Some Cavs schedule notes.

August 7, 2013

The NBA has released its full 2013-14 schedule of games, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will open their season against the revamped Brooklyn Nets in an NBA TV affair on October 30. (Find the full schedule here.)

The Cavs and Nets have been 2 of the league’s most active franchises this summer — Cleveland’s re-hired Mike Brown as head coach, drafted Anthony Bennett at No. 1, and signed Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark to free-agent contracts, while Brooklyn’s hired the just-retired Jason Kidd as head coach, traded for future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and also added a stable of veterans that includes Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry and Alan Anderson.

Three years ago this summer, the Cavs opened against KG, Pierce and the Celtics in their post-LeBron debut, scoring a 95-87 win at Quicken Loans Arena. This one’s likely to have a similar atmosphere, and not just because it’s Livingston’s return to Cleveland. The Cavs are 2-1 in home openers in the post-LBJ era.

I like the NBA’s bet here. These are 2 likely playoff teams sure to grab the headlines this year, one for its aging All Stars and the other, if nothing else, for LeBron James’s pending free agency.

Then, there’s the questions. How will Kidd fare in his coaching debut? How will Brooklyn’s starting lineup of 4 superstars — past and present, mostly past — share the ball in the half court? And how will Bynum perform in his first real game action in nearly 18 months?

A few other nuggets on the schedule, in no order of importance.

* I counted 20 back-to-backs through 82 games, with the latter half of 11 of those coming on the road.

* The Cavs have a chance to start fast. Only 4 of the team’s first 13 games are against playoff teams from 2012-13, one of which comes versus a Milwaukee team that lost 3 of its best 4 players, Brandon Jennings (Detroit), Monta Ellis (Dallas) and J.J. Redick (LAC), this summer. That stretch also includes 2 games each against Charlotte, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington.

* The longest stretch of road games I counted was 5, from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, right after which the Cavs return to The Q for 5, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28, the longest home stretch of the season. The away stretch: Utah, Sacramento, LAL, Portland and Denver; the home stretch: Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix and New Orleans.

* I only counted 2 other road trips of at least 3 games — Jan. 30 to Feb. 3, at New York, Houston and Dallas; and March 12 to March 16, at Phoenix, Golden State and LAC.

* To the naked eye, the most brutal stretch of games comes Nov. 22 to Dec. 10; the games: at New Orleans, at San Antonio, vs. Miami, at Boston, vs. Chicago, vs. Denver, at Atlanta, vs. LAC and vs. New York. After New Orleans, that’s 8 straight against postseason teams from a year ago, though Boston, Denver and maybe Atlanta are likely to regress.

* Immediately after this stretch comes a 2-day Florida sweep: at Orlando on Dec. 13 and at Miami the next day.

* Ironically, the Cavs’ second home game against Brooklyn, whom they open the season with, is the last game of the season on April 16.

* LeBron’s return to The Q comes early this year — on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Miami returns to Cleveland on March 18.

* Andrew Bynum doesn’t have to wait long to play his most recent team, the Philadelphia 76ers … and Philly fans don’t have to wait long to boo. Cleveland and Philly play a home-and-home on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, the first of which comes at Wells Fargo Center in a Friday night slot that I’d guess could be a national TV affair.

* Jarrett Jack doesn’t return to the ORACLE until March 14, but Golden State travels to Cleveland on Dec. 29.

* The ex-Lakers contingent of Bynum, Mike Brown and Earl Clark returns to L.A. on Jan. 14. The Lakers travel to Cleveland on Feb. 5.

* With Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the fold, Detroit figures to compete for a low playoff seed, potentially against the division-rival Cavs. Two of Cleveland’s last 10 come against the Pistons, including an April 9 affair at The Q. The other 2 meetings are Dec. 23, at Cleveland, and Feb. 12, at Detroit.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


Mike Miller Would Be Nice, But Not Enough for OKC

July 19, 2013

Mike Miller has cleared waivers and appears headed to Oklahoma City, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Woj is reporting the Thunder are the frontrunners to sign Miller, with just about every other Western Conference contender — San Antonio, Memphis, Houston and Golden State — also mentioned as potential suitors.

