With LeBron James not being an active participant in their plans, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been left in a tough position this summer. Their game plan for this summer would likely be dramatically different should he stay, compared to if he takes his talents elsewhere.
Despite this tough position, it appears as though Koby Altman has been trying to increase the flexibility of the roster. In a joint report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, it was mentioned that the Cavs are active in pursuing a shake-up of their current roster:
The Cavaliers have been working on several trade and salary-cap-clearing possibilities to be aggressive in free agency, but they have been stymied in attempts to meet or discuss scenarios with James, league sources said. James had been clear that he wouldn’t engage with the Cavaliers throughout the pre-draft and pre-free-agent process, and he has stayed consistent with that posture.
Now, the longer the Cavaliers go without clear communication with James, the less chance they can find ways to upgrade the roster to James’ satisfaction. Cleveland would love to get involved with George’s or Chris Paul’s free agencies in concert with re-signing James, but because the Cavs are likely to be deep into the luxury tax, they will be barred from receiving players in sign-and-trade deals, which makes getting involved in the free agency of stars nearly impossible.
First of all, obviously there’s a lot to unpack here. It seems as though the Cavs are unlikely to pull the trigger on “win now” moves until they get something in return from LeBron. However it is possible that they make some preliminary moves to increase their flexibility and hedge so that they can make secondary moves based on what LeBron decides.
The other takeaway from the article is that there is a growing pressure for the Lakers to try and find a way to get a deal done for Kawhi Leonard. This may reflect skepticism over whether or not Paul George will sign there, as it is unlikely LeBron would sign with them without other stars joining the fray.
In the report it’s also mentioned that the Cavs have tried to engage the Spurs in deals for Leonard. However, they simply don’t have the bargaining chips necessary to match market value for the star forward.