Don’t expect Cleveland Cavaliers to re-sign Luol Deng this Summer

luol-deng-clevelandFor once this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in an enviable position. After a season met with considerable disappointment, they grabbed the number-one overall pick for the second year in a row. Now, Cleveland has their choice between Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, among several other talented potential top selections. That said, the need to sign versatile forward Luol Deng doesn’t seem very high in The Forest City.

According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cavaliers haven’t made much of an effort to bring Deng back. Here’s one excerpt from Lloyd’s article:

Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Cavs could increase their chances of retaining free agent Luol Deng should they hire Griffin to be their coach, but the Cavs tried trading Deng at the trade deadline three months ago and haven’t expressed much interest in bringing him back.

Why wouldn’t Cleveland want Deng?

luol-deng-cleveland-1Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star who’s averaged 16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.0 SPG over his 9-year career. More importantly, Cleveland was a better team with Deng on the squad as they went 20-20 after the trade that brought him over from the Chicago Bulls. This is quite an accomplishment for a team that finished the season just 33-49, missing the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

So why not do whatever it takes to bring a good all-around player like this back? For starters, Deng is going to command a lot of money in this summer’s free agent market. And while Cleveland has cap space to cover Deng’s salary demands, they’re more likely to hold out for another star.

After all, the former Bull has never been the type of player who carries a team and consistently takes the big shot. As we covered before, Deng can certainly make a team far better, as he did in Cleveland. But the Cavs already have very good players in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. What they’re looking for is another dynamic star to pair with Kyrie Irving.

Given that landing LeBron James is still a possibility, Cleveland may let Deng go without a fight and focus on developing their latest top pick and last year’s first selection, Anthony Bennett. Sure, this doesn’t exactly equate to a banner 2015 season, where Cleveland Cavaliers betting will be a hot trend. But it sets them up for years of future success, especially if they can sign Irving to an extension.

Deng won’t miss Cleveland

adrian-griffin-cavs-coaching-candidateIf the Cavs continue down the road of not paying Deng much attention, don’t expect the small forward to pine for fishing trips and long walks on Lake Erie. He went from a very competitive environment in Chicago last year to a more dysfunctional one in Cleveland.

Much of this stemmed from the lack of control that coach Mike Brown had over the team. Deng was rumored to have told a friend that players were taking their uniform tops off at halftime and threatening not to play, getting thrown out of practice, mouthing off to Brown, and generally not being held accountable. One perfect instance of the latter was when Waiters got kicked out of practice one day, then he got to play his normal amount of minutes the following game.

Taking all of this into account, Cleveland’s current search for a coach will include finding somebody who can control and demand respect from the team’s young talent. As Lloyd reported in the aforementioned article, Adrian Griffin (pictured above) was the first candidate interviewed. Griffin, who played nine years in the NBA, has spent time as an assistant for both Scott Skiles (Milwaukee Bucks) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls).

Both Skiles and Thibodeau strongly endorse Griffin as a coach, and it’s possible that hiring him could interest Deng in coming back – provided this door isn’t already closed. Other candidates who’ll get interviews with the Cavs include Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue and ex-Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

Cleveland Cavaliers can’t make a Decision on moving Dion Waiters

dion-waiters-clevelandWe’re now just a couple of weeks away from the 2014 NBA trade deadline. And the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the more likely teams to make a huge deal before the February 20th deadline. Going further, this could mean moving starting shooting guard Dion Waiters, whose attitude has apparently worn thin on teammates and coaches.

Despite his immaturity and clashes with team star Kyrie Irving, this is no easy decision for the Cavaliers. After all, they invested the fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft on Waiters. It’s not like he’s been a bad player either, averaging 14.2 PPG and shooting 38.1% from beyond the three-point line. On top of this, owner Dan Gilbert also loves Waiters’ talent

So will Cleveland actually move a player who could bring them back something significant? Gilbert may not want to do this. However, the driving force behind getting rid of Waiters is the team’s record, which is a miserable 16-32. And shaking up the roster by trading their shooting guard could have a very positive effect on the Cavs.

dion-waiters-cleveland-1They were built to win this season and, at the very least, grab a playoff seed in the extremely weak Eastern Conference. Veterans like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, and Jarrett Jack were brought in to provide bench depth and experience on what was supposed to be a good team. The Bynum experiment blew up in the organization’s face, but he did serve a purpose since Cleveland was able to deal his expiring contract for two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng.

Unfortunately, not even Deng has been able to spark a turnaround with this struggling club. In fact, Deng seems repulsed by what he’s seen in Cleveland so far. He reportedly told a friend “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.” Deng was particularly offended by how certain players talk to head coach Mike Brown, threaten not to play after halftime, and when Waiters was kicked out of practice, yet still played starter’s minutes in the next game.

