Cleveland Cavaliers have Lots of 2015 Free Agency Decisions; Golden State just needs Green Back

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland CavaliersThe NBA Finals ended as many predicted, with a deeper, more-talented, less-injured Golden State Warriors team beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 4 games to 2. The Warriors’ celebration will be long after ending the team’s 40-year championship drought. But they probably won’t be celebrating all offseason, given that they have a very good chance of reaching the 2016 NBA Finals with their returning roster. Cleveland, on the other hand, needs to consider which of their six free agents will be re-signed if they’re to reach the Finals again. That said, let’s look over the Cavs’ laundry list of tough decisions, as well as the lone major free agent that Golden State needs to worry about.

Cleveland Cavaliers 2015 Free Agency

Iman Shumpert – The 24-year-old shooting guard played well for the Cavaliers in the first three postseason series, but was stifled by the Warriors, shooting just 24.3%. Based on how things ended against Golden State, Shumpert probably won’t get the asking price he wanted going into the NBA Finals. However, that’s not to say that another team won’t offer Shumpert more money than the Cavs are willing to pay him – especially since he’s young.

jr-smith-clevelandJ.R. Smith – Smith has already indicated that he’ll probably opt out of the final year of his deal, which would pay $6.4 million. It’s unclear what kind of market there is for a soon-to-be 30-year-old shooting guard who’s extremely streaky. But it’s clear that Cleveland and LeBron want him back if he’s willing to re-sign. Smith also had a tough series against Golden State, shooting just 32.8% (29.3% from three-point), but he did help Cleveland quite a bit after coming over from New York along with Shumpert in a mid-season trade.

LeBron James – There’s not really much to discuss here because James is staying in Cleveland and will help make free agent decisions this offseason. But he will opt out of his deal and sign a one-year contract so that he can get more when the salary cap raises in the 2016-17 season.

kevin-love-staying-clevelandKevin Love – Whether or not Love will stay in Cleveland has created a media circus all year long. LeBron pushed to get Love on the team, but they didn’t really mesh well on or off the court. Some suggested that the Cavs don’t really need Love after he averaged 16.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG. But it’s pretty clear that Cleveland would have been much better off against the Warriors with an All-Star power forward who can spread the floor with his shooting ability. Love has said that he’s going to be playing for Cleveland on opening day next season, but there are lots of suitors who’ll be throwing themselves at him.

Matthew Dellavedova – The undrafted point guard was about a zero for Cleveland’s offense against the Warriors, shooting just 28.3% from the floor. But his excellent defense on Steph Curry (an unguardable player) and hustle won Cavs fans over. Dellavedova will likely be brought back if another team doesn’t offer to overpay him.

Tristan Thompson – Thompson turned down Cleveland’s four-year, $52 million deal last summer in hopes that he could do better. The gamble paid off and the Cavs need to pay Thompson if they want him back. The 24-year-old is one of the few players that held his own against Golden State in the Finals, averaging 11.6 PPG and 12.6 RPG. Plus he has the support of LeBron, who said that Thompson should “probably be a Cavalier for his whole career.” Cleveland can keep him on a one-year, $7.1 million qualifying offer for next season, but they could lock him up for years with a good deal now.

Golden State Warriors 2015 Free Agency

Draymond Green, LeBron JamesDraymond Green – Unlike Cleveland, the Warriors only have to worry about keeping Green as far as key starters go. And the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year has already indicated that he’d like to re-sign with Golden State. So it looks like the core will definitely stay intact.

Leandro Barbosa – Barbosa played some quality minutes off the bench for Golden State and averaged 5.8 PPG in the Finals. It’s unclear if he will definitely be with the Warriors next year, but re-signing him is not an absolute must.

James Michael McAdoo – McAdoo only played in 15 games for the Warriors this season, so next year definitely doesn’t hang in the balance if they don’t bring him back.

2015 NBA Finals Betting: Key Matchups for Cavs vs Warriors

cleveland-vs-golden-state-bettingThe 2015 NBA Finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers is set to commence on June 4th (Thursday) at 9:00pm ET. Most online sportsbooks, including us at, are heavily favoring the Warriors on the Game 1 betting line; we have Golden State at -6. However, when you have LeBron James on your side like the Cavs do, anything can happen. But this series is about more than just LeBron vs. the Warriors, so let’s discuss some of the key matchups that we’ll see.

1. Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving

This should decidedly be in Golden State’s favor, given that Curry is the reigning league MVP and Irving hasn’t been healthy since the first round of the playoffs. And Irving says that “it would be a miracle” if he were 100% for Game 1. It will be interesting to see how much Irving can slow down Curry since the latter is shooting a blistering 43.7% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. Expect plenty of Matthew Dellavedova for the Cavs here too, because he’s a pesky defender who can pressure Curry.

Advantage: Warriors

NBA: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors2. Klay Thompson vs. Iman Shumpert

Here’s a classic offense vs. defense matchup, with Thompson being the offense and Shumpert being the defense. Thompson was off his 3-point game in the Houston series. But overall, he’s still hitting 42.5% from the 3-point line in the 2015 postseason. Shumpert has actually shot pretty well in the playoffs too (36.8% from 3-point), but his tough defense is what will test an elite shooter like Thompson.

Advantage: Warriors

3. Tristan Thompson vs. Draymond Green

Let this season be the year that both Thompson and Green emerged as big-time players. As for Thompson, nobody has been able to keep him off the offensive glass ever since Kevin Love went down with a shoulder injury. Given that Thompson even dominated the Bulls’ big front line on the boards, don’t expect the Warriors to slow him down. As for Green, he’s one of the league’s best defensive players and he’s also a very good rebounder (10.8 in postseason). He’ll be trying to slow down both Thompson and LeBron at different points of this series.

Advantage: Cavs

4. Timofey Mozgov vs. Andrew Bogut

There couldn’t be a more even matchup in the Cavs vs. Warriors series, considering that Bogut and Mozgov do many of the same things. Both are strong defenders who can protect the rim, so I expect a stalemate here. However, if one of these two is able to play bigger than the other, it could swing the series dramatically in favor of their respective team.

Advantage: Draw

5. Warriors Bench vs. Cavs Bench

Based on talent alone, this matchup easily goes towards the Golden State reserves. Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston could all start on (certain) other teams in the league, yet they are coming off the Warriors’ bench to fill various roles. But that’s not to say Cleveland’s bench is chopped liver, because they feature Dellavedova, James Jones and J.R. Smith. The problem is just that they don’t have much size in the normal bench rotation.

Advantage: Warriors

cavs-vs-warriorsSuperstar Factor

On paper, the Warriors have more advantages; but as mentioned before, you can’t immediately discount a LeBron James-led team. Many consider him the best player in the world – despite Curry winning the MVP – and he’ll get a chance to prove he’s still on top in this series. The Warriors are no doubt the ultimate NBA Finals test, so can the Cavs hang?

Advantage: Cavaliers