As the Cavs look toward next season, the team has a number of expiring contracts that could be either used as trade pieces, retained or just run off the books to clear up cap space in 2020.
So what should the team do with those contracts? Three Fear the Sword writers offers their takes below.
2019-20 salary: $18.5 million
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): Shop him. Thompson was key last year in keeping the locker room somewhat in line and positive. Having that kind of an adult in the room can’t be undervalued. But Thompson’s career minute total and recent injury issues suggest he probably is best used in a niche role on a team who needs energy and offensive rebounding. He’s definitely a player the Cavs should try to flip to a playoff team.
David Zavac (@DavidZavac): Shop him. Perhaps a market will open up for Thompson after the first wave or so of free agency. Will the Knicks or Lakers feel like they need a center they can talk themselves into as someone that can defend? Or that Kyrie Irving or LeBron James trust? He could fit just fine in Cleveland with a need a center they can talk themselves into being a defender? Someone who has won at the highest level? He’s fine in Cleveland either off the bench or starting next to Kevin Love, so there’s no need to force things, but you probably need to get an asset if someone’s offering.
Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada): Alright, so I’m going to start off by saying that everybody on the roster should be available for the right price. That is my blanket statement that will apply for everybody moving forward. That being said, I would explore an extension with Thompson if the team is confident that he is turning a corner with his health. He emerged as an engaged team leader and when healthy is a great fit alongside Kevin Love. Obviously drafting a center or another big to play alongside Love if the Cavs add another lottery pick this year would change my thinking. But I think all Thompson has given the organization on and off the court should at least result in the exploration of a possible extension.
2019-20 salary: $13.4 million
CM: Shop him until someone offers up a first-round pick (or some second-rounders) for Clarkson in an effort to get some shot creation and shooting on the roster. He’s definitely limited in some regards, but he can help in the right circumstances and all it takes is one team to panic and trade for him. His future with the Cavs isn’t entirely clear, so why not get value for him before he walks?
DZ: Shop him. Clarkson actually played relatively well last season, so perhaps a few teams are intrigued and feel like they need a scoring option off the bench. As next season progresses his expiring deal may get more valuable, but I’m not sure he will fit all that well in John Beilein’s offense. Does he have the vision or temperament? We’ll know more after the Cavs draft in terms of whether or not they add yet another ball handler.
JR: This is a clear shop him for me. While Clarkson is overpaid, I’m firmly of the belief you cannot be overpaid in the final year of your deal. His game isn’t conducive to being a key part of your team construction, but as a bench option that can create for himself and others he is one of the better options in the league. He has his warts, but in the right system he could certainly be a positive asset for a playoff team. The Cavs are going to be adding a rookie that will want a decent share of possessions and still have Collin Sexton, Kevin Love and Cedi Osman. While Clarkson will get you buckets, those touches are better off redistributed to players that have a future with the team.
2019-20 salary: $9.6 million
CM: Keep him and maybe sign him to an affordable, two or three-year deal in the summer when his contract expires. Fans love him too and trading him might go over well, especially if the team is struggling. So keep him and have him partly fill the Channing Frye veteran role, especially as Collin Sexton continues to just start out in his career. That’s at least a solution for this year.
DZ: Keep him. It’s hard for me to see any kind of market for him, and he likes Cleveland and Cleveland likes him. The deal comes off the books soon, so why not just let it expire? The Cavs will eventually need to lose salary to keep flexibility and use it to add more assets.
JR: Shop him, but I’m skeptical that there will be much of a market for him. Ultimately I’m fine with holding on to him if nothing comes up, but if he can help make a trade happen the Cavs should jump all over that.
2019-20 salary: $15.6 million
CM: Why not keep Knight while not committing to not trading him? He looked good on offense with the Cavs last year and can take some of the creating abilities off of Sexton’s plate while also providing some shooting off ball. But he could easily be flipped to a team that wants to shed money at the deadline and/or wants to see if Knight can be a secondary creator/shooter type.
DZ: Keep him. If the Cavs draft a guard, I may change my mind on this, but the results for Collin Sexton dramatically improved with the addition of Knight. Perhaps he can play his way to a team wanting him in February. If he’s healthy he’s always been a tantalizing prospect. That may be gone, now, but maybe a team gets enticed.
JR: I’m with David here. Knight showed signs of returning to form and if he can get back there he’s the type of combo-guard that can help make up for the shortcomings of Sexton’s playmaking. He could be an attractive asset to teams and if the right deal comes around they should take it. But I’d much rather hang on to Knight and believe he has much more value to the Cavs than a player like Delly.
2019-20 salary: $9.7 million
CM: Trade him once his value returns. He’s affordable and has some skills that could help a team that needs a big that can defend and score a little bit. It’s not clear what he’ll look like once he’s on the court next year, but he can probably be flipped for something once he plays some games and looks healthy. It might not be wise to trade Henson and Thompson though, unless the Cavs are good with Kevin Love, Ante Zizic and Larry Nance Jr. as the team’s only bigs.
DZ: Keep him. Similar to Delly, there’s likely no market at the moment. Maybe he can get some back next year, though with the current roster playing time may be tough to come by. His expiring could allow the Cavs to get closer to cap space next summer. It’s worth noting that it sounds like there are some folks in the organization that seem pretty excited about him. I don’t know that I get it, but, hey, see what you have.
JR: This is probably a deadline trade guy. He likely needs to prove that he can play again and I am a believer in his ability to be a plus defender while also spacing the floor. There aren’t many players that fit that description and that could be an asset if the Cavs draft a rookie with questionable shooting ability. I do think this will become and either/or selection between Henson and Thompson as it will be tough to find enough minutes for Henson, Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody wanted to acquire Henson this summer, but I have a hard time picturing a fair offer without seeing him play first.