The latter point is very telling of the root of Cleveland’s problems. Waiters seems to feel entitled and shows little respect for Brown. None of the players seem to have quite the star power to keep him in check either. Deng is new to this situation and is probably just trying to play out the season so he can leave in free agency, while Irving is an All-Star, but doesn’t yet have the accomplishments to help control a locker room.

Obviously the team that’s been assembled isn’t getting things done on the court. So Cleveland either needs to move Waiters while they have a chance, or accept another year without the postseason and look towards the draft…again.

Will the Luol Deng Trade push Cleveland into the Playoffs?

luol-deng-cavs-tradeOver the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been the league’s hottest trade commodity. And no, it’s certainly not Bynum’s 8.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG that had teams clamoring for his services. Instead, teams merely wanted to sign him and waive him to save salary cap room.

Well, Cleveland finally found a taker for the disappointing center as the Chicago Bulls gave up two-time All-Star Luol Deng in the deal. In exchange, the Bulls save $15 million in salary and taxes this season by trading Deng and cutting Bynum. They also get a bevy of draft picks from the Cavs, including a first-round pick (via Sacramento), and 2015 and 2016 second-round picks (via Portland). It’s clear that Chicago did a good job of at least getting something in return for Deng, who wasn’t expected to re-sign with the Bulls this summer.

But the immediate winner here is no doubt the Cavaliers. This team came into the 2013-14 NBA season with high expectations. Not only did they sign a former All-Star in Bynum, but they also drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one overall. These two additions, along with Cleveland’s core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, were expected to produce the club’s first postseason bid in years.

Instead, what they’ve gotten so far is a 12-23 record and a top pick who’s averaging 2.2 PPG and shooting 27.8% from the field. But the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around with Deng on the roster.

luol-deng-cavs-trade-1Despite a .343 winning percentage, Cleveland is just 2 and a half games out of a playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason look even more optimistic when you consider that only three teams really appear to be locks in the weak Eastern Conference.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deng fills the biggest hole on the Cavs’ roster. Irving (22.8PPG, 6.1APG) is a star at point guard, Waiters (15.2PPG, 3.2RPG) is having his best season at shooting guard, Thompson (11.9PPG, 9.8RPG) is a more-than-solid power forward, and Varejao (8.1PPG, 9.6RPG) is still a serviceable center. But their gaping hole has always been Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee trying to fill the small forward role. Both players are shooting less than 40% from the field, and they’re forced to play out of position too.

Enter Deng, who’s averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG from the small forward spot. Getting somebody like this to plug in the missing piece of your lineup is huge. More than that, Deng seems to be the guy who’ll finally make Cleveland into a postseason-worthy team. Of course, there’s just one catch here: Deng could only be in a Cavs uniform for half a season.

He’ll definitely test the free agency waters when his contract is up this summer. And with Deng being a 9-year veteran, he’s likely going to want to play for a title contender. But then again, Cleveland could convince Deng that they’re capable of competing for a championship with him in the lineup. Sure this seems like a stretch now, but sometimes one player can dramatically turn around a team’s chemistry.

Above all, the Cavaliers will have plenty of cap space to sign Deng to a long-term deal. Seeing as how many people think that he’ll fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $48 million contract that Andre Iguodala signed with Golden State last summer, Cleveland can definitely afford to front this bill.

Cleveland Cavaliers Gamble on Andrew Bynum

andrew-bynum-clevelandLast year, the Philadelphia 76ers paid $16.5 million to watch Andrew Bynum sit in street clothes throughout the entire NBA season. But knee problems and bone bruises don’t scare the Cleveland Cavaliers since they signed Bynum to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

If Bynum performs and meets incentives during his two years in Cleveland, he’ll earn a maximum of $24.5 million. However, he’s only guaranteed $6 million of this amount during the first year. Assuming Bynum meets certain stipulations, he’ll earn up to $12 million in the first season. The second year is a $12.5 million team option that allows Cleveland to cut ties with the 25-year-old if they no longer want him.

Before signing with Philadelphia and sitting out an entire season, Bynum was one of the NBA’s best centers. He averaged 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG and made the All-Star team during the 2011-12 season. Since jumping directly from high school to the NBA, Bynum has put up career averages of 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

When the Sixers signed Bynum to a one-year, $16.5 million contract, they were hoping to get the same guy who was coming off an All-Star year for the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver, and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Bynum and Jason Richardson. After building a team around Bynum, the Sixers thought they could contend for a high playoff seed; what they got instead was a guy who never played and a 34-48 record.

andrew-bynum-76ersLucky for Cleveland, they don’t have to invest as much in the 7-footer since they aren’t banking on his production. The Cavaliers know that the future of their squad lies with 21-year-old’s Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, 22-year-old Tristan Thompson, and newly-drafted 20-year-old Anthony Bennett.

