Last October, the Cleveland Cavaliers exercised Kyrie Irving’s option. By doing so, they secured his rights up until the summer of 2016. This means they also have their biggest selling point to future free agents up until the summer of 2016. Evident in the recent signing of Andrew Bynum, big name free agents want to join up with other big name players. And since there will be an All-Star point guard wearing Wine and Gold for the next three seasons, the team should have an easier time attracting stars to come play in a midmarket city, something that historically is challenging in the NBA.
Free agent frenzy as died down a bit at this point and typically, attention begins to focus previewing the upcoming 82 game campaign. However, I am going to jump right over that part and take a look at players who could be free agents next summer, whether they have early termination options (ETO) or are unrestricted free agents. There are going to be some high caliber restricted free agents next summer but I am going to bypass talking about them because typically, you have to overpay in order to get one of those players, like Houston did with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in the summer of 2012. The list will also exclude players who I truly believe will not bring their talents to Cleveland. First things first:
LeBron James, Early Termination Option
He gets enough attention already. Basically, if he terminates his contract with the Miami Heat after this season, a return to Cleveland is not too far-fetched. Would I want him back? Of course I would. Why would I not want the best player in the NBA to play here again? I will completely forget that he ever took his talents elsewhere and welcome him with open arms.
Luol Deng, Unrestricted Free Agency
Deng will be a free agent next summer, as he has no player or team option in his contract. As I have written before, small forward is definitely the only glaring hole the Cavs have position-wise. Frankly, Deng might be a more realistic option than LeBron is. Last season, per 26 minutes, Deng scored just over 15 point a game and rebounded at a very high level too, nearly six per contest. He does not stroke the three as well as you would expect, as he is a career 33% shooter. He was a second team All-NBA Defensive team in 2011-2012 too. He, realistically, is a rich man’s Alonzo Gee. I would love if the Cavaliers inked a deal for about 4 years. He would be 29 next off season, meaning he is right in his prime. Deng moving from Division rival Chicago over to Cleveland would be a major addition for the Cavs moving forward.
Danny Granger, Unrestricted Free Agent
As you can tell, I am focusing on the small forward position. Granger’s contract will be up at the same time teammate Paul George’s is. George will be a restricted free agent unlike Granger, who is unrestricted. Indiana will be faced with which one to keep, it is doubtful that both can be resigned. I tend to think Indiana will allow the older Granger to walk. The Cavs will have the space to offer Granger a pretty substantial deal. I would love for them to bring in a player of Granger’s caliber. For his career, he is averaging nearly 20 points per 36 minutes. He is definitely a better shooter than Deng. Twice in his career, Granger shot over 40% from three. This ability to shoot would bring a dimension to the team that it does not have currently at the small forward spot.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Unrestricted Free Agent
His name probably will not be thrown around much as somebody that Cavs would target but I would love to see it if the Cavaliers cannot land one of the three players above. He has only been in the league three years and when his contract is up, he will only be 23 years old. He would be able to grow with the young nucleus already assembled by Chris Grant. His numbers are not that impressive but by looking at his statistics from his first three seasons, there is steady improvement from year to year which leads me to believe there will be even more growth in 2013. He does not shoot well, but his length (6’9”) and athletic ability will make him valuable on defense and in transition. His age and upside would make him a very intriguing signing for the Wine and Gold next off season.
Obviously, LeBron being the best player available, would make him the best target for the Cavs but I think seeing Deng playing on the banks of the Cuyahoga River is the most likely to happen. He would be in his prime by the time he suits up for the Cavs and his experience is something the entire team would benefit from. He has played with an all-star point guard in Derrick Rose before, so a transition to playing with Kyrie should be smooth. With the cap room to make any of these four possible signings reality and Kyrie as a selling point, the 2013 free agency period should be exciting. But first, we have the season to play.