The Miami Heat waived Miller earlier this week under the amnesty clause to duck counting his $12.8 million over the next 2 years against the cap. Miami’s still on the hook for Miller’s full salary — $6.2 million in 2013-14 and $6.6 in ’14-15 — but can save considerably in luxury tax penalties under the new CBA. Woj had linked Miller to Cleveland on Wednesday.

Miller cleared waivers after no team claimed the 33-year-old Florida product before Thursday’s 5 p.m. EST deadline. He is free to sign with any team.

As a move draws closer, Miller is also weighing back surgery, Woj reports. Miller has only played one full 82-game slate his entire 13-year career — his rookie season in Orlando.

What would Mike Miller mean to OKC?

Shooting. Lots of shooting.

Miller, a career 41% 3-point shooter, nailed 7-of-8 3s in Miami’s Game 5 elimination win over the Thunder in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals. The Thunder just lost their most potent 3-point threat, Kevin Martin — who shot a team-best 42.6% from deep last season and was particularly deadly from the corners — to Minnesota.

Spacing for OKC is crucial. Russell Westbrook, a limited long-range scorer himself, and Kevin Durant often command double-teams, leaving role guys like Thabo Sefolosha and, potentially, Miller open. With shooters on the perimeter, it’s that much harder for wing defenders to collapse on drives; if they stay on their man, that means more open lanes for OKC’s 2 stars, and, if they do help, well, open shooters.

And that goes without mentioning that Kendrick Perkins, and his albatross of a contract, is one of the league’s worst offensive players, requiring no defensive attention outside the paint.

Last season, OKC made 7.4 3s per game on 19.4 attempts. About league average. In the postseason, only one team, Houston, attempted more 3s per game (33.7) than OKC (24.7). Miller’s been to the playoffs 8 times, in which he’s converted a very respectable 37.7% of his 3s.

But Miller is not an answer to Martin’s departure.

The competition in the Western Conference is improving. It’s no longer a two-horse race, limited to San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Houston added Dwight Howard, Golden State added Andre Iguodala, the Clippers added Doc Rivers, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick and Darren Collison, Memphis returns a roster that advanced to the Western Conference Finals, and even San Antonio improved with Marco Belinelli.

With Martin headed north, also gone are 14 points, 10 shots and 28 minutes a night. Your No. 3 scorer. Miller’s a nice piece — a shooter, capable defender with 6’8″ size at the 2, extremely underrated rebounder and even, best case scenario, a double-figure-a-night scorer — but he’s no No. 3 option. Not even a No. 4. Not on a championship team.

Of course Serge Ibaka could be your No. 3 option, and you could lean more on Reggie Jackson, likely to play more than the 14.2 minutes he averaged in 2012-13. The Oklahoman has reported that Derek Fisher’s likely to return for a third consecutive season, bringing (maybe) shooting and championship pedigree.

But Fisher’s not much more than a 3rd point guard. Your only major (but not really major) offseason addition is No. 12 pick Steven Adams, a 19-year-old New Zealand center unlikely to contribute much this season. In 2 years, you’ve went from James Harden to Kevin Martin to … Jeremy Lamb? More will certainly be asked of Lamb, the former Connecticut 2-guard who saw 23 games of garbage time in OKC last year.

In other words, for the tl;dr folks, two points:

  • Kevin Martin, himself a far cry from James Harden’s pre-trade production, darted in free agency, and the Thunder lack a viable replacement.
  • The Western Conference is improving, yet the Thunder are back-pedaling in the primes of their 2 stars, Durant and Westbrook. Aside from a healthy Russ, OKC’s done next to nothing to improve this summer.