If Bynum pans out, he could join this young core group and help form a playoff contender. What’s more is that the 25-year-old might provide incentive for LeBron James to return to Cleveland during the 2014 free agency period. But if Bynum doesn’t play much, or at all, the Cavs can simply pay him the $6 million and wash their hands of this deal after one season. For Quicken Loans and casino magnate Dan Gilbert, this is a small price to pay for a potential top-5 center.

The Cavs aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this arrangement. Andrew Bynum wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent after 31 other NBA teams saw Philadelphia flush $16.5 million down the drain. So the relatively young center was looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills and prove that his knees aren’t totally shot.

If the Cleveland thing works out, Bynum will earn as much as $24.5 million and lead a strong group of young players. He’ll also hit the free agent market in 2015 with a much loftier status than what he carried this season. And if he has another Philadelphia-type year, well, at least Bynum made an extra $6 million before he enters Greg Oden territory.

Dr. J says 76ers got “Damaged Goods” in Andrew Bynum

julius-erving-76ersLast offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers pulled off a blockbuster four-team deal that saw them net former Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Sure they had to give up All-Star Andre Iguodala as part of the deal; but this seemed like a reasonable sacrifice for a 7-foot, two-time NBA champion center.

After acquiring Bynum, Philadelphia thought they were getting a player who was entering his prime after averaging 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 1.9 BPG in the 2011-2012 campaign. Instead, what they got is a guy with terrible knees who didn’t play a game all season.

Sixers legend Julius Erving recently weighed in on the matter in an interview with the Philadelphia Enquirer. And Dr. J had some very interesting comments about his old rival, the Lakers. “When you talk to the Lakers, when you talk to the Celtics, when you talk to – well, those two in particular – the guy on the other end of the phone has his fingers crossed,” Erving said. “So whatever he’s telling you, he’s not telling you the truth. He’s working a deal for him. And what happened to us last year with getting damaged goods hopefully will only happen once. And that’s the extent of that learning curve.”

Erving is close to the situation because he serves as a consultant to 76ers owner Joshua Harris. And ESPN’s SportsCenter asked him to further expand on the comments he made to the Enquirer. “I was talking about the Sixers and the management and the ownership and their commitment to excellence, to being a contender, to being a champion,” recalled Dr. J. “And they set a timeline of five to seven years three seasons ago, so as they close in on that timeline, the comment was really about not making any mistakes. Not making decisions that don’t turn out.

andrew-bynum-76ers“So that’s how we got over to the Andrew Bynum decision, which on paper seemed like a good decision. But forewarned is foretold. If you’re going to deal with the Celtics who are our natural rivals, or the Lakers, the two teams that have won the most championships in the NBA, they’re always going to make deals where they get the better end of the deal. That’s been their history, that’s how they presently are and that’s how they’re going to be in the future.

“So for the Sixers, to get Andrew Bynum and think he was going to be an All-Star and an all-pro and think he was going to be a valuable part of the franchise, as was the thinking, it turned out to be a bad deal.”

To say that the Bynum trade was a bad deal is an understatement. He turned out to be a $16.5 million waste of roster space after not suiting up the entire season. When training camp began, the 7-footer was adamant that he’d play at some point in 2013. But as the months wore on, it was looking increasingly likely that he’d sit out the entire year. On March 18th, the speculation was finally put to rest when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees, thus ending his season.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media DaySo what does the future hold for Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia? He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July and still believes that he can sign a maximum contract somewhere….however, delusional this notion may be. Despite his lost season for the 76ers and degenerative knee problems, it’s likely that some team will gamble on the 25-year-old. Just don’t expect that team to be Philadelphia, which is in rebuilding mode once again.

Sam Hinkie, who’s the new president of basketball operations and GM in Philadephia, didn’t exactly give Bynum a vote of confidence. “I think of Andrew like the thousands of other young men walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents that have potential to play NBA basketball,” he said. “He is one of those. I’m duty bound to consider them and look at them. All of them.”

Reading between the lines, Hinkie may be searching elsewhere to find the future of the Philadelphia 76ers. After all, he wouldn’t want to make the same mistake as his predecessors Rod Thorn (former 76ers president) and Tony DiLeo (former GM), who are collectively blamed for one of the worst deals in the team’s history.