Once the dust settled after the 2022 NBA Draft and four players in tow, it appears that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be adding two rookies to their rotation next season. Yes, you read that correctly – only two rookies out of the four players drafted. This is because the plan for no. 39 overall pick Khalifa Diop and no. 56 overall pick Luke Travers to remain overseas while no. 14 overall pick Ochai Agbaji and no. 49 overall pick Isaiah Mobley will join the Cavaliers in some capacity next season.
Agbaji will be expected to contribute immediately as a part of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff's rotation. Bickerstaff seemed excited about the potential of Agbaji entering the fold, especially with the former Jayhawk's ability as a multifaceted shooter. Mobley, meanwhile, will likely sign with Cleveland on a two-way contract, according to multiple sources. The older brother of Cavaliers phenom Evan Mobley will spend time further developing with the Cleveland Charge, the G League affiliate of the team. With Cleveland guard Brandon Goodwin not being extended a two-way qualifying offer from the Cavaliers, it appears that the path to signing Mobley to that kind of contract is now open.
Even with one rookie truly joining the rotation in Agbaji and another joining the end of the bench in Mobley, the Cavaliers are a team that still has a few questions on their roster. Sure, Agbaji provides shooting, athleticism and defense, all things Cleveland President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said the team needs. But, they still need more heading into next season in order to be a true playoff threat. Before the start of free agency on Thursday, here is where the Cavaliers currently stand depth-wise:
- PG: Darius Garland
- SG: Caris LeVert, Ochai Agbaji, Dylan Windler
- SF: Lauri Markkanen, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, Cedi Osman
- PF: Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, Isaiah Mobley (TW)
- C: Jarrett Allen
At first, it can be a little alarming to see that there's no real depth behind the likes of Darius Garland or Jarrett Allen, two key members of Cleveland's Big Three. But, when it comes to Allen, the Cavaliers do have the luxury of either Mobley brother, Love or even Markkanen to provide relief when the All-Star big man sits. With Garland, meanwhile, there's no true clear-cut backup guard behind him but the Cavaliers can cobble something together with Caris LeVert and Sexton if they bring him back.
That's all well and good but that still shouldn't deter Cleveland from finding some more reliable options out there in free agency. They saw their season last year take flight and eventually crash and burn due to a lack of depth at point guard, on the wing and at the center position. So, clearly, the Cavaliers need to find some realistic upgrades despite adding Agbaji and (eventually) Mobley to the fold.
Unfortunately, Cleveland is a little tight financially in regards to making player signings. Right now, they have a $10.5 million midlevel exception, a $4.1 million biannual exception and the ability to sign players to veterans minimum contracts. Granted, they can break those exceptions into chunks to sign multiple players. But, with eleven guaranteed contracts and one two-way deal already on the books, that means the Cavaliers will have to get creative in order to maximize things roster-wise.
What the Cavaliers decide to do with Collin Sexton will ultimately decide the fate of their free agency. Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images
But before Cleveland can get too ahead of themselves, they have to figure out the next steps with Sexton. Prior to the NBA Draft, league sources said shared with Right Down Euclid that the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs were all interested in acquiring Sexton. But, after the draft, those same sources said that the Pistons and Pacers have cooled on their pursuit of Sexton, shifting their focus to Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges. But, when it comes to the Wizards and Spurs, all three remain interested in acquiring Sexton to varying degrees depending on how free agency goes for them the same source said.
Thankfully, while the Cavaliers aren't going to hold Sexton hostage in free agency, they do have a say in where he could play next season. Due to extending a qualifying offer on Wednesday, that means Sexton is a restricted free agent and Cleveland can match any offer he receives in free agency. Sources say that Sexton wants to be paid something around the ballpark of $20 million annually for his services. He might be able to get that from one of the aforementioned teams that are interested. If not, expect him to sign with Cleveland on a team that's closer to $18 million annually.
Besides, the Cavaliers have made it clear at nearly every opportunity as of late to share that they want to keep Sexton in Cleveland. So, if they're able to do that, they can somewhat answer the backup guard squeeze they have behind Garland. But, that still shouldn't be what the Cavaliers rest their laurels on. Using LeVert and Sexton to supplant and support Garland is fine but they should still sign a backup point guard to run the bench unit and also start in place of Garland at times as well.
Fortunately, there are options out there that could be attainable for Cleveland. Names to watch include Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones, who, according to sources, is also garnering interest from the Washington Wizards, and Atlanta Hawks guard Delon Wright. The issue is the fact that the Wizards can and might likely offer Jones more than the $10.5 million exception, according to multiple sources. With Wright, meanwhile, sources say there's a good chance that the Cavaliers could sign him but, it appears that he might be open to returning to Atlanta as well.
If that were the case, where can Cleveland look for help behind Garland? Well, how about an old friend in Ricky Rubio? Right Down Euclid has reported several times now that there is a strong, mutual interest between the Cavaliers and Rubio's camp in a reunion after the Spanish guard's strong start to last season. If Cleveland does sign Rubio, they can continue with their plan of allowing Sexton and LeVert to back up Garland while allowing the Spaniard more time to recover from the torn ACL he suffered last year.
Could JaVale McGee be backing up Jarrett Allen once again in Cleveland? Sources say it's a possibility. Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
Signing Rubio could be a viable path, and because of Rubio's age and current injury, may not cost as much as someone like Jones would. If that's the case, it would allow Cleveland to tackle their other needs using the remainder of the financial tools they have available. While the free agent market at the wing is fairly barren, multiple sources tell Right Down Euclid that soon-to-be free agents like T.J. Warren and Kyle Anderson are names that have been linked to the Cavaliers as things set to open up on Thursday evening.
Other sources say that if Chicago Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. were to decline his player option, he's a name worth watching as well. Jones Jr.'s agency is based in Cleveland and sources say the forward was recently working out for various league officials in nearby Beachwood. While Jones Jr. wouldn't do much to spark Cleveland's wing depth, he could be a solid backup plan in case of things with Warren or Anderson falling through.
Finally, when it comes to the big man position, the Cavaliers shouldn't invest much at the spot considering how much they already have tied up there financially. Thankfully, there could be options available at the low rate of a veteran minimum deal. League sources say that JaVale McGee, who spent part of the 2020-21 season with Cleveland, is a serious option for the Cavaliers. McGee was viewed as a strong, influential veteran locker room presence and could provide valuable depth behind Allen for 10 to 15 minutes a night. Expect Cleveland to have competition for McGee's services as well but, nevertheless, he's a name worth monitoring.
Clearly, the Cavaliers will have options when free agency opens up despite their somewhat limited avenues roster-wise. If things don't work out, there is also the possibility of Cleveland consolidating some of their assets and making a trade as well, as they have in the past. If they do take that route, sources say San Antonio's Doug McDermott could be had for the right price. But, if the Spurs are asking too much for McDermott, there are still options available for Cleveland. Buckle up. One of the more compelling offseasons in the NBA is about to begin.
Featured image credit: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!