With free agency beginning on Sunday at 12:01 a.m., the Cavaliers find themselves in the middle of things concerning players they want to extend offers out to or Cleveland players who became free agents at the end of the 2011-12 season. The restricted free agents that the Cavaliers have extended qualifying offers to include Luke Harangody, Alonzo Gee and Semih Erden.
Cleveland will have three days to match any offer that is made to their restricted free agents, with Gee bringing in the most attention from around the NBA.
Wine and Gold GM Chris Grant has made it known that keeping Gee in a Cavaliers uniform is a priority for the team, and that they aren’t in the hunt to capture any high-profile free agents such as O.J. Mayo, Ray Allen or Brandon Roy.
The reason Gee is such an important piece in the Cavaliers rebuilding process is that he is young (having only played three seasons in the NBA) and a fiery force coming off the bench, averaging 10.6 points in 63 games this past season.
Instead the Cavaliers will chase players such as Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova, Michael Redd and Johnny Flynn, and have already invited undrafted free agents Kevin Jones from West Virginia and Rob Jones from Saint Mary’s College to their summer league.
Out of the four possible free agent landings I mentioned above, I am least interested in the young seven-footer from the Chicago Bulls. Asik has been targets by the Cavaliers in the past, as they opted to sign now free agent Erden. Asik has averaged 2.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in his two-year career.
I would advise the Cavaliers to stay away from signing Asik, as they are actually better off resigning Erden, who would give around the same production that Asik gives anyways. With drafting Tyler Zeller the Cavaliers answered a lot of questions concerning their need for a big man. Other teams interested in signing the Chicago reserve center are the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, but Portland is now in serious negotiations with Indiana center Roy Hibbert.
It now seems that Johnny Flynn, a possible backup to Kyrie Irving, is out of the question to sign with the Cavaliers. The injury-plagued Flynn would like to land with the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets.
A player that I’m hoping the Cavaliers can find room for is Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks. According to Fred Kerber, the Bucks Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets (big surprise) and San Antonio Spurs have all expressed interest in signing the power forward who averaged 13.0 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent from the field, the highest-percentage season of his four-year career.
The Cavaliers seem to be after some lower-level free agents, as they show no interest in high-profile free agents such as Ray Allen or Brandon Roy. Michael Redd, a twelve-year NBA veteran, has seen his numbers decline in recent years. The Cavaliers are trying to build a young team, but Cleveland could always use more veteran leadership with Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker gone. Redd could be of big help to Dion Waiters, making his transition to the NBA all the smoother.
As for other options, the Cavaliers are also considering signed shooting forward Nicolas Batum (averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds last season), Sonny Weems (who played in Lithuania this season due to the threat of the lockout) and foreign player Obrad Fimic.
One thing that is for certain with the Cavaliers camp is that undrafted free agent Kevin Jones will be joining the team. Also, undrafted forward Rob Jones will be with the Cavaliers during their summer session as well. Kevin Jones, the forward from the West Virginia, signed a three-year contract with the Cavaliers including a partial guarantee. The Big East leader in rebounds, it was a surprise to me that Kevin went undrafted.
Jones’ agent, Bill Neff, had some choice words about his player not being drafted in the two-round NBA draft:
Kevin wanted to be drafted and was not. He is one of those guys who doesn’t win the beauty contest, he just wins the battle.
Kevin is a player already with a lot of upside, as he averaged 20.1 points (a 7.0 point increase from the previous season) and 11.1 rebounds (a 3.6 rebound increase) in his senior season. Neff believes the Cavaliers made a very good move in signing such a young and talented player in Jones:
Knowing that Cleveland has had a history of developing young guys, they are doing things right. They have a young executive and Mike Gansey is there as an executive and gets Kevin, we kind of joined up with them and are working on a concept where we get some guaranteed money in return for them getting to own his rights for a couple of years.
Rob Jones is also a player that posted eye-popping numbers in his senior season at St. Mary’s. Rob ranked seventh in the nation in rebounds per game, averaging 10.8 boards. The star forward also ranked fifth in the nation in double-doulbes, totaling 20 on the season.The two-time first-team all-WEC selection also averaged 15.0 points and 1.6 steals in his final season.