The Cavaliers had a pretty simple goal this year: Get their first taste of the playoffs.
There are a lot things tied into that. Hiring Mike Brown, Signing Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, and Jarrett Jack, drafting Anthony Bennett. Each of these moves was, in theory, executed to get them into the playoffs. To get that incredibly important experience that the young players on the team need. To get them a taste of victory and success.
Fair to say that it didn't happen. In a season that was built up to show us so many things, we have instead ended up with more questions than we had at the start. Dan Gilbert has tied many of these issues around now former GM Chris Grant's neck. Whether or not that is fair is really in the eye of the beholder. Notice I said former. Yes, the man who was finally spending to bring this team out of the rebuilding process is now instead out of a job. Mike Brown, his former college teammate and friend, could be as well. The structure and continuity preached for the past 4 years could now see three coaches and three GMs (if one is inclined to include interim GM David Griffin, who is responsible for Spencer Hawes and Scotty Hopson) in a span of three years.
As I reflect on that, and try to glean what I can from the information available to me, the only conclusion is that where they go from here is anybody's guess. Griffin has the term "interim" attached to his GM title. Brown, whether or not he is on the hot seat now, very well could be gone anyways if a GM from outside the organization is hired. New executives want things done their way and Dan Gilbert will not spare an expense to expedite the process. The Cavs roster is loaded with flexibility. In terms of a new GM or coach, that also means it's loaded with guys that could be gone.
Oh, and depending on who or what you want to believe, the Cavs star player could want out as well. OH BUT ALSO: When said star player was hurt, the second most talented player on the team that there is an alleged rift with started playing the best basketball of his career and the team went on a winning streak.
The "Season of Huh?" rolls on. (credit Ben Cox of WFNY for that term)
So where does this go? It can go literally anywhere. As we discussed they can do just about anything. Looking at the players, we'll break it into a few groups.
Graphic and Figures courtesy of Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com -- http://www.basketballinsiders.com/cleveland-cavaliers-team-salary/#vRfXrBBWAQHcek3J.99
Group 1 - Expiring Contracts
Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes, CJ Miles.
There are plausible reasons for all three of these players to stay. Deng is a very good player. Hawes is a perfect fit with both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Miles is a solid role player, and should not command much more than his previous salary.
There are also reasons for them to leave. Deng hasn't performed well and might want out anyway. He is also said to be looking for more than $12 million per year, and has been battling injuries. Hawes is a good fit, but if the market prices him above $8 million per year is he worth it? Do you want to commit money to a CJ Miles before free agency and harm some of your flexibility?
A decision on Deng should happen pretty quickly. He has a cap hold of close to $20 Million that needs to be brought down, either by renouncing him or agreeing to a new deal. Hawes has a hold of $9.9 Million, so getting him squared away quickly would be in the Cavs best interest as well. Much like this past offseason, a decision on Miles could linger since he has a smaller hold in the $3 million range and figures to be in the caste of free agents that gets movement after the initial splurge on guys at the top of the list sets the market.
Group 2 - Young Players on Guaranteed Deals
Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix.
I like Carrick Felix, and think he can be ok. I hope that is true because his deal is fully guaranteed through the 2015-2016 season with the final year being a non-guaranteed year which is odd for a second round pick. He and Sergey Karasev will both be on the books for a while, and have spent this season either in the D League or injured.
The others are all standard rookie first round deals. the final year is the amount of the qualifying offer with the previous two years being team options (note: The options for Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller for next season have obviously been picked up).
Waiters and Zeller have shown real improvement, while Bennett has at least flashed some potential. This either means good things for their Cavaliers careers moving forward, or that they will be more attractive as trade chips. Allegedly, the Cavs are swinging for the fences in a trade. This would primarily be the group of players included in such a deal along with picks.
Group 3 - Extension Eligible
Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson
Opinions on these players vary based on who you ask, to the point where it's almost unbearable to discuss them. Is Kyrie Irving a ball hogging coach killer who cannot wait to get out of town or one of the games best young offensive players who hasn't had much to work with and is a work in progress on defense? Is Tristan Thompson a complete bust who is fortunate to remember how to breathe on some days, or is he one of the best rebounders in the league and an offensive project?
The Cavs answers to those will be very important, because it's time to pay these kids. Kyrie is getting a max contract from someone, it's not even a discussion. Tristan? He certainly is not a max player, but he's a player. Lately year three in the league has been deemed some kind of end all be all for a players development, rather erroneously. His value improves as his jumper improves, so the Cavs either have an interesting buy low, or a massive overpay in regards to him.
Reportedly, if Kyrie does not agree to said extension he would hit the trade market. Thompson I imagine will be talked about as well. They could be long term pieces. They could be gone. Who knows. #SeasonOfHuh
Group 4 - Jarrett Jack is the only veteran with a long term deal
He looked out of place and destined to be traded. Now he looks ok. He could be gone, maybe. Or not. He has two more guaranteed years and a partial guarantee on the final year.
Group 5 - Partial or Fully Non-Guaranteed Deals
Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, Matthew Dellavedova, Scotty Hopson (not listed).
Gee and Hopson are pretty much guaranteed not to be here next season.
Varejao's contract is somewhat in dispute. Some outlets report it as a team option, some don't. To the best of my knowledge there is no option on the contract, just the $4 million partial guarantee. He's talented, but he's also a 31 year old hustle player who has battled injuries throughout his career. With 6 out of his 10 seasons seeing him play 54 or less games, investing close to $10 million in him is a risky proposition. After missing time this season with back problems, he is finishing this season battling a shoulder injury.
Dellavedova is an interesting case. He has a minimum salary, which makes it easy to see him stay and easy to see him go at the same time. When he's shooting well, he is a passable 4th or 5th guard, and at a minimum salary that is fine. When he is shooting poorly, he's not. The question is in determining which player he is, and if a potentially new front office would even want to do so. New regimes like their own guys, and the non-guaranteed salaries of undrafted players and quick to move. His future is most likely closely tied to the futures of Mike Brown and David Griffin.
This group will also figure prominently in trade talks. As they represent close to $11 Million in salary that can come straight off of a teams books.
The Cavs have picks too. A bunch of them. Their own first round picks each year, plus that of the Heat in 2015 (top 10 protected) and the Grizzlies the next time it 's between 6 and 14. They also have Orlando's second round pick in this upcoming draft, which figures to be in the 33-35 range.
So, as boring as the Cavs last 4 games might be you should probably buckle up for the offseason: Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Chauncey Billups, Mystery GM Candidates, Potentially New Coach, roster upheaval, and maybe some Comic Sans. For better or for worse, this offseason will be a must see. For the life of me, I have no idea what the hell is going on right now.