As the Cleveland Cavaliers 2021-22 season comes to a close, the franchise is heading in the right direction despite missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Cleveland doubled their win total from 22 to 44 and the nucleus of the team is quite clear despite the season falling off the rails after a strong first half of the year and ultimately ending with a heartbreak loss in Friday’s play-in elimination game against the Atlanta Hawks.
With the team now entering their offseason, general manager Koby Altman must now build upon the team’s success and look to take them to the next level and find a way to get the team into the postseason for the first time since the 2017-18 season. Altman must also decide on some key components to the roster and how the team will be constructed going forward.
Collin Sexton’s Future
The fourth-year guard missed the majority of the season with a meniscus injury and while some would say the injury opened the door for Darius Garland to flourish and others being able to step up in Sexton’s absence, it was clear his scoring ability was indeed missed down the stretch when the team was struggling.
Sexton is a restricted free agent this summer meaning any team can sign him to an offer sheet and the Cavaliers will be allowed to match it if they choose to do so. The two sides talked about a contract extension last year all the way to the deadline last October but they ultimately couldn’t reach an agreement.
I think it’s clear both sides want to find some sort of resolution and agreement because Sexton has said that publicly as recently as Saturday when he spoke to the media.
What his contract looks like and what his role looks like on the team going forward will be interesting to watch with the team starting to ascend once he left the floor due to his injury.
Will the Cavs extend Caris LeVert?
LeVert was the Cavaliers’ deadline acquisition shipping out Ricky Rubio and a protected first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers in early February as they were seeking a scoring wing who could also be a shot creator on offense.
The 27-year-old shooting guard dealt with injuries and the team trying to find his role after the trade and he was okay averaging 13.6 points per game on 43.5% shooting in the 19 regular-season games. He scored 12 points against Brooklyn in the first play-in game Tuesday but bounced back with 16 points against Atlanta in the elimination game on Friday night.
LeVert has one more year left on his current deal and is scheduled to make $18.8 million next season. When the Cavaliers acquired him, it was reported that the two sides wanted to engage in extension talks this summer and LeVert told reporters on Saturday that Cleveland is “where he wants to be” and has let the team know that. Whether or not the Cavaliers feel the same way will be determined this summer.
Kevin Love’s Future
A year ago at this time, it seemed like the two sides were headed towards an ugly separation much like the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield is going through. Love was frequently injured and his contract was an albatross.
The 2021-22 season certainly changed that narrative as Kevin Love accepted a new role coming off the bench behind Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen and he flourished in his new role. Playing in 74 games which is the most in a season with Cleveland since the 2015-16 season, Love averaged 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 22.5 minutes per contest and shot 39.6% from three, his highest mark in five seasons. He took on a leadership role and is building upon that with plans to have his teammates meet in Nashville this summer to put in some extra work.
Love is now entering his final year under contract with the Cavaliers with his salary at $28.9 million, the highest-paid player on the roster. The contract is much easier to move because it will be an expiring contract but with how Love did a 180 both on and off the court, Cleveland might not want to move him and Love might not want to leave Cleveland now, especially with the young core and team as a whole taking a giant step forward.
Teams will likely call but it wouldn’t be surprising if Cleveland decides to hold on to the aging forward because of his leadership, scoring threat off the bench, and playoff experience once the team makes it back to the postseason.
The First-Round Pick
Cleveland traded their first-round pick to Indiana in the Caris LeVert trade but put lottery protection on it should they miss out on the playoffs which at the time seemed unfathomable. Well the Cavaliers missed the playoffs and because of it, the team regains their first-round pick and now Indiana must wait at least another year to potentially acquire extra draft capital.
Now Cleveland has the 14th best odds to land the first-overall pick at 2.4% and a 0.5% chance to land inside the top 4 when the lottery takes place next month.
The big question with the draft pick becomes, do the Cavaliers make the selection, or do they trade the pick to get an established player? Cleveland could attach the pick with Kevin Love’s contract or a package of players (LeVert, Markkanen, Osman, etc) to get an established player, preferably a wing that is both an effective scorer and can also provide something on the defensive end.
Or they could add another young player to a group that already has six core players at 25 years old or younger. I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m a draft expert because I’m not and that’s because I’m not the biggest college basketball fan anymore.
However, I look at big boards and notice outside of the top seven prospects, the rest of the draft as typical NBA Drafts go is a crapshoot. I trust Koby Altman and his scouting/development department though because they’ve done a pretty good job at drafting and developing talent since 2018 adding Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Issac Okoro, Evan Mobley in the draft as well as finding role players such as Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens in that time span.
The Cavaliers need to add more length and scoring at the wing positions and hopefully, they can find someone in the draft or if they decide to flip the pick for an established NBA player. This team’s future is bright, they just need to fill in some more puzzle pieces in order to get the team back into a playoff and eventually championship contention.