No need to sound the panic alarm just yet. The summer is still young.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


Andrew Bynum to Cavs: All reward, no risk

July 12, 2013

Andrew Bynum is your newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The news of an incentive-laced 2-year, $24-million deal, first reported Wednesday by ESPN’s Chris Broussard, brought out excited Cavs fans on Twitter. And why not.

Admittedly hesitant at first, here’s why I love this deal.

Not a lot of financial risk.

$6 million guaranteed in Year No. 1, Year 2’s a team option. Sign me up!

If Bynum flops, Chris Grant lets him walk next summer and maintains flexibility to sign a max-contract player, such as a LeBron James. Even after the signings of Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack, the Cavs needed to spend to reach the $52-million salary floor. Why not spend it on a 7-footer who’s still only 25 and has averaged double-figure scoring every year he’s played since 2007-08, all while carrying the burden of being Shaquille O’Neal’s successor in L.A.

If Bynum plays well, Grant owns a team option for an affordable $12.5 million, barely $1 million more than DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee are scheduled to make, next season. Trade Anderson Varejao and decline team options on Clark and Alonzo Gee, and, boom, you’ve got your max slot again!

Or, Grant could pick up Bynum’s team option and then shop him. L.A. picked up Bynum’s option last summer, only to deal him to Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard trade 2 months later.

The injury history is real, but doesn’t bother me.

Not every day does a team add a 19-point, 12-rebound-a-night center. Those were Bynum’s stats in 60 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, under current Cavs coach Mike Brown, while sharing touches with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. He’s a 2-time NBA champion with 74 postseason games under his belt, easily the most among any current Cavs player barring a Luke Walton return.

Sure, Bynum’s a health risk. He’s played only one 82-game season throughout his 8-year career, and he’s missed at least 15 games 5 out of 7 times since he started earning meaningful minutes in 2006-07. Much is made of how Bynum’s knees, re-aggravated during a November bowling injury, kept him out of all last season in Philly, and how many, including Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have questioned his work ethic.

But now, Bynum’s legitimately playing for his NBA career. If he flops in Cleveland, and if the knee issues return, he’s going to have a hard time finding anything more than veteran-minimum dollars in free agency next summer.

Look at this roster. This is a playoff team.

There’s five teams in the Eastern Conference above everyone else — in no particular order, Miami, Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago and New York. Boston traded 2 of its 3 best players, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to Brooklyn, sent their Hall-of-Fame coach to L.A. and could be shopping Rajon Rondo. Atlanta lost Josh Smith to Detroit, and Milwaukee’s likely to lose Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick.

I see the Cavs, next to Washington and Detroit, competing for those 6-8 playoff spots, along with Atlanta, maybe Toronto and whatever Boston throws on the floor.

The Cavs needed an offensive punch, so here comes Bynum, Jack and No. 1 selection Anthony Bennett. The Cavs needed a defensive mentality, so here comes Mike Brown, Clark and Jack.

Barring any other major moves or injuries, that’s a rotation of Kyrie Irving and Bynum, 2 of the league’s top 30 players when healthy; Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Bennett, Jack, Clark, Tyler Zeller, C.J. Miles, Gee and maybe Sergey Karasev. That’s 11 quality NBA talents.

And when they need buckets, a 3-guard lineup of Irving, Waiters and Jack, coupled with Bynum and Bennett would give defenses a lot to handle.

Yeah, I really like this team.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


Clippers: Summer’s early winner, but questions loom

July 7, 2013

We’re 6+ days into free agency, and most of the big chips have fallen. Dwight Howard to Houston, Chris Paul to stay in L.A., Al Jefferson to Charlotte, Josh Smith to Detroit, Andre Iguodala to Golden State and Paul Millsap to Atlanta. Four notable pieces still on the market include Brandon Jennings, restricted and likely to stay in Milwaukee; Monta Ellis, probably headed to Denver or Atlanta; Nikola Pekovic, restricted but likely out of Minnesota; and Andrew Bynum, who knows.

