Now that the dust has settled to a certain extent on LeBron James’ decision to become a Cleveland Cavalier again, Cavs General Manager David Griffin has been working to fill out the rest of a roster that will arguably be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. There have been many reports that the Cavaliers are trying to package together some of their young players and multiple first round draft picks, in order to land the blockbuster trade that would bring Kevin Love to Cleveland. While the Love acquisition would create a Cavalier “Big Three” that would be the odds on favorite to win the NBA Championship, there is no eminent deal in place and there is a very real chance that Cleveland will have to settle for surrounding King James with role players.
So what free agents are still available that make sense?
1. Ray Allen - There is not much to be said about Allen that isn’t already known. He is the greatest shooter in NBA history and after last season with the Miami Heat, showed he still is in phenomenal shape even at age 38. Allen is contemplating retiring and has made it clear on Twitter, that he will choose what is best for him and his family. There have been reports that Allen is leaning toward returning for one more season, however Allen clarified the conflicting reports. “One thing is for certain, to make a decision on my terms is the most important thing,” Allen said. “Whether that is me retiring, staying here or going somewhere else, it will be on my terms. I’ve made it to this point, and I felt great that I have the choice to make it for myself.” Allen has developed a close friendship with James and if he still wants to play, Cleveland seems to be the number one destination.
2. Jameer Nelson - Nelson has been a staple of the Orlando Magic’s backcourt for nearly a decade. The veteran point guard was a cap casualty cut by Orlando, who has moved on to building a younger nucleus led by Victor Oladipo. The Cavs traded Jarrett Jack to the Brooklyn Nets in an attempt to save salary cap room for James and company and have no backup behind Kyrie Irving. Nelson averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 assists per game last season while shooting 86-percent from the free throw line. Nelson has plenty of teams interested in him, specifically the New Orleans Pelicans. However, at this point Nelson would most likely come off of the bench if he were to choose to go to a contender. Although he could sign a bigger deal elsewhere, Nelson would be a perfect fit to run the offense when Irving rests but unless he wants to take a drastic pay cut to play for a contender, he may be too rich for Cleveland to sign.
3. Mike Miller – Miller played with James in Miami for three seasons before signing with the Memphis Grizzlies for one season. Miller averaged 7.1 points while shooting a blistering 46-percent from three point land. Mike has always been one of the top shooters in the league but his defense and rebounding abilities have gone by the wayside as he enters his 15th season in the league. He has always been a favorite of James because of his reliable shooting efforts and unlimited range; however, the Denver Nuggets are also making a strong push to sign Miller. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Denver has offered Miller a 3 year $12 million dollar deal, topping Cleveland’s offer of 2 years $5.5 million. Miller is in a win-win situation regardless of which team he chooses in what will most likely be his final NBA contract.
4. Ekpe Udoh – While Udoh is making headlines off of the court by starting an online book club, the 6-foot-10-inch center is drawing attention from suitors on the court. Although he hasn’t averaged more than 5.7 points and 21 minutes per game, Udoh is a high motor player, much like Chris Andersen, willing to fight around the hoop for rebounds and put back dunks. Udoh earned a salary of $3 million last season for the Milwaukee Bucks and could be signed for a bargain of a price. The 27 year old center is a rim protector that uses his length, leaping ability and quickness to deny shot attempts. He is a horrendous shooter however, shooting under 40-percent from the field last season. Since the Cavs lost Spencer Hawes and traded Tyler Zeller to Boston, there is a large hole behind Anderson Varejao at the center spot. Varejao has missed 182 games over the past four seasons due to injury and a young big like Udoh could split time with Varejao.
There is a central theme for many of these potential signings. Most have either already played with James or have a distinct trait that is very similar to a role player that has been a teammate of the Chosen One. Regardless, Cleveland’s prodigal son has returned home, now it’s time to surround him (as well as Kyrie and Andrew Wiggins) with the shooters and high-energy big men necessary to make the Cavaliers legitimate championship contenders once again.