With August officially here, in a little over a month's time, the Cleveland Cavaliers will open up their training camp prior to the start of the 2022-23 NBA season. Heading into next season, there's a ton of reason for optimism if you're Cleveland. The Cavaliers were just one win away from clinching a spot in last year's NBA Playoffs. Looking ahead, it feels safe to assume that they'll reach those heights and beyond this upcoming season – especially when you factor in the overwhelming amount of young talent on their roster.
Cleveland is headlined by an All-Star tandem of Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen and with rising superstar Evan Mobley waiting in the weeds, the Cavaliers are in a good place going forward. The sun is shining on the NBA hardwood near Lake Erie, well, at least it's supposed to be – there's a Collin Sexton-sized cloud blocking the view.
Sexton is currently in the doldrums of restricted free agency and as we head into August, there’s no movement on a contract for him. A few days ago, sources shared with Right Down Euclid that the discussions between Sexton's camp and the Cavaliers is more or less a staring contest. It's been reported and league sources also confirm that Cleveland recently offered Sexton a three-year deal worth approximately $40 million. Naturally, Sexton's camp declined and the staring contest continues, with the young guard hoping to get something that's in the range of what a typical starter gets at his position.
When hearing about the latest offer, many people have been caught up with the sticker shock that comes with it that frankly seems insulting on Cleveland's side of things. When he was healthy, Sexton was a bonafide elite three-level scorer that helped maintain some semblance of offensive flow when things became stagnant for the Cavaliers. Not only that but, Cleveland nominated Sexton for Eastern Conference Player of the Month multiple times early into his career and made him seem like one of the faces of their rebuild. If anything, he should be paid in excess of $20 million based on these facts alone. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.
According to sources, the latest offer to Sexton isn't coming from a place of disrespect from the Cavaliers. It's quite literally all they can offer since the same source has remained adamant that Cleveland isn't looking to go into the luxury tax for their 2022-23 iteration. So, that offer for Sexton, which is roughly $13.3 million annually, is the absolute maximum the Cavaliers can offer him at this time.
Sure, that number can increase incrementally if Cleveland were to dump the contracts of fringe rotation guys like Cedi Osman ($7.4 million) or Dylan Windler ($4.0 million) via trade or they waive the non-guaranteed deals of Lamar Stevens ($1.8 million) or Dean Wade ($1.9 million). It feels more likely Osman or Windler are moved than Stevens or Wade, but there are options out there to make more room financially and roster-wise for Sexton. Either way, Sexton still likely isn't going to get the deal he's looking for from Cleveland no matter what moves they make on the margins.
While the tandem of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton had a fun nickname, it may not be a viable starting duo for Cleveland heading into the 2022-23 season where expectations have been raised considerably. Photo credit: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images
Even though Sexton's camp can make a fairly compelling argument on why the he deserves top dollar, a lot of it is rooted in the past. Unfortunately for them, the Cavaliers are living in the moment. When Sexton went down 11 games into the season, many feared how they would respond, this author included. Instead, Cleveland kept on winning and made a serious push towards the playoffs without Sexton. Sure, they acquired Caris LeVert to help soften the blow from losing Sexton. But, the efforts were largely made by Garland, Allen and Mobley pushing the team to new heights.
With this new identity that was forged without Sexton there, where does he fit into this iteration of Cavaliers basketball? Sexton is a high-usage guard that needs the ball in his hands in order to contribute. With Garland now acting as the maestro of the offense, how will Sexton fit in? Sure, there's a way to make it happen. But, it's going to have to be a major adjustment, with the Sexton we knew being no more, in order to make it happen.
Unfortunately, it's not just Cleveland who might have these kinds of reservations when it comes to Sexton's style on the court. If it were the late '90s or the early aughts, Sexton would command top dollar due to possessing a similar style to Allen Iverson or Gilbert Arenas. Ball-dominant, score-first guards were a prized commodity back then but, they don't hold nearly as much value now.
If anything, a player with a skillset like that would get top bench player money but nothing that compares to a starter. That means Sexton may have to settle for less than he had initially hoped for, especially now that there's a new status quo in Cleveland with serious expectations to go along with it.
When factoring everything going against him, it's easy to understand why the Cavaliers are hesitant to lock up Sexton as free agency rolls along. Sources say that Sexton's camp is holding out hope for an offer sheet from another team. But, those same sources say the market has dried up for him and most teams that might be interested in him would rather wait out things and strike when his value is at its lowest.
So, where do Sexton and the Cavaliers go from here? Like a long vacation, it's a lot to unpack for either side and as time goes on, there are more questions than answers surrounding everything. Both sides have made it known publicly that they want to continue this relationship in Cleveland and there's still a way to make it happen. But, it's going to take Sexton sacrificing far more than he's comfortable with at this time and, understandably, that's where the biggest roadblock is right now.
Right now the best move for Sexton might be accepting the qualifying offer (which is worth roughly $7.2 million) and hitting unrestricted free agency next summer. There would be nothing holding Sexton back then from negotiating with any team in the league at that point and then he could find his true value on the market. But, if that were to happen, Cleveland would likely trade Sexton before they got to that to that point and recoup something of value rather than losing him for nothing.
That would just create even more questions and further complicate things. A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract or a two-year deal with an option year is given no-trade protection. That means Sexton more or less controls his own future even before next year's free agency opens and would put a tighter bind on the Cavaliers in the process.
But, at this point, it's all hypothetical when it comes to these negotiations. For now, it remains unclear what will happen next. Again, this is a staring contest and, eventually, someone will blink.
Featured image credit: Adam Pantozzi/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 email@example.com. 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!