The pickings are slim and it may seem like NBA free-agency is over since most news has died down over the past week, but there is still a long list of available free-agents to be had, and all of them will likely wind up getting signed for a lower price than they hoped compared to last summer.
The decrease in the salary cap caused a domino effect on free-agency this summer, which resulted in players like Jonathan Simmons and Patrick Patterson signing for less than $7 Mil. per season, while Timofey Mozgov relaxes with his comfortable $16 Mil. per season from his four-year deal he signed last summer.
Although the Cleveland Cavaliers have spent much of the summer on the sidelines, it’s possible one of the available veteran free-agents falls into their lap for the league minimum, as most teams are close to if not already done adding to their rosters.
The Cavs would still probably have to hope for a player to be willing to take less money than they could get elsewhere, but given the options, competing for a championship might be worth that paycut after all.
To see a full list of available free-agents, click here.
Here are three names that could upgrade Cleveland’s bench.
1. Shabazz Muhammad SG/SF
At 25 years old, he’s more likely to look for a deal which nets him a lucrative contract, but of all the available free-agents, he could make the biggest impact off the bench.
Muhammad scores in bunches and Cleveland has yet to make a meaningful acquisition to significantly help that aspect of its roster in the 2017-18 season.
While Jeff Green is an upgrade from James and Dahntay Jones, the word “explosive” doesn’t exactly come to mind when thinking about the veteran forward.
Cleveland was close to signing Jamal Crawford, who could have provided a spark off the bench similar to Muhammad, but is 37 years old.
Although it’s probably a long shot, Muhammad’s best chance to compete for a championship would be in Cleveland. LeBron James tends to accentuate role players’ highlights and I could see a scenario where if Muhammad signed a one-year deal with Cleveland and made a big impact off the bench this season, his value would skyrocket heading into the summer of 2018.
Muhammad is a sub-par defender, but for as many droughts as Cleveland’s bench had with LeBron and Kyrie Irving on the sidelines in 2016-17, his offensive boost would outweigh the defensive issues.
If the Cavs are successful in moving Iman Shumpert, which they’ve been trying to do since the season ended, Muhammad would be a more than serviceable option to take over Shumpert’s minutes in the rotation and could play alongside Kyle Korver and Jeff Green on the second unit, if needed.
2. Arron Afflalo SG/SF
While Afflalo isn’t known for his offense, he’s a solid shooter and a good wing defender. The 31-year-old would be more likely to take a league minimum deal than Muhammad because the reality is his best days of his career are behind him, but not as long gone as some NBA veterans who’ve been on Cavs rosters in recent years.
Afflalo would be an upgrade from Shumpert and could provide quality minutes, but few would expect him to make a “game-changing” impact, especially when the games really count.
3. Boris Diaw PF/C
Diaw was waived by the Utah Jazz and although he’s 35, his skill set could fit what the Cavs need at backup power forward and center.
It’s looking less likely that Derrick Williams will re-sign with Cleveland. The Cavs have made it known they’re looking to move Channing Frye.
Edy Tavares is far from a guarantee to make the opening day roster and his Summer League play didn’t do much to help his case.
Diaw has proven himself to be valuable on the big stage in recent years, playing a big role in the San Antonio Spurs’ playoff and Championship runs from 2012 to 2014.
Granted, his last great season was three years ago, but for his role in Cleveland – which would be to back up Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, he could still produce.
He’s a great passer for a big man has decent range and perhaps most importantly, will not be overwhelmed in the Playoffs, which would be one advantage he has over guys like Tavares and Williams.
Although none of these three names would be the “difference” between beating Golden State in the Finals, adding any or all of three of these guys, filling an open roster spot, or replacing Shumpert and Frye in the lineup with them can’t make the second unit any less productive than it was in the 2017 Finals.
Frye only played 11 minutes in the Finals, all of which came in a Game 2 blowout loss. Shumpert played roughly 16 minutes per game and shot 4-for-17 from the field. In Game 5, he only saw four minutes of playing time.
We’re not trying to say that Muhammad, Afflalo and Diaw would end up giving Cleveland the best bench in the league, but a little help is all we’re asking for.