Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Rebuild the Cavs

by Ryan Plungas

The Browns have taken the playoffs out of their hands and put it in Tony Dungy's. The Indians (on paper) have been overtaken by the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central while GM Mark Shapiro sits on his hands and can't pull the trigger on that Dan Haren deal that would have helped nullify the Tigers offensive juggernaut. I get angry thinking about it...Adam Miller is destined for Tommy John any day now, tell me they weren't just asking for Miller, Aaron Laffey, and Ben Francisco. Tell me, please.

And the Cavs are maddenly inconsistent, with a team that obviously overachieved last year thanks to the best overall player in the NBA, LBJ. This team, as it stands now, cannot seriously compete for a championship. Some may argue with me about that, that's fine, but the fire is not there this season. And we're stuck in slary cap hell, until certain contracts come off the books after the 2008-2009 season. The main culprit is Larry Hughes' ridiculous contract which doesn't expire until after 2010 season, same year LBJ can bolt. We have no serious trade assets to get J-Kidd or Kobe (not that he'd fit here), or any other superstar that wants out. But we're stuck in purgatory, and need to find some light before 2010 wjen LeBron can look elsewhere.

My way to rebuild the Cavs....

These two moves.

The first is a way to shed Larry Hughes' contract, and at this point I want NOTHING in return.

Honestly, just to shed his ludicrous deal off the cap is enough. That's all I'm asking. So here's deal #1:

Probably ask New York to throw in a 2nd rounder, too (Hell, maybe even ask Isiah for a unprotected 1st, it can't hurt and who knows what he'll say. There's a 55/45% chance that this could hapen). Again, asking for basically cap relief in return. Malik Rose's $7.5 mill comes off the books after next season (2008-09). And we'll clear the extra 3 mill off the cap with inheriting Fred Jones' contract after this year (very important based off the fact we would be trading way that cap space when we deal away Ira Newble's expiring contract in the next deal I'll suggest, so we'll basically be recouping that money). Wilson Chandler is a former 2007 1st round pick (#21, I believe) that is young, cheap player who may or may not turn into something. Basically the same as Cedric Simmons is to us, but at the 3 position. And relatively cheap.

This first deal improves us Long-term to build around LeBron before he bolts for Free Agency (essentially we'd be shooting for huge cap room for the 2009 offseason, a year before LeBron can bolt), by reducing our cap number for the next few seasons, and getting out of Hughes contract a year early (Rose's $7+ mill expires after 2009, Hughes' $13+ mill wouldn't be till 2010, the rest will be shed after this season with Fred Jones' expiring deal). Hughes is contributing next to nothing on the court, so it's enough for me if we can just shed his contract for next to nothing in return.

This second deal can improve us right now, possibly helping us win this season (by "win", I mean advancing to the 2nd round with an outside shot at the Eastern Conference Finals if things fall our way). It's not the blockbuster that will give us our #2 that my colleagues crave (and as I've said before, we're not getting that guy until we get cap room in 2009 offseason or maybe at the trade deadline in Feb. 2009 season when all those expiring contracts will be valuable assets), but its' a solid deal. It's actually been a strong rumor for quite some time, being reported by the great Brian Windhorst as a potential deal as the trade deadline approaches and Philly falls out of contention (surprisingly, they're still in contention).

Here's Deal #2:

Eh, how about that?

So here is where we would stand after these deals. Hypothetically, after the Feb 21st deadline this year (at the latest), here would be our rotation:
SF LeBron
PF Reggie Evans
C Ilgauskas
SG Sasha
PG Andre Miller

SG/PG Boobie Gibson
PF/C Andy
PF Donyelle Marshall
G/F Devin Brown
SG Fred Jones
PG Eric Snow
PF Malik Rose

C Dwayne Jones
PF/C Cedric Simmons
SF Wilson Chandler

Competitive enough, and most definitely better than what we put out there now. But, and most importantly, we are set-up Long-term to really make some moves. With these deals in place, here would be our cap situation year-by-year:

Expiring deals after this season (2007-2008):
Fred Jones (3.3 million)
Devin Brown (1.2 million)
Dwayne Jones (770,000)
Boobie Gibson (687,500) **(Restricted)**

Total Cap Space cleared: $5.96 million

Most of that cap space will be attributed to the deal they'll have to give Boobie. But they'll also have their full mid-level exception (usually around 5.5 mill) to go after another Free Agent if they wish. I would save that to retain cap flexibility for the next offseason, which will be huge. Probably not a ton of action on the Free Agent front after this season, other than Boobie. But some major trades are a possibility, with the upcoming expiring deals after 2009. Speaking of...

