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Mailbag: What do the Cavs think of Alfonzo McKinnie?

Last season’s best perimeter defender faces stiff competition this season.

San Antonio Spurs v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

From @Istanthecavs: What do we think about Alfonzo I think his defense will help the team a lot?

So, before we get started. Can you believe James Harden turned down $50 million annually to play with the Houston Rockets for an additional two seasons? Imagine hating your job so much that you reject an offer that would make you the highest-paid ever in not only your field but. I mean, I get it. Houston isn’t my favorite place either, especially as someone who wore husky clothing as a child. But, I would gladly tolerate the Houston humidity for just $1 million, let alone $50 million.

Alfonzo McKinnie, meanwhile, won’t be making $50 million with the Cavs next season. He actually might not make any money at all! According to sources, Dan Gilbert was the central figure in negotiating McKinnie’s extension with the Cavs — which was well deserved. McKinnie was a bright spot in an otherwise murky season for Cleveland last year and was fairly compensated for his hard work. But, the remaining three years on McKinnie’s extension aren’t fully guaranteed which means the Cavs could waive him before the start of the 2020-21 season and not have it count against their salary cap.

Looking ahead, there’s a good chance that might be McKinnie’s fate. Heading into next season the Cavs are expecting Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Porter Jr., Dylan Windler, Cedi Osman, Andre Drummond, and their 2020 draft pick to play meaningful minutes in their rotation. If either Love or Drummond is traded for matching salaries, or Tristan Thompson re-joins the team in free agency, it makes the rotation even more crowded. Typically, NBA head coaches only go nine or 10 deep on the depth chart - J.B. Bickerstaff included. That means that McKinnie will likely not be a member of Cleveland’s rotation going forward and it would make sense for the Cavs to waive him.

But, McKinnie does have some ammunition to make a case that he sticks with the Cavs next season. As mentioned before, McKinnie was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dire season for Cleveland. So much so that McKinnie even shared the Cavs viewed him as the team’s best perimeter defender. Now, that could be more of an indictment on Cleveland’s status as a rebuilding squad but at times McKinnie had to spend the night defending the LeBron James’s and Kawhi Leonard’s of the world - and was able to hold his own.

The Cavs’ roster next season is largely the same as last season and that means McKinnie is still one of, if not the, better perimeter defenders on the roster. Players like that come at a premium in today’s NBA and for the Cavs to only pay McKinnie $1.8 million for his efforts next year would be a steal. So, the Cavs shouldn’t waive McKinnie and find a way to work him into their rotation next year. If not, Cleveland could die from death by a million three’s time and again for another season in a row. Especially if the Cavs draft Obi Toppin with the fifth-overall pick.