Originally posted on Stepien Rules  |  Last updated 12/25/12
Standing in line recently, while wrapping up another successful holiday shopping effort, my mind began drifting towards the Cleveland Cavaliers. Specifically, which of the 2013 unrestricted NBA free agents should the Cavaliers be targeting? I also thought about the 46-131 overall record they've amassed since 2010 but quickly dismissed that. I decided to instead focus on how to improve moving forward. Along with the draft, and exploring the trade market, free agency is a third opportunity to do specifically that. It's worth noting that player options, team options and early terminations will eventually shape the totality of this summer