Who's New: G Mo Williams (free agent), F Richard Jefferson (free agent), C Sasha Kaun (draft), F Austin Daye (free agent)
Who's Gone: F Mike Miller (trade), F Shawn Marion (retired), C Kendrick Perkins (free agent), C Brendan Haywood (trade)
Off-season Grade: B. They re-signed everyone of note (...eventually), including Kevin Love, which was a bit of an upset. Williams is the perfect guy to mind the store while Kyrie Irving rehabs and he's the kind of catch-and-shoot point LeBron James prefers to play with.
2015-16 Slogan: "Imagine how many Finals games we could win with two or even three good players."
What Else Is New?: There are shenanigans going on as we live and breathe concerning Tristan Thompson. The restricted free agent still hasn't agreed to a contract extension (unless he has?), but it's not like anyone else has the cap space to make him an offer, and it's all pointless because the Cavs would match it anyway. On Thursday afternoon, ESPN.com scoop-meister Chris Broussard loudly broke the news that Thompson had agreed to a 3-year, $53 million deal, but various beat reporters refuted it and then Broussard backtracked, (warning: adult language) while awkwardly revealing that his mistaken source was Thompson's agent Rich Paul, who, of course, is part of LeBron James' crew. The gang at Fear The Sword have no idea who to believe, while Sportac, a very reputable site, already has an updated year-by-year salary breakdown of a completed deal.
This isn't the first time Broussard has been in the middle of this kind of thing, but in his defense he had Danny Green re-signing with the Spurs before anyone else (though he got the money part wrong) and my guess is he'll wind up being right-ish about this when it's all said and done. Thompson will wind up back with the Cavs, and it might be official by the time you read this.
Also, the team had to go ludicrously over the tax to re-sign all of their free agents. Do you have any idea how many homes Dan Gilbert will have to foreclose to pay for all that?
Your Likely Starting Lineup:
C Timofey Mozgov
PF Kevin Love
SF LeBron James
SG Iman Shumpert
PG Kyrie Irving
We'll begin with James, who had a truly bizarre season last year. He arrived to camp as lithe and trim as maybe his fourth year in the league, announcing his intention to be a perimeter player again after being forced to play down low in Miami. With all the fours on the roster, who was gonna argue? Except the Cavs were mediocre and James didn't have his customary lift or explosion. He took off two weeks in early January to take his diminished talents to South Beach and came back rejuvenated and mysteriously bigger, stronger, faster. As Love and Irving went down around him, James was the sole offensive weapon on a grind-it-out defense-and-rebounding team, which meant backing his hindquarters into the post. He was somehow the best and worst player of the Finals, simultaneously. Ironically, the only two years where James has left me in awe of his ability were 2009 and 2014, neither of which culminated in a title for his team. Otherwise, I've mostly thought, "eh, he's aiight," but I'm a hater, so don't mind me.
The Love thing is weird. He never quite fit in with the Cavs last year, he kept fighting through back issues and was even benched at times in fourth quarters of games. To be fair, he, James and Irving were becoming quite formidable by the stretch run. Maybe the freak season-ending injury was the best thing for Love. When he saw that the team made the Finals without him, it put him in a spot where he had to prove he wasn't the problem there all along. The Cavs had all the leverage, narrative-wise, even though they still had to pay him oodles of money to re-sign him. Regardless, Love was in no hurry to be Kelly Olynyk's teammate and I guess Kobe and the Lakers weren't that appealing either. The question is whether the Cavs can utilize Love better going forward, meaning more post-ups, more pick-and-rolls and fewer instances of just parking him in the corner someplace like he's Matt Bonner.
You know, we liken Tim Duncan to a metronome for his year-to-year consistency, but he's got nothing on Irving. His numbers have been remarkably similar throughout his four seasons, which is weird considering he was on three crummy teams and then had to share the court with James and Love last year. He just adapts and continues to get his. Irving had a memorable 57 point detonation against the Spurs and a "double-nickel" against the Blazers, but he's still not much of a point guard and I'd put him a notch or two below superduperstar status.
Shumpert was acquired midway through the season and was never totally healthy. By the end against the Warriors he couldn't even lift his arm. His numbers were terrible for the Cavs, but he lets James rest a bit on defense, which is important. Shump is gonna make a million bucks more than Green over the next four seasons, which is kind of insane.
On the other end of the spectrum is Mozgov, who was simply sensational from the moment he joined the Cavs, and to Love's chagrin, almost instant buds with James. Mozgov demolished the Eastern Conference like a Russian Godzilla and it took every bit of Warriors micro-ball chicanery to prevent him from doing the same in the Finals. He's way more nimble and coordinated than he looks and a terror on the boards at both ends. I both love and fear him. Unbelievably, the Cavs were able to retain his services for next season for under $5 mil, exorcising the option on his previous contract. As long as he stays healthy, Mozgov is gonna get like four for 80 from somebody next July.
Your Likely Bench:
F Tristan Thompson
G J.R. Smith
G Mo Williams
C Anderson Varejao
F James Jones
G Matthew Dellavedova
F Richard Jefferson
G Joe Harris
Thompson is a remarkably limited player for a fourth overall pick, but he's extremely good at hedging and recovering defensively and crashing the boards offensively. It's hard to imagine him not in a closing lineup, whether it's at Love's expense or Mozgov's. Smith got better looks in Cleveland than in New York and cut down on his turnovers drastically since he hardly had the ball. He was still erratic as ever in the playoffs though, and got some bad advice from his agent, opting out of his contract only to have to settle for a two-year, $10 million deal. Williams hasn't been good in several years but he had a resurgence in his brief stint at Charlotte last year and has always shot threes well playing with James. Varejao's role will be less clear with three highly-paid bigs already in front of him to gobble most of the minutes and the Cavs likely to play small at various points anyway. At this point, getting 10 solid minutes a night out of "Sideshow Bob" would be a bonus. Dellavedova plays hard but is not actually good at anything. Jefferson will, as always, do his best to destroy the organization form within.
Your Coach: David Blatt
But not really. He's actually third in charge behind James and Tyronn Lue. The team junked Blatt's offense, they play who James to play and sit who he wants to sit and the figurehead can't even be entrusted to keep track of time outs. All he has to do is wear a suit every day and take the blame whenever they lose. What a gig.
This could be your future, Cleveland, only with a less charming cast of characters. Also, was that Kirk Cameron?
For more nuanced coverage of the Cavs, please visit Fearthesword.com