Expiring deals after next season (2008-2009):
Andre Miller (10 million)
Malik Rose (7.5 million)
Eric Snow (7 million)
Donyelle Marshall (5.8 million)
Andy Varejao (5.7 million)
Sasha Pavlovic (4.4 million)
Cedric Simmons (1.8 million)
Wilson Chandler (1.1 million)

Total Cap Space cleared: $43.3 million

Yes. You read that right. 43.3 million of cap space would be coming off the books after next season. Take into consideration that a max player takes around 15 million (give or take) on the front end of a 6 or 7 year deal, that could be 2 MAX players plus another 13 million to sign other Free Agents. Not to mention that ALL these players, ESPECIALLY Snow/Marshall/Rose's of the world, can be MAJOR trade assets at Feb. 20th, 2009 aka next year's trade deadline. The Snow/Marshall/Rose triumphant is basically 20 million of free cap space shed for a team looking to clear money to go into the offseason to spend on the most coveted group of Free Agents possibly EVER assembled. I've mentioned this list before, but here goes again:

Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, Kobe, Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Rasheed Wallace, AI, Danny Granger, Artest, Corey Magette & J-Kidd. Not to mention guys from the 04 draft who rejected extensions and can become Unrestricted Free Agents in summer of 09: Josh Smith, Andre Iguodola, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng.

True, we will attempt to resign at least one of our own...probably Andy, if he's not still asking for 8-10 million per. Maybe if Sasha comes on stronger by the end of 08-09 we sign him to an economical deal. Maybe even Andre Miller (I wouldn't). But these guys will take up a blip on the radar for our cap room. And true, since we're nearly 20 mill over the cap this year, the $43 million may not be exact (also consider that the salary cap is not set yet for the 2009 offseason, but will most likely be raised...which is a good thing)

The Free Agent market is great that summer. In that season, we can lure some team falling out of contention looking to unload a legit superstar in return for major cap space, ala like a Garnett or AI deal that recently took place.

Expiring deals after 2 years (2009-2010):
LeBron James (about 14 million)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (about 12 million)

Total cap space cleared: $26 million

Will probably want to resign LeBron. We'll see if he's worth a max contract. Let Z walk, he'll be on one foot and will be 35. In fact, we'll probably use him as a trade asset the previous trade deadline (2/20/09) as another expiring deal.

So imagine, if we get a new coach OR Mike Brown morphs into a good coach (i.e. gets an offensive coordinator), and we decide to play more up-tempo considering we have the best open court weapon in the NBA (**ahem** sound familiar? The Browns and CHUD coming in...basically Mike Brown is the NBA equivalent of Romeo Crennel). What about this roster going into the 09-10 season:

PF/C Elton Brand (Max deal, or traded for and signed to an extension, he'll be 30 and still near prime)
PF Josh Smith (Near Max deal...although hsi attitude scares me)
SF LeBron James (Last year of deal)
SG Boobie Gibson (Resigned for like 4 year/22 mill after 07-08 season)
PG J-Kidd (signs for 1 year mid-level, to play with LeBron and win title...not ludicrous)

PF Andy Varejao (signs a 5 year/40 million after 08-09's frontloaded starting at 6 million in first year to save cap space for us)
C Zydrunas (still on roster, but limited bait)
SG/SF James Jones (leading league in 3pt% right now, will be a Free Agent after 08-09...if not too expensive, a perfect fit)
SG Anthony Parker (shooter from Toronto, another solid role player...Free Agent pick-up for veterans minimum--he'll be 34, but currently shooting over 50% from 3 pt, should regress a bit by then but still have value)
PF Reggie Evans (still under contract)
2007 1st rounder
2008 1st rounder
3 other minimum Free Agent pickups/roster spots.

Josh Smith is a bit of a risk. I'll admit that, but the talent is there and he's OK right now in ATLANTA! I mean 17 pts, 8 boards, and 3 blocked shots per game! From an uber-athletic 6'9 PF who will be 23 when he hits Free Agency. If not Smith, then Marion or Iguodola, maybe Arenas. You get the point. The money will be there if we make these deals.

Alright, I'm done.

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