As Cleveland Cavaliers fans track Dan Gilbert’s plane and every inside tweet regarding LeBron James’ free agency decision, many have forgotten there are still a number of other players out there to make the Cavs roster better. While everything hinges on James at this point in time, David Griffin and the Cavaliers front office likely have a number of secondary options should James decide to stay with the Heat for the foreseeable future.
The first of those options seems to be Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. In for a visit last week, there were plenty of rumors floating around about whether or not he was going to be offered a max contract by the Cavaliers. Being a restricted free agent, the general consensus is that if a team wants to pry him away from Utah, they will have to commit max money to the 24-year old.
However, Hayward’s numbers do not justify giving a max contract to—which is likely why (outside of waiting on James) no team has offered it to him. Last season was his best as a pro, where the 6’8” and 220-pound guard/forward averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. Even though he increased in those categories, Hayward’s field goal percentage has dropped in a major way every season since his rookie year with increased usage. He has gone from 48.5 as a rookie to 45.6, 43.5 and finally 41.3 percent this past season. Coming to a team in Cleveland where he would be a second option to Kyrie Irving, those numbers are scary for a player who would command a max contract.
Option number two—aka wishful thinking from this writer—is another restricted free agent, Detroit’s Greg Monore.
One of my feature targets to watch last week, Monroe has emerged as one of the better centers in the NBA over the last couple of seasons. Shooting 50.8 percent from the floor in his career, Monroe boasts 14 points and 9.0 rebounds per game for his career—though he finished last year with 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Known as a player who could break out at any time, many anticipate Detroit will match any offer made to Monroe. But if the Cavaliers miss out on James, do not be surprised if the Cavaliers front office puts Detroit to the test with a big-time deal for their young center.
Behind door number three would be small forward, Trevor Ariza. A free agent with the Washington Wizards, the veteran is coming off a season in which he averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. With a major need for a small forward, the veteran with plenty of experience could be a nice consolation prize if the price is right.
The price being right is the key in everything, as there have been reports he is looking to get paid this offseason. At 29-years old, Ariza made $7.7 million last season and could be expected to receive up to $10 million per season. If James is out of the picture, The Cavaliers could offer the swingman a deal in the four-year, $33 million range to see if he would bite.
The final realistic option if James doesn’t come back to Cleveland is Phoenix’s Channing Frye. Seemingly linked to the Cavaliers every season, the 6’11” and 248-pound big man can play both power forward and center. With Spencer Hawes leaving for the Clippers, the Cavaliers have a major need for a big man who can stretch the floor—and Frye is just that guy.
He averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 28.2 minutes per night last season, checking in at 37 percent from three-point land. With his ability to space the floor for Irving and Dion Waiters, Frye could be a nice addition to the roster and likely could be signed for a deal in the four-year, $28 million range.
As you can see, none of these players screams “game changer” on the level of a James or Carmelo Anthony, but all would boost the Cavaliers roster. Though some may take more of a financial commitment (Hayward) than others, if the Cavaliers want to take the next step they are going to have to take a major leap of faith this offseason on a player or two in free agency.