the proverbial corner. He shot 40% from three, rebounded well for his position, and was a solid perimeter defender. He has never averaged more than 22 minutes a game, so minutes at the 3 position would still be available for Gee and CJ Miles, but if he plays well (he has never played with a point guard like Kyrie Irving) he could warrant a larger role. The question is whether his three point shooting from his age 23 season was a fluke or not, but I feel he represents an upgrade over Gee regardless.
Dorell Wright - 27 years old, and coming off a tough season in Philadelphia, Wright is a guy who is both a solid shooter and defender. He might be one of the most underrated players in the NBA, as even through Philly's troubles, he finished the season with a PER of 16. In his last four seasons, he has yet to finish a season with a PER of under 14.5. Conrad was ahead of the curve on Wright, and frankly, he looks to be a perfect fit. You can add Wright an maintain financial flexibilty.
Martell Webster - 26 years old and coming off of his best season in the NBA, he is a guy that I would urge some caution on. His three point shooting the last four years, starting with the most recent one: 42%, 34%, 42%, 37%. Pretty darn good, with some relatively serious fluctuation going on. He is a very good defender, helping Washington as a team to have a top 10 defense in the NBA, impressive for any lottery team. He is a better rebounder for his position than Gee, though he is not elite by any stretch. I expect him to be much more expensive than Wright, and I am not sure the pay-off will be that much better.
Others: Corey Brewer (can't shoot from distance (though decent from the corner)), Matt Barnes (don't believe he has a good relationship with Mike Brown), Mike Dunleavy (I would like to guard the perimeter at some point).
I know I didn't get to all the guys who are available, and there are of course trade targets as well. But keep in mind that Otto Porter is going to be a rookie next season, and we know firsthand how hard that can be. I am pretty confident all of the guys I wrote about here will be better than Porter next season. Moving forward, that likely won't be the case, but you can bring in a guy like Wright or Budinger who can help get Cleveland to the playoffs next year, all while allowing Nerlens Noel, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Kyrie Irving to develop. There is no need, yet, to take the safe option in a draft. Number one picks don't come along that often. Upgrades to Alonzo Gee are all over the place.