Even though they are a bad team, the Cavs actually aren’t a bad three-point shooting team. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr., and Cedi Osman are all promising shooters in their young core, and are supported by steady marksmen like Kevin Love.
But, there’s always room for improvement. Cleveland could of course address this through the 2020 NBA Draft but an alternative, and possibly better, avenue would be through this free agency class. The problem is, the Cavs’ options are limited in free agency this offseason. With Andre Drummond announcing he’s picking up his player option, it puts the team right at the luxury tax threshold. As a rebuilding team with playoff ambitions, team governor Dan Gilbert obviously doesn’t want to pay the luxury tax for this iteration of the Cavaliers. But, due to the Cavaliers not being over the luxury tax threshold, they have a $9.8 million mid-level exception available to them as their best available free agency tool. They also can sign players to minimum contract deals as well.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, Cleveland will have nine players with guaranteed money on their payroll — most of which will expect to be part of the rotation. Then there’s Dean Wade and Alfonzo McKinnie, who have partially guaranteed contracts, that would bump the body count to eleven. With one first-round pick in the 2020 draft, who will be a part of the rotation, that number jumps to twelve and becomes even murkier. If the Cavs want to add a meaningful rotational piece in free agency, it will likely have to be someone with their mid-level exception. Not only should it be a rotational piece, it should also be a player that aligns with the team’s young core and be able to build towards the future.
An interesting international prospect that fills other needs as well in Juancho Hernangomez. Hernangomez, is a restricted free agent this offseason, has averaged 12.9 points on 45.3% shooting — including 42% from three, to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. At only 24 years old, Hernangomez also fits in beautifully with Cleveland’s timeline and would be an ideal mid-level exception target. He also address the need for three-point shooting and slots in nicely in a power forward rotation of Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love.
The thing is, how hard would the Cavaliers have to battle with the Timberwolves to sign Hernangomez in free agency? Minnesota, who is trying to build around the offensive tandem of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, also has a dire need at the power forward spot. He’s also a restricted free agent, giving the Wolves an edge to keep him. If it works out, Hernangomez would be a wonderful addition to the Cavs’ young core. But it all hinges on whether or not the Wolves make a concerted effort to retain him.
Another player that could be looking for a fresh start with foreign roots is Thon Maker. Maker, who was acquired by the Detroit Pistons at the 2019 trade deadline, has struggled with finding consistent minutes throughout his four years in the NBA. Maker might be a restricted free agent, but it seems likely Detroit will move on from the big man due to his inability to crack the rotation. While he has appeared in 90% of Detroit’s contests this season, he can only average 12.9 points per game, even after the team traded away Andre Drummond. But, even in those limited Maker has connected on 34.4% of his three-point attempts which is outstanding for a player of his size.
Coming to Cleveland, Maker would be able to get consistent minutes once again behind Drummond. The Cavaliers have a dire need for depth at the center position with Ante Zizic headed overseas and Tristan Thompson likely leaving in free agency. While there is a huge drop off in talent from Thompson to Maker, the three-point shooting he provides adds an interesting wrinkle to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation. Maker could revitalize his career with the Cavs, and would also be a nice long term option coming off the bench
There is also one more option within the division for the Cavs. Denzel Valentine, a former first-round pick and impending unrestricted free agent, matches a lot of what the Cavs should be looking for. In his three seasons with the Bulls, Valentine has shown a little bit of everything in terms of scoring, playmaking, and three-point shooting. But he has been unable to stay consistently healthy during his young career. Because of this, it seems like the Bulls are ready to move on after he missed the better part of the 2019-20 after undergoing ankle stabilization surgery. Of note, he could be tendered and become a restricted free agent like Maker.
That’s why if the Cavs were to bring in Valentine to remedy some of their flaws, it would be a calculated risk. If Valentine is healthy, the Cavs are able to have a young diamond in the rough that could serve as bench support on the perimeter. If not, it will be easy for Cleveland to cut their losses as well. Of the three options presented, Valentine provides the greatest risk. But, it could also be a perfect opportunity for all parties involved.