Below, I take a look at my ‘winner’ of free agency through 6 days.

The Los Angeles Clippers

L.A. was known for its deep bench last year, boasting the likes of Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Ronny Turiaf and Grant Hill. At 40.1 points per game, L.A.’s bench trailed only Dallas and Denver in scoring, and Crawford finished the runner-up in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting.

But a postseason bench is not 12 guys deep. Hill played in 1 game in the team’s 6-game opening-round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, and Ryan Hollins and Willie Green averaged less than 7.5 minutes per and did not appear in every game. DeAndre Jordan’s inability to make free throws saw him to the bench in crunch-time minutes, and Lamar Odom, and his 11.0 PER, was ineffective all season.

Six days into free agency, the Clippers have turned Caron Butler and Bledsoe into J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, re-signed Matt Barnes and acquired Darren Collison, an ex-UCLA product, for pennies on the dollar. L.A. drafted sharpshooter Reggie Bullock at No. 25 overall. Oh, and they extended arguably the top free agent in this year’s class, Chris Paul, for 5 years, and traded for a championship coach in Doc Rivers, who brings instant credibility, and an offensive system, to Staples.

Concern: Lack of frontcourt depth

My concern with this team, as they flirt with luxury tax territory, is frontcourt depth, especially after a playoff series where they were bullied by the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph; in that series, Gasol and Randolph averaged a combined 38.1 points and 15.5 rebounds. Right now, with Turiaf and Hollins unrestricted free agents — though ones, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times, they’re interested in re-signing — the only NBA-caliber bigs on this roster are Griffin and Jordan, the latter of whom cannot play down the stretch and is owed an immovable $22.4 million through 2014-15.

Doc could always move Blake to the 5 and play Barnes or Dudley, 6’7″, at the 4. Both are strong individual defenders. And, then there’s also the rest of the summer. L.A. flirted with Carl Landry, whom eventually agreed to a 4-year, $27-million deal with Sacramento, one that L.A.’s cap flexibility, or lack thereof, would not have permitted. Rivers just needs to fill a 19.7-minutes-per-game slot opened by Odom’s likely departure, whether that’s more minutes to Blake, DeAndre, both or other faces.

Improvement: 3-point shooting

In last year’s postseason, L.A. shot a measly 30.4% from 3. L.A. loses an OK 3-point shooter in Butler and an improving one in Bledsoe, but Dudley (40.5% career) and Redick (39%) are improvements. Redick’s averaged double-figure scoring numbers each of the last 3 seasons, including 15.1 in 50 games in Orlando before his trade last season. Dudley’s also been in double figures each of the past 3 years, and has never shot below 45.9% from the field in his 6-year career.

Bullock shot 44% from 3 last year at UNC, and possesses great size, 6’7″, for a hybrid guard-forward. Barnes is 33% from deep throughout his career, but is especially efficient in the corners.

Bottom line: More weapons for CP3, Blake

The spacing provided by these shooters should open Blake post-ups and CP3-Blake pick-and-rolls, L.A.’s bread-and-butter source of offense. With Paul, Blake, Jordan, Redick, Dudley, Collison, Barnes, Crawford and Green, L.A.’s as good 1-9 as any team in the league. All 9 of those guys are capable of double-digit scoring nights any game.

With Collison, a former teammate of Paul’s in New Orleans, L.A. has a very capable backup point. Collison may not have Bledsoe’s ceiling, but he’s averaged double figures all 4 seasons of his career and only 25. After a disappointing season in Dallas, you can bet on consistent energy from Collison. Should Doc decide to go this route, Collison’s very effective in 2-Lopoint-guard lineups — in 2011-12, Indiana’s most efficient lineup to play at least 100 minutes together featured Collison and combo guard George Hill in the backcourt.

