Even though the Cavs are a decent three-point shooting team, they lack versatility on their depth chart. Sure, there’s potential with Collin Sexton as a scoring combo guard and Kevin Porter Jr. as a two-way player with an acumen for playmaking. But, the only truly versatile player on Cleveland’s payroll is Larry Nance Jr., who is a jack of all trades master of none on both ends of the floor. If Sexton and Porter pan out, that leaves three truly versatile players on the roster.
That’s not good enough. Team building in today’s NBA requires a plethora of versatility, especially on the wing, to allow creativity throughout every lineup. So, heading into this offseason and beyond the Cavs need to address this dire need while rebuilding.
Of course there are opportunities to address this need immediately through the 2020 NBA Draft. But, there still are few options at the top of this year’s draft class. 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 Cavs. Due to the Cavaliers not being over the luxury tax threshold though, 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.
The best possible prospect for the Cavs, albeit a bit of a long shot, is Nuggets forward Jerami Grant. Grant, who has a $9.3 million player option heading into this offseason, has been awesome in a reserve role for the Nuggets — averaging 11.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 0.7 steals per game. Clearly, just based on his averages alone, Grant is a highly versatile player for the Nuggets. But, going from a winning situation in Denver to a rebuilding situation in Cleveland is a huge adjustment for Grant. Even if the odds feel slim, why exactly would Grant make the jump?
Well, there’s always the belief that the grass is always greener on the other side. Especially when Grant could make slightly more money in Cleveland compared to with Denver on his player option. That, and Grant would likely see a lion’s share of minutes either starting or off the bench for the Cavs - something the Nuggets also cannot fully guarantee. If he were to take advantage of the presented opportunity, Grant would unlock so much for the Cavs on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he brings a bit of everything to the table in terms of playmaking and three-point shooting. On defense, Grant can guard three through five and also is an adequate rim protector and perimeter defender as well.
If Grant isn’t an option for the Cavs, they can keep combing through Denver’s impending free agents like big man Noah Vonleh. Vonleh, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, hasn’t been able to crack Denver’s rotation since being traded from the Timberwolves. It’s a shame he hasn’t been able to as Vonleh is a truly versatile with three-point ability and solid defensive instincts. This seems like its been the case for the majority of his career, but, when Vonleh was given ample playing time while with the Knicks, he showcased he was a special player.
Vonleh would have a similar opportunity in Cleveland like he did in New York if he were to sign with the Cavs. With Ante Zizic gone and Tristan Thompson likely to follow, there will be a void in depth behind Andre Drummond. Vonleh provides a remedy to that dilemma and would fill in nicely as a high energy big coming off the bench, something Cleveland fans adore. He also can slot in behind Kevin Love as well, especially with Larry Nance Jr. becoming more of a combo forward as his game evolves, which is also something of need for Cleveland. Vonleh would get a time to once again truly shine and the Cavs would be able to add a versatile piece to their roster as well.
But, if current Nuggets players aren’t your speed then there’s always Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson is an unrestrictred free agent this offseason and is likely looking to make more than the $2.5 million he earned this season being a part of the Raptors’ rotation. In 18.8 minutes per game this year Hollis-Jefferson has averaged 6.9 points on 47% shooting to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.4 blocks. Much like Grant, Hollis-Jefferson is a thick jacked wing that can also spend time defending larger forwards as well. Unlike Grant, Hollis-Jefferson can likely be had by the Cavs in free agency and would be a key and integral piece to their rotation next season.
Versatility needs to be a priority for the Cavs now and going forward. As mentioned before, no successful team in today’s NBA has a lack of versatile players like Cleveland does. Of the three highlighted above, snagging Grant from Denver would be a coup for the Cavs. But, bringing in either Vonleh or Hollis-Jefferson both seem like more realistic options. No matter who they sign, just hope that its a player that’s multifaceted.