NBA Free Agency: Cleveland Cavaliers Could Look at Andrei Kirilenko and These Small Forwards

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By Wade Foley
Staff Writer

The NBA free agency is only two days in and there has already been an abundance of activity. Many teams have shown an interest and met with a plethora of free agents already. There have also already been numerous signings and a few trades as well.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, however, have yet to sign any free agents. Their reported activity level seems to be very low at this point and fans are anxiously waiting to see whom they add to the Cavs young roster.

My speculation is that Chris Grant and the Cavs organization is waiting until “Dwightmare 2.0” has concluded before they make any actual moves. Once Dwight Howard  finally decides where he wants to play next, the other pieces should start to fall in place. The other teams who were courting him will then sign their “plan B” players and the rest of the league will get a better look at who they can sign and for how much. This is a common tactic used by intelligent general managers, and there’s no doubt Grant falls into that category.

By no means should the Cavs spend just to spend, but they are approximately $20 million under the current salary cap and would be wise to obtain some good talent this offseason. One of the positions they are expected to fill through this free agency is the small forward position. While a few have already agreed to sign elsewhere, there are still several players for the Cavs to consider.

Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Kirilenko would be a near perfect fit for the Cavs at the small forward position. He could come in and fill that starting role and contribute immediately. This would also push Alonzo Gee to the bench where he would be much more effective. With the addition of Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev, the Cavs can focus less on acquiring a shooter and more on acquiring a solid defensive player. Kirilenko is tremendous without the ball and finds ways to contribute even if he doesn’t have it going offensively. Another positive to signing him is that he’s from the same hometown in Russia as Karasev, and could mentor the 19-year-old rookie. He could help Karasev adjust to America and the NBA lifestyle, while also mentoring him on defense.

The bad news is that Kirilenko made just under $10 million last season and will have several other teams interested as well. He’s 32-years old and probably has about two or three solid years left in the league. That’s still enough to warrant a spot on this Cavs roster, however; especially since he averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game last season, which is nearly identical to his career averages. For the right price, Kirilenko would be a great addition to the squad.

Matt Barnes, SF, Los Angeles Clippers

Barnes played very well for the Clippers last season and is another guy who could come in and really add some depth to the small forward spot. He can defend multiple positions due to his size and can knock down the three-ball as well, especially from the corners. He doesn’t have the most talent in the league and is 33-years old, but he works hard on a nightly basis and comes up with good production.

Barnes averaged 10.3 points, 1.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game last season on a fairly deep Clippers team. As a starter in Cleveland, he should be able to meet and possibly exceed that. He made just over $850,000 last season, so it’s very possible that the Cavs could sign him for under $2 million, depending on how many teams vie for his services. As a cheaper option who works hard and has plenty of experience, Barnes could be a nice acquisition for the Cavs.

Dorell Wright, SF, Philadelphia 76ers

Wright had two nice years in Golden State before playing pretty poorly last season in Philadelphia. He managed to average 9.2 points, 1.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game last season. Still, at 27, he has experience and would be an upgrade over Gee.

He has good length, is athletic and is able to guard most small forwards. He’s also a very good three-point shooter and could really contribute to what the Cavs need. He should have several suitors and made over $4 million last season, but after an abysmal year, the Cavs might be able to get him for a little less.

Kyle Korver, SF, Atlanta Hawks — (UPDATE: Korver signed with the Hawks for 4 years/$24 million)

Korver is one of the best shooters in the league and at 32-years old, brings a wealth of experience as well. The veteran sharpshooter made $5 million last season and should be looking for at least that with a new contract. He averaged 10.9 points, 2.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game last season.

Korver is a spot-up shooter with good length who can bother most other small forwards. He lacks lateral quickness, however, and has trouble keeping up with a lot of quick opponents. It has been rumored that he and the Nets have mutual interest, and it’s possible he returns to the Hawks as well. The Cavs can offer Korver more money than the Nets, so it might come down to whether he wants to play for a contender this season or get more playing time. If the Cavs are looking to spend some money on a pure shooter, this is their guy.

Other potential small forwards: Corey Brewer, Carlos Delfino, Al-Farouq Aminu.

The next week will reveal a lot about how good the Cavs can be next season. Here’s to hoping Grant and the Cavs make some wise decisions throughout this year’s free agency.

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Discussion2 Comments

  1. Considering the Cavs are not likely to sign more than one or two free agents and have roughly $20m to spend, I wouldn’t see any issue in overpaying a little for AK47. Just give him a 2-3 year contract, and like you said he would be a great mentor for Karasev, who looks to be our SF of the future (if not already next year).

    Also, when looking ahead to next year when a certain SF will be a free agent, I think it’s going to be really important for guys like Waiters and Thompson to improve greatly and for Bennett to make a name for himself over the course of the next year. If the guy from South Beach feels Kyrie is the only other legitimate (or potential) All-Star on the team, I think his chances of coming back decrease greatly. I think we all know the only thing he cares about is rings.

    • Yeah, I would really like to acquire AK47 for a couple of years. It seems a lot less likely to happen now that they signed Earl Clark, but we’ll see what happens over the next week.

      I assume Clark will be playing primarily SF, which will be interesting to see, but I guess positions aren’t extremely important nowadays. At least we’re deep at the forward spots now.

      I’m assuming one or two other signings/deals lie ahead, so we will see.