Now, if the Clippers can sure up their frontcourt, I’ll put them right next to San Antonio.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


Assorted thoughts on Jarrett Jack to Cavs

July 7, 2013

Two days removed from the Earl Clark addition, about which I published 700 giddy words, Chris Grant made another move, this one much more unexpected. The Cavs and Jarrett Jack have agreed to terms on a 4-year, $25.2-million deal, with a team option for year No. 4. The move was first reported by Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times.

What follows are unorganized initial thoughts on the move.

Pro: Cleveland adds a Sixth Man of the Year candidate

Golden State’s not a playoff team last without Jack. A sixth man who started 4 regular season games, Jack averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game. On his 5th team in his 8-year career, Jack shot 45.2% from the field, 40.4% from 3 and 84.3% from the line, all super-efficient numbers. Per 36 minutes, Jack netted 15.7 points and 6.7 assists. He finished with 14 first-place votes for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, finishing 3rd behind J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford.

For a 6’3″ guard, Jack’s an incredible finisher and all-around offensive talent, with an ability to attack, score in isolation and distribute. A very physically imposing, strong guard, his Draft Express profile from 2005 noted Jack might be the best defensive point guard in that year’s draft, one that saw 3 — Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Raymond Felton — selected in the top 5.

In the NBA, Jack’s been a solid role player from Day 1. He’s played in at least 79 games all but 1 year; he missed 21 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. He’s a career 11-points-a-game scorer, who’s averaged 4.4 assists and 27.9 minutes. His career high for scoring is 15.6 points in 45 games for the ’11-12 Hornets. Given his consistency, I’m comfortable in not attributing his success last season to ‘contract year’ status.

In last year’s playoffs, Jack really flourished. His minutes jumped to 35.5 per game, in part thanks to Stephen Curry’s bum ankle in the San Antonio series, and he averaged 17.2 points per game on an unreal 50.6% from the field. It was the first time Jack won a playoff series; his only other postseason appearance, in 2010-11 with the Hornets, ended in 6 games to the Lakers.

Con: Terms of the deal

My only reservation with this contract is its length — 3 years with a team option for a fourth. Jack turns 30 in October, but Cavs fans can take assurance in a) Jack’s worth ethic, and b) his relatively clean injury history. Still, a 32-year-old guard, probably still coming off the bench, could make Cleveland fans uneasy 28 months from now.

At the same time, Grant’s not going to receive the luxury of underpaying. For one, Cleveland’s not New York, Miami or L.A. And, secondly, this team’s simply not a title contender. The Darren Collisons of the world are not headed to Cleveland on tragically underpaid $1.9-million contracts to chase a ring, at least right now.

So, I guess I talked myself out of that concern?

Question: What does this mean for backcourt rotation?

This move leaves a lot of rotation questions for Mike Brown. In Golden State, Mark Jackson often, and with success, used a 3-guard lineup of Curry, Jack and Klay Thompson to suit his team’s up-tempo style. But Brown loves his big guards — think Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic, the latter of whom started over 100 games as a Cavalier because he’s 6’7″ — and it’s hard to imagine him resorting regularly to a Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jack backcourt.

And, in that case, who gets the crunch-time minutes alongside Kyrie? A cold-blooded scorer like Jack or Dion, and what does that mean for Dion’s future in Cleveland? I’m assuming Brown will ride who’s hot on a night-by-night basis, but still an interesting subplot headed into what’s bound to be an increasingly interesting season.

Then, there’s those behind Kyrie, Dion and Jack. C.J. Miles is likely to return on an affordable $2.25-million player option, but you’d have to think Wayne Ellington’s now the odd man out. The Cavs declined to extend a qualifying offer to Ellington before free agency started, yet hinted at a desire the UNC product return. With 6’8″ guard-forward Sergey Karasev and maybe even No. 33 overall pick Carrick Felix looking for minutes, I’m not sure where Ellington fits in.

