A week into free agency, the Cleveland Cavaliers are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Plenty of other teams are running like the hare while the Cavs plod along like a tortoise.
NBA free agency starts every year on July 1. It's one of the most exciting times of the year for NBA fans of the 29 teams that didn't win the title - possibilities are endless as teams and GMs get in touch with free agents before the 1st (illegally, but who cares) so they can make enormous contract offers at 12:01 A.M. The ideal situation is, of course, to sign the best available players and improve your roster.
The Cavs are not doing that.
After the David Griffin fiasco (if you missed it, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decided to part ways with unanimously-praised GM David Griffin just a few days before the NBA draft, had no GM during the draft, made an offer to never-worked-in-an-NBA-front-office Chauncey Billups, low-balled him, got rejected, and has now gone through almost a week of free agency without actually having someone call the shots on player personnel except...well, Dan Gilbert), the Cavs suddenly aren't as exciting a place for a free agent. Everyone is worried that LeBron may leave in the summer of 2018, which makes Cleveland less attractive as a place to sign. Furthermore, the tumult in the front office doesn't exude confidence.
But all is not lost. The Cavaliers will enter next season as the presumptive favorites in the East, regardless of what else they do in the current offseason. As for what they've done in this current offseason, it's best described as taking the tortoise approach in the tortoise vs. hare race.
On the bright side
The Cavs are in a nice position to be able to simply reload last year's team with minor adjustments and hope for the best. Make no mistake, the Cavaliers got beat in the Finals, but it may not have been quite as bad as it looked. Had Cleveland made one more shot in game three, the series would've been 2-2 through four games. Golden State still would've won the series, but a 4-2 series may have given a different feeling this summer.
With that in mind, the idea to not go whale hunting (Jimmy Butler/Paul George trades) is fine. As the West manages to keep getting more competitive, perhaps the Warriors stumble a little, making the Cavs' path to another championship smoother. It's not terribly likely, but it's not impossible either. So the Cavs simply have to make a couple of minor adjustments this offseason, like get another Deron Williams type (or just Deron Williams again) to ease the load on Kyrie Irving or find a backup big man.
The Cavs signed veteran point guard Jose Calderon (we'll get to him soon) and also signed Kyle Korver to a three-year deal worth $22 million. Korver is a great shooter, he fits beautifully on offense with LeBron, and if need be, he'll be a tradeable asset in two years. This is a fine signing and, once again, doesn't really move the needle at all. It's a tortoise move.
On the other hand
Kyle Korver and Jose Calderon? That's the plan to get over the hump of the Warriors?! Even if the Warriors got a little worse and couldn't hold onto Iguodala or Livingston (they kept both), even if they didn't add other pieces like Nick Young and Omri Casspi (they did), and even if they didn't massively overstep the tax line to keep KD and Steph (they did), the Cavs would have still been a step behind. Now? Worse.
Everyone is going for it this year except, inexplicably, the Cavaliers. OKC, Minnesota, and Houston got better, Denver got Millsap (but lost Gallinari), Utah, San Antonio, and the Clippers will still be very good, and even the Kings might be turning around. In the East, Boston got Hayward and Philadelphia is suddenly looking at a 45 win season. Then there's Cleveland.
Jose Calderon was the best available guard? Dan Gilbert didn't want to get younger? The following point guards are both still available as free agents and younger than Jose Calderon: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Milos Teodosic, Ramon Sessions, Sergio Rodriguez, Aaron Brooks, Shelvin Mack, Raymond Felton, Trey Burke...there are still a few more, but tell me how many guys on that list would you take Jose Calderon over? Probably Felton, maybe Lawson due to his four DUI arrests in the past 10 years, and maybe Sessions?
Calderon is a career below-average defender and an excellent shooter. However, he just had the worst shooting season of his career and will be 36 before the season starts. If you think Jose Calderon is a stud, below is the only Google search result from the past year for "Jose Calderon streamable."
Meanwhile, as superstars are being traded for packages of draft picks and literal garbage, the Cavs waited two weeks for a man with no experience to turn down a front-office job offer. To make matters worse, the Warriors did all those things at the top of this section - the only guys who might not be back in Golden State are McGee and Zaza, and they still might come back anyway.
While the Cavs are pretty well-stocked in the SG department, here are some young players who have signed small contracts: Michael Carter-Williams, Jodie Meeks, Ben McLemore, and Justin Holiday. Those are players who could have at least helped the team skew younger, considering the Cavs are still allegedly shopping Iman Shumpert (only 2-guard under the age of 31) around in trades.
All of this will cease to be important if a couple of players ignore the front office and decide they want to play with LeBron James. Those players would be Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom would keep the Cavs' championship window very small. Everyone knows that this championship window is small. Everyone is acting like this championship window is small. Everyone except Dan Gilbert.
Maybe Gilbert just believes that slow and steady wins the race. Maybe he wants to be the tortoise. Or maybe he forgot how they went about winning the 2016 title.