No matter what happens with Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Cleveland's other free agents, the Cavs are going to have to find players on the cheap. Such is life where you are planning on paying LeBron, two max players in Love and Kyrie Irving and Thompson at once. And remember: letting either Love or Thompson walk doesn't actually free up cap room.
It's also hard to say exactly what J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova are going to be making next season. It's hard to say exactly what types of offers Shumpert and Dellavedova will command in restricted free agency. All three have skills that make them extremely valuable to the right team, but all have flaws. J.R. is J.R. and Shumpert's a streaky shooter. If he's not hitting his threes early, teams can sag off him. As for Dellavedova, he's a point guard who isn't really a point guard; he can't really bring up the ball and is most effective playing off the ball.
Neither player figures to be a priority for other teams in free agency. Shumpert's heading into restricted free agency at a time when there a number of better - or at least more attainable - wings available. San Antonio's Danny Green and Portland's Arron Afflalo are amongst the players in this group.
Aside from those two, Chicago's Jimmy Butler, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee's Khris Middleton are all restricted free agents. All three - especially Leonard, who is on the verge of superstardom if he isn't there already - are far superior players than Shumpert. All are going to remain with the teams they were on last year, but it's hard to argue that tying up space in pursuit of Shumpert is a better move than trying to acquire one of those three. Nonetheless, Shumpert might be in line for a deal that pays him $10 million a year. If teams miss out on someone else, maybe they turn their attention to Shumpert and sign him to an offer sheet in hopes that the offer sheet is too expensive for the Cavs to match.
The potential market for Dellavedova is even murkier. Point guard is perhaps the most saturated position in the NBA and Dellavedova isn't a player that can be your starting two guard either. He does a few things - hustling, for one - well and has a few other skills. The main reason Dellavedova worked for the Cavs this season was because he fits between Irving and James. It's hard to see a team - even the Cavs - deciding it's worth paying Dellavedova anything substantial.
Barring a team swooping in to overpay Smith (not likely) and signing Shumpert or Dellavedova to an expensive offer sheet, it might be in the Cavs' best interest to let the market play out and let the rest of the league determine what these players are worth. While it's still worth it to see if you can bring all three - preferably Shumpert - without having pay a high price, might be best to see what the rest of the league is willing to pay and then decide whether or not it's a smart decision to pony up.
In the end, it seems likely that Smith, Shumpert, Dellavedova will all be in Cleveland next season. With the Cavs on a budget, it makes sense to bring them all back at the right price.
This forces Cavs GM David Griffin and his staff to get creative in finding the right players to fill out the roster. In Cleveland's case, you're most likely looking for a backup point guard of some kind, wing depth and/or frontcourt depth. With limited money - the Cavs really only have Brendan Haywood's quirky contract, the taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts to work with - the Cavs are likely shopping for veterans near the end of their careers or reclamation projects.
Signing the right players could be key for the Cavs title hopes. Even if the Cavs bring everyone from this year's rotation back, that's only eight guys. Having such a thin team forces LeBron, Irving and Love to play heavy minutes all season and that adds up come playoff time. Just ask the Clippers - a team that beat the freaking Spurs in the first round only to look gassed against the Rockets and lose in the second round. Having two more useful players has definite benefit.
Here are some options for the Cavs amongst players who might be available cheaply.
PG Mo Williams: There's already been talk of Williams wanting to return to Cleveland and there's certainly an argument to be made that Williams could fill some needs. For one, he's a better creator than Dellavedova and Griffin has said the Cavs are looking for a backup point guard. But to get Williams, the Cavs might have to use their mini mid-level exception and he's not a good defender.
SG Marco Belinelli: There's a lot of shooters available this summer, but Belinelli has played in big games with the Spurs and they might not bring him back at all as they pursue LaMarcus Aldridge.
SG Wayne Ellington: Ellington's shooting numbers dipped last season with the Lakers, but he's just 28 and might benefit from a reduced role where he doesn't have to do much besides shoot threes and play defense. That's a role he can fill and can do cheaply.
SF/PF James Jones: If Jones decides to play next season, he makes sense for the Cavs. He's a good insurance possibility in case Love goes down on a minimum deal and he's been around LeBron for five years.
C Kendrick Perkins: Perkins isn't good anymore, but there's value to him coming back. He's a great locker room presence and pushes players in practice. But you'd ideally like to have a fifth big who can actually play instead of one who can't.
PF/C Ekpe Udoh: Udoh, a former lottery pick, couldn't get off the bench last season on a thin Clippers team. That's concerning in its own right. But his one NBA skill - shot blocking - fits what the Cavs need out of bigs and out of guys on minimum deals, there aren't a lot of great options.
PG Jeremy Lin: Like Williams, Lin is a player who might be out of the Cavs' price range and he's not a perfect fit. But he can create, plays well in the pick and roll and you can hide some of his issues with the right lineups. That's about all you can ask out of a point guard on a cheap contract.
PG C.J. Watson: Watson was on the Cavs' wish list last summer and while he didn't have a great season with the Pacers, his skills largely fit with what the Cavs need out of Irving's backup. He also might come cheaper than Williams and is a better two-way player.
SF Luc Mbah a Moute: He's severely limited offensively, but Mbah a Moute is a versatile defender. In theory, he might be able to provide what Shawn Marion was supposed to this season. Whether the Cavs actually have a need for that player is another question altogether.
SF Dorell Wright: Wright didn't play a ton in Portland last year. He's not a player you'd ask to play more than a handful of minutes a game, but with LeBron at small forward, you wouldn't need him to. It helps that he is a respectable, if streaky, 3-point threat. He's perhaps my favorite fit on this list.
C Bizmack Biyombo: He's a mess offensively and he'd have to be deployed carefully. But he can block shots and that's what the Cavs would want in a fifth big. Like other players on this list, he's far more useful to a good team than a bad team. Even if he comes cheap, other teams might be able to play him a little bit more.
SG Ray Allen: No one - maybe not even Allen - knows if he's going to come back next season. But if he does, the Cavs should make a call. He'd provide spacing and immediately be a respected veteran presence in the locker room. You could do worse for a 12th or 13th guy on the bench.
G Dwyane Wade: Just kidding. Barring someting crazy happening, there isn't a likely scenario where Wade becomes a Cavalier.