Pro No. 2: Cap flexibility remains for summer of 2014

Cleveland still has plenty of room to potentially slide in a max contract next summer, as Fear the Sword‘s David Zavac explains here. Anderson Varejao has a partially guaranteed team option of $9.8 million for Anderson Varejao in 2014-15, as well as team options of $4.5 million on Earl Clark and $3.25 million on Alonzo Gee.

By my calculations, even if the Cavs pick up team options on AV, Clark and Gee, a very unlikely scenario, Grant would still have about $14 million in cap space to play with, if the cap were set at $62.5 million. A note: That does not account for any 2014 draft selections, or any additional free agent acquisitions. Scratch Clark and Gee, a much more feasible scenario, and that frees up $7.75 million more in cap space.

Where Dan Gilbert’s wallet will start to take a beating in luxury taxes is 2015-16, if the Cavs happened to land a max free agent next summer. Irving and Tristan Thompson are both in line for lucrative extensions next October, which would kick in for the ’15-16 season. The following October, Waiters and Tyler Zeller, depending on how they develop, could be in line for similar raises. And the following October, the same for Anthony Bennett and Karasev. Oh, the joys of the lottery!

Conclusion: I like the Jack signing!

OK, it took me 900 words, but I like this deal. One reservation I did not include above is Jack’s tendency to sometimes dominate the ball, especially in late-game situations. This Cavs team needs scoring, so I welcome any offensive addition, but it also needs to be made clear, particularly in the last 5 minutes of games, this is Kyrie Irving’s team.

I’m done this time.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


Free Agency Day 5: Warriors land Iggy

July 6, 2013

Barely more than a year ago, the Golden State Warriors were coming off a 23-43 lockout-shortened season under rookie head coach Mark Jackson. This year, the Warriors won 47 regular season games, 6 playoff games and developed their young core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, in addition to All Star David Lee.

Today, the Warriors added Andre Iguodala for 4 years, $48 million. Iggy, 29, a former All Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, gives Golden State an athletic, capable wing defender alongside Harrison Barnes. He’s instantly Golden State’s best perimeter defender, key in a conference with Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Kevin Durant on likely playoff teams. And he gives Curry a super-athletic running-mate on the break.

Iguodala tallied 13 points on 45% from the field, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 35 minutes in Denver’s up-tempo style last season, pushing the Nuggets to their best regular season mark (57-25) since they were the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1974-75 (65-19). He’s averaged double-figure scoring ever year since his rookie campaign in 2004-05. In 9 seasons, he’s only missed a remarkable 27 games, despite never averaging less than 32.8 minutes per game (’04-05).

Iguodala’s mid-range game is not reliable, and his FT percentage has dropped drastically — 82% in ’06-07 to 57.4% last season — in recent years. He’s a career 32.9% shooter from deep. His secondary ball-handling and defensive prowess, though, is well worth the asking price. Iguodala, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, turned down 4 years, $52 million from the Nuggets, who’ve lost their top executive, Masai Ujiri, and head coach, George Karl, this offseason. Earlier this week, Sacramento offered Iggy 4 years, $56 million, but rescinded hours later.

Headed into next season, Jackson will probably start Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Lee and Andrew Bogut; then, he’s got Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Kent Bazemore off the bench, all capable pieces. Suddenly, Golden State’s went from a team likely to take a step back this season, due to the likely free agent departures of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, to one right back in the hunt. (And this was the only team to beat the Spurs in Western Conference playoff action, despite Curry’s bum ankle and Lee playing limited minutes on one leg.)

The Warriors actually came into Friday about $11 million over the 2013-14 projected cap of $58.5 million. But Utah, a team with no shortage of cap space following Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap’s departures, agreed to absorb the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson, $11.05 million, and Andris Biedrins, $9 million, as well as Brandon Rush’s $4 million along with multiple draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2014. That’s $24 million in dumped cap space, sliding the Warriors enough under the cap to pay Iggy $12 million annually.

Golden State was one of 5 teams to meet with Dwight Howard this week, but he’s since narrowed his choice to Los Angeles and Houston, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Friday night. Regardless, if Golden State can add a backup, scoring big and reserve point guard, there’s no reason this team can’t compete next year. Then, Bogut’s $14.2 million expiring will offer a little free agency flexibility in next summer’s ultra-deep class, especially if they continue to build a winning organization.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


3 reasons to love the Earl Clark signing

July 5, 2013

About 86 hours into free agency, Chris Grant made his first move. Enter Sporting News’ Sean Deveney.

And TNT’s David Aldridge.

Boom. And here’s 3 reasons why I love this deal.

1. It’s all about the $.

A team option for year No. 2 of this deal means zero risk for the Cavaliers, a team clearly trying to preserve at least enough cap space for next summer to make a run at a max free agent. If Clark fails to meet expectations, Grant can easily wash his hands of the former Louisville product a year from now, and we’re right back where we started.

Should he so desire, Grant could still throw $15 million a year at a Nikola Pekovic, Paul Millsap or Andre Iguodala and remain firmly under the cap, though I’d guess those are unlikely. Or, Grant could fill out his roster with short-term deals and rookie contracts, then leave ample room for a major splash next summer, should LeBron James explore the market. Until this year’s rookie class is signed, the Cavaliers actually have $0 on the books for next season, just team options.

On Clark’s end, after a breakout year in an ugly situation, I expected more potential suitors. Clark had never played more than 12.5 minutes per game before last season, and still only averaged 7.3 points with the Lakers. But his age, 25; size and versatility, 6’10” and can play the 3 or 4; and range, 34% from 3 last year and improving, make him an appealing target.

Now, he’s in Cleveland on essentially a 1-year, $4.5-million deal. And you know he’ll work his ass off because it’s very much a contract year.

2. Versatility, baby.

That Mike Brown loved this kid enough to help lure him to Cleveland, after coaching him for only 5 regular season games in L.A., tells me a lot. Mike D’Antoni said last year that Clark could guard all 5 positions. With Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao at the 4, early reports indicate the Cavs plan on using Clark at the 3. Clark should compete with Alonzo Gee and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, another stretch 3-4 at 6’7″, for a starting spot.

A thrown-in part of the Dwight Howard deal, Clark averaged a very respectable 11.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. L.A.’s most commonly used 5-man lineup — Clark, Howard, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash — left Clark at the 4 for close to 340 minutes. D’Antoni loved Clark so much, he started him in 36 games, often over 4-time All Star Pau Gasol.

Clark immediately becomes the best perimeter defender on the Cavs’ roster. In a conference with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, he’ll draw a range of assignments.

Consider these words from ESPN L.A.’s Dave McMenamin, who covers the Lakers.

3. Another weapon for Kyrie, Cavs.

Just add another face to a team loaded with young, quality talent. I’m not suggesting Clark is as important to Cleveland’s long-term future as Kyrie Irving, Thompson, Bennett or even Dion Waiters, but it’s not every day you add a playoff-caliber role player. (I’m not concerned with his dismal postseason stats against the Spurs — 3.5 points, 3 rebounds and 37% shooting — given how short-handed L.A. was for that series.)

I anointed Clark one of my 5 second-tier free agents to watch last week, before I knew Cleveland had interest. If there was any doors open on a Luke Walton or Omri Casspi return, those are, thankfully, shut. With team options on both for 2014-15, I’m guessing Clark and Gee will spend 2013-14 fighting for one spot, unless the Cavs strike out next July.

This move was made because of Clark’s defensive prowess. But he can grow as a 3-point shooter — hopefully enough to stretch the floor for Kyrie-AV pick-and-rolls and Tristan post-ups — and rebounder.

By no means is this a blockbuster move. But be excited, fellow Cavs fans.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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