As the Cavs offseason progresses, confidence in the post-David Griffin front office continues to wane.
While it is unclear who is the final decision-maker, the Cavs continue to sign (Jose Calderon) and be linked to (Jamal Crawford) players who are unable to make an impact against the Golden State Warriors.
In last year’s NBA Finals, the Cavs struggled to find an answer for Kevin Durant, who averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 55.6 percent shooting en route to his first Finals MVP Award. Cleveland should be placing a premium on players who can lift the two-way burden of guarding Durant and being the offensive engine off LeBron James.
Yet, the Cavs have not been linked to any such players as the first week of free agency draws to a close. Given its lack of cap flexibility, Cleveland will likely be forced to wait out the market and hope some defensive-minded wings fail to ink larger deals.
Who are some possible candidates?
After P.J. Tucker signed with Houston and Vince Carter inked a rich $8 million deal with Sacramento, the pool of possible options is already thinning.
The Cavs should be focused on three players who can potentially make an impact against the Warriors: Gerald Henderson, Luc Mbah a Moute and Thabo Sefolosha.
(Disclaimer: None of these players are from the state of Michigan or have ever played for the Detroit Pistons.)
Of the three, Mbah a Moute has shown the highest ceiling shooting from behind the arc, but also the lowest floor.
After shooting just 40 3s in his first season in Los Angeles, Mbah a Moute increased his volume last year and saw a significant uptick in his percentage.
While his 41.5 percent on catch and shoot threes and 38.1 percent from the corners are encouraging, these 110 attempts could easily be an outlier for a career 30.2 percent three-point shooter prior to last season.
Luc’s defensive prowess (including receiving one vote for last year’s All-Defensive Team) is what makes him an attractive option. He ranked in the 92nd percentile defending isolation, 79th percentile defending post-ups, and 74th percentile defending the pick and roll last season. Combined with his 6’8” frame, Mbah a Moute could easily be the primary Durant defender.
But, his shooting form doesn’t exactly appear comfortable and good teams have shown a propensity for ignoring him in the past.
Sefolosha is a player familiar to the Cavs from his time in Atlanta the last three seasons. At 6’7”, he is another possible answer for Durant and ranked seventh amongst Small Forwards last season in DRPM (2.27). His skills are largely as a perimeter defender (87th percentile defending spot ups and 76th percentile defending isolation) but he only faced 39 total post-ups all last season.
His slight frame is a disadvantage for sticking with some of the best ball-handlers because he is unable to bother them chest-to-chest.
Sefolosha has not recently shown the ability to shoot the three as well as Mbah a Moute did last year, hovering right around a 33 percent clip each of the last four seasons.
While right around 50 percent of Sefolosha’s attempts from behind the arc are coming on more efficient corner threes, he has shot just 36.6 percent on such shots the last 4 years (buoyed by 43.1 percent in 2015-16).
His open and wide open numbers, also constituting most his attempts, don’t lend much confidence to the idea that he would be guarded closely in the playoffs.
The final target, and perhaps the most intriguing of the three, is the recently waived Gerald Henderson. At 29, Henderson is the youngest of the trio (Sefolosha is 33 and Mbah a Moute will be 31 when the season starts) and will be entering just his ninth NBA season.
While Henderson stands shorter at just 6’5”, his barrel-chest allows him to battle larger players in the post.
On the offensive side of the ball, Henderson has shown promise on catch and shoot threes the last two seasons, shooting over 40 percent on these attempts. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 41.6 percent clip on corner threes, taking nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts from the corners.
This is encouraging because the Cavs created a league-leading 10.3 corner three-point attempts per game last season.
By no means is Henderson the perfect player, but after spending the last three seasons with Charlotte, Portland, and Philadelphia, he may be willing to take a discount to join a championship contender.
The frustration with the Cavs offseason so far has been the lack of even a hint indicating that they are chasing versatile wings that can help them topple the Golden State Warriors.
While the wing market is flush with demand and short on supply, the Cavs have the combination of real playing time and championship contention to offer players who can make an impact deep into the Finals.
Players like former-Cavalier C.J. Miles are likely too pricey for this role. Tony Allen may even fall into that category given yet another appearance on the All-Defensive Team. At the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland could target departing Celtics Gerald Green or James Young.
But, in the meantime, the three players above should be targets to fill the defensive hole on the wing while simultaneously providing enough shooting to not be played off the floor in the playoffs.