All Out of Love: Potential Free Agents for Cleveland to Target in 2015

Despite winning the Central Division and claiming second place in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers have been the subject of major free agency rumors. The possibility of Kevin Love leaving the Cavaliers has been intensely speculated as early as November 10th, which was less than two weeks after the franchise’s season opener. What initially would have been ruled off as ludicrous and premature has gained traction with reported rifts between the four-time MVP and the Power Forward from Lake Oswego, Oregon. So the question arises: Assuming Kevin Love leaves and Lebron James stays, how would Cleveland fare and what players would the franchise target in the near future?

Looking for a Needle in a Stack of Really Loyal Needles
For the Cavaliers, and a number of teams looking to fill up lackluster rosters with competitive free agents, the major problem this offseason will be the free agency’s abundance of loyal franchise players. On the surface, the free agent pool looks even more rich than it was a year ago with the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Kawhi Leonard being up for grabs. These four players are practically guaranteed to re-sign with their respective teams. It helps (or hurts, in the case of Cleveland) that each of these players belongs to successful franchises.
Of course, the only players among the aforementioned that would fill the hole that Kevin Love would create would be LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan. With those two being removed from consideration, the next logical steps would be recruiting Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe or Amir Johnson.

A Matter of Money
Losing Kevin Love would come at a crucial time for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 2015 features multiple player options and either restricted or unrestricted free agencies for the roster. The player options include Lebron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Mike Miller. The Cavs’ restricted free-agents are Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova. The unrestricted free-agents only comprise members of Cleveland’s bench (Jones, Marion, and Perkins), all of whom average under 5 points a game, have PERs under 12, and are 30+ years old. Cleveland’s bench has some strong bench players in Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert but the majority of the other players that don’t start fall below 5 points a game. All that to say, Cleveland will need to figure out who they will re-sign.
Assuming Cleveland sticks their offer for a new Power Forward relatively close to the salary they gave Kevin Love, they could potentially go after Amir Johnson, Paul Millsap, and Greg Monroe. Unlike LaMarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol, who rose to power from the teams they were acquired by in their respective drafts, Amir Johnson and Paul Millsap do not have longstanding ties to their teams. Johnson joined his team through a trade in 2010. He signed a five-year deal amounting to $30 million shortly after. Paul Millsap, on the other hand, came to Atlanta through free agency in 2013 when he signed a two-year, $19 million contract with the Hawks.
The hardest targets here would be Paul Millsap and Greg Monroe. Despite Paul Millsap’s short stay in Atlanta, his team’s success will likely keep him there. The Hawks also have the third best financial situation in the NBA with only $58.32 million in total cap. In contrast, the Cleveland Cavaliers have $82.24 million in total cap, which only puts them above the Brooklyn Nets. These money problems would also likely put Greg Monroe just out of reach. Taking on a contract similar to Kevin Love’s would be a significant increase from Greg Monroe’s one-year, $5.48 million contract. That being said, Greg Monroe’s one of the better Power Forwards in the league. Suitors that don’t target Kevin Love will go after Greg Monroe.

Is Amir Johnson Really the Best Cleveland Can Do?
If the Cavs went heavy on recruiting through their superstars, they could possibly persuade Greg Monroe to join their roster. It could happen. Greg Monroe would be a dream come true for Cleveland considering he requires less touches per game than Kevin Love while also posting up similar numbers to the Oregonian all-star. That’s not to say that Monroe joining Cleveland would be a smooth transition. When Lebron left Miami, Chris Bosh stated that playing with James “never gets easy.” This may work out better with players who require less touches per game to begin with.
While Greg Monroe averages 54 touches each game, Amir Johnson has 44 touches per game. This season, Kevin Love has more touches than either player with an average of 65.4. Kevin Love had 87.6 touches a game last year in Minnesota, which at least partially accounts for his statistical drops in Cleveland. Amir Johnson also has played 7.5 minutes less per game than Kevin Love. As a result, Johnson’s numbers could inflate through playing Love’s minutes.
Amir Johnson also represents a more realistic target in the free agency than either players who have developed strong ties to their franchises or require bulkier contracts. Johnson’s current contract averages $6 million a year, more than Monroe, but he won’t bring the same level of inter-franchise competition in the signing process.

Works Cited
“Amir Johnson Contract.” Spotrac. Spotrac, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Amir Johnson Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.

“Cleveland Cavaliers Multi-Year Salary Caps.”Spotrac. Spotrac, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Greg Monroe Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.

Harper, Zach. “Report: Cavs’ Kevin Love Will Consider Opt-Out, Has Eyes on Lakers.” CBS Sports. CBS Interactive, 10 Nov 2014. Web. 10 April 2015.
“James Jones Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Kendrick Perkin Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Kevin Love Contract.” Spotrac. Spotrac, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Kevin Love Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
Moore, Matt. “ Chris Bosh Has Advice for Kevin Love about Playing next to Lebron.” CBS Sports. CBS Interactive, 9 Oct 2014. Web. 10 April 2015.
“NBA 2014 Cap Tracker.” Spotrac. Spotrac, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.

“Paul Millsap Contract.” Spotrac. Spotrac, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.

“Shawn Marion Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
“Touches and Possessions.” NBA. NBA Media Ventures LLC, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.

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