Cleveland Cavaliers 2021 Offseason Outlook


Overview


The Cleveland Cavaliers completed the 2020-2021 NBA season with a record of 22-50 which placed them at 13th in the Eastern Conference and equal 26th in the league with the Thunder. The LeBron-less Cavaliers had yet another disappointing season and have continued to miss the playoffs since their franchise player left for Los Angeles. They had a strong start, led by their young star in Collin Sexton and looked competitive early but they tanked in the second half of the season, losing 23 of their last 28 games to end the year. The Cavaliers did get lucky in the draft lottery though, rising to 3rd overall and likely landing their next franchise player to go along with Sexton. There will be a lot of decisions to make this offseason in Cleveland. Outside of the draft, there is a lot of speculation about Kevin Love and if he will be moved on from to allow space for a young forward to shine and to fully commit to the youth movement and kickstart their slow rebuild.


Salary Cap


Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers have 8 players with guaranteed contracts for the 2021-2022 season. Isaiah Hartenstein has a $1.7 million player option and I expect him to return to the team next season whether he opts into this option or signs a longer deal in free agency. He has been a good support player off the bench since arriving in Cleveland mid-season and he fits their rebuilding timeline. The Cavaliers also have several players with non-guaranteed salary that decisions will have to be made on. These players include Damyean Dotson, Dean Wade, Mfiondu Kabengele and Lamar Stevens. I expect all of these players to remain in Cleveland as they help add to the roster’s overall depth, especially with their limited cap space to use in free agency. Jarrett Allen is a restricted free agent with bird rights this offseason and resigning him will be a major priority for the Cavaliers. Jeremiah Martin and Brodric Thomas are two-way free agents. The Cavs only have one unrestricted free agent this year in Matthew Dellavedova who has signed with Melbourne United in the NBL in Australia and will not return to the NBA next season. Collin Sexton is eligible for his rookie-scale extension and given his level of play so far in his career, I expect the two parties to get a deal done before he hits restricted free agency next offseason. Along with Larry Nance Jr, Cedi Osman and Taurean Prince, Kevin Love is eligible for a veteran extension. While the others may come to an agreement with the team, I expect Kevin Love to negotiate a buyout with the Cavs due to ongoing frustrations and a willingness to play with the Brooklyn Nets. This may be in the best interests of both Love and the Cavaliers who will be able to give playing time to younger players in order to develop them. The Cavaliers will also have both the $9.5 million mid-level and $3.7 million bi-annual exceptions available to them as they will likely be operating as an over-the-cap team that is well under the luxury-tax line.


Depth Chart 2020-21 Season–


2021 NBA Draft


The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. It is no secret that Cade Cunningham will most likely be selected with the first pick, leaving the Cavs with likely whoever is left between Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. With the 3rd pick in this year’s draft, the Cavaliers should be targeting Evan Mobley, a 7’0” power forward/center out of USC. With the Cavs seemingly set on a trio of young guards, the ideal choice is to look for a big man that can co-exist with Jarrett Allen. Mobley will take some time to develop fully physically and needs to work on his jump shot but he is a strong defender with the potential to become an elite two-way big and can be a real game-changer for the Cavs moving forward.


Free Agency


The Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the free agency period likely operating as an over the cap team and will have little flexibility to make any major signings. Their main goal will be to resign restricted free agent, Jarrett Allen on a multi-year deal to be their starting center moving forward. They will also be looking to add a veteran guard to the line-up to replace the exiting Matthew Dellavedova. Ish Smith could be the ideal candidate who is affordable with the mid-level exception. He a veteran in this league and can help to develop their young guards while still providing some quality minutes off the bench throughout the season.


Summary


The Cleveland Cavaliers will finally make some steps in the right direction this season. They have a top three draft pick to add the last piece to their young core with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Kevin Love will likely move on in a buyout or trade and Dellavedova has moved on to the Australian league, allowing Cleveland to go all-in on developing their young guys to hopefully become competitive in the next 2 or 3 seasons.


Projected Depth Chart 2021/22 Season –