It’s been a busy start to free agency, and perhaps no other team in the NBA has as many balls in the air as the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a great deal of speculation about what would happen once the free-for-all officially started at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, it’s looking more and more like the Cavs will bring back most, if not all, of the team that came two games away from an NBA title this season.
It started when Kevin Love announced earlier today that he’s definitely returning to Cleveland via an essay he wrote for the Players’ Tribune, despite a cacophony of rumors to the contrary following his rather rocky first season with the Cavs. They also managed to sew up defensive specialist Iman Shumpert with a four-year, $40 million contract, which reportedly includes a player option for the fourth year.
It also appears that the front office is closing in on a deal that would lock down Tristan Thompson for the next five years with a deal worth in excess of $80 million. Here’s more from Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
“Although no deal can be officially signed until July 9, when a leaguewide moratorium is lifted, Thompson and the Cavaliers have essentially come to terms on a deal that will undoubtedly please Cavs star LeBron James, who is one of Thompson’s biggest fans and whose agents from Klutch Sports — Rich Paul and Mark Termini — represent Thompson, as well.”
Thompson emerged as one of, if not the, best rebounders of the entire postseason, as well as a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. He also filled in valiantly for Love after he went down with a shoulder injury during their opening-round series against the Boston Celtics. Although a healthy Love would presumably start at the power forward position, don’t be surprised to see the Cavs go small when the situation calls for it, with Love and Thompson playing alongside one another in a configuration akin to the adjustment the Cavs made mid-series during the Finals.
In terms of free agency, however, the Cavs still have a few irons in the fire, most notably the pending J.R. Smith situation. After coming over from the Knicks at the trade deadline in February, Smith (along with Shumpert) helped the Cavs transform into title contenders. But after a dud of a performance in the NBA Finals, opting out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent this summer is a gamble. It’s questionable whether he’ll command more than the $6 million-plus that was on his contract for next season, and it appears as if the Cavs aren’t in any hurry to bring him back into the fold.
The rumored Brendan Haywood swap between the Cavs and Spurs also might be dead in the water. In theory, it was ostensibly designed to help the Spurs clear cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge and potentially provide Cleveland with one or both of Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, but that route has very likely been compromised by the Tiago Splitter trade from earlier today which helped clear a significant portion of the cap space the Spurs need to land Aldridge. Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract is worth a little more than $10.5 million, which is still an attractive trade chip for many teams looking to clear space. It just won’t be the Spurs.
And we haven’t even gotten to LeBron James yet, who’s “wait and see approach” to free agency is tied directly to how all the aforementioned pieces fall into place before he ultimately decides on just what type of contract he’ll sign with the Cavs moving forward.
As busy as this first day of free agency has been so far, it’s still only the first day. There’s plenty of time left, so we’ll be keeping a close watch on the situation as it continues to evolve.