Trying to figure out how the Cavs 2012-13 roster will eventually shake out leads one to dark, unfamiliar places. How else would you describe the walk you have to take when asking the inevitable Will they go with Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo as Kyrie’s back-up question? Or maybe they’ll keep both. Is Daniel Gibson still on the roster? How does Michael Eric make this team even as a project? Jon Leuer?!?
You stare at this roster enough, the backwards-talking midget appears and, the next thing you know, you’re losing days, then weeks, then months only to wake up in ill-fitting clothes wondering why you smell of Harangody.
It may be that kind of season, viewership. Still, let’s give sense-making a try.
The following players are on the books for real real. Like guaranteed money real (via HoopsHype’s salary page): Anderson Varejao, Luke Walton, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Omri Casspi, CJ Miles, Tyler Zeller, Luke Harangody, Jeremy Pargo, Leuer and Eric.
That’s 12 players waiting on guaranteed money. One slight wrinkle in this is that, as of last year, NBA rosters can carry 13 active players instead of the 12 they could previously. The team may also have 2 inactive players on the roster, one of whom can be sent to our D-League affiliate, your Canton Charge, at a time (note: I am reciting this rule completely from memory, so I might not have it spot-on. Still, the information was not falling all over itself to let me find it and this seems correct – so, enjoy swapping “reporting that you can trust” for “writing that means well”). So, we’ve got 3 more players to come from the pool of: Daniel Gibson (team option at $4.8 million), Alonzo Gee (qualifying offer for $2.7 million – rumored to be signing a 3-year/$10 million dollar deal), Kelenna Azubuike (team option for just under $1 million) and Kate Moss … er, I mean, the now so-waifish-he’s-practically-see-through Samardo Samuels (team option for $854,389).
Now, no one’s been saying “Boobie’s outta here,” which makes some sense. Not only is he the longest tenured Cavalier after Varejao, Boobie actually does something on his better days that no one else on this roster (or maybe just no one on this roster not named Kyrie Irving) can do with a degree of purity: shoot. That being said, Chris Grant sure hasn’t ignored the 2-guard spot this off-season by drafting Waiters and signing the swing-man, Miles. And as much as no one is talking about Gibson being gone, there’s not an awful lot of talk of him as an actual existing entity either. Still, safe money’s on The Boob being on the final roster.
Same for Gee. Eventually, he and his agent will have to accept the fact that Landry Fields money only (and inexplicably) happens to Landry Fields. Yes, Alonzo, you’ve worked really hard to carve out a place for yourself on an NBA roster. Unfortunately, that place only pays between $2-3.5 million. But, on the flip side, you have the chance, even if everything else goes wrong from here on out, in excess of $10 million before you’re 30. Not a bad pay-off for all that hard work, huh?
Which leaves us with Azubuike who, if you listen to the endless stream of positivity that has become Off-Season Byron Scott, is fully-healthy and has a chance to return to the form that made Cavs fans regret giving up on him years ago.
Then, Donald Sloan, by all accounts, will also be invited to training camp.
Of all those players, the least likely to be with the team when it opens the season are Azubuike and some combination of Sloan and/or Pargo.
All of this uncertainty is actually pretty smart on the part of Chris Grant. They don’t need to pick up Boobie’s team option until he gets into camp. If something were to happen to one of the unsigned players before the start of the season – accidents and legal run-ins do happen in professional sports – the team wouldn’t be on the hook for that player and would have other options already in-house at the position.
If, say, Samardo has gain back 50 of the 11,000 pounds he lost this summer, you can cut the cord and only have the picture of him in the team’s swimsuit calendar to remember him by.
And, finally, if, say, Azubuike looks great – but maybe he doesn’t look like he’s in the team’s long-term plans – well, let’s just say that Chris Grant has never said no to a second-round draft pick for a fringe roster player – and Azubuike is/was good enough to get that (and me with all this practice spelling Azubuike…).
So, barring any moves outside of re-signing Gee and picking up the options on Boobie and Samardo (if he performs), we’re looking at a roster like this:
Tier 1 (The Rotation – the players who the team counts on to play every game): Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, Varejao, Boobie, Miles, Zeller, and Slo-go (my Sloan/Pargo hybrid).
Tier 2 (The Fringe – the players who could see some occasional action): Casspi, Samuels, and Walton.
Tier 3 (The Charge – these players will bounce between the 13th active player, the inactive list and your Canton Charge): Michael Eric’s biceps, Leuer, and Harangody.
Welcome, viewership, to you far-from-complete-but-I’d-be-willing-to-bet-some-small-amount-of-money-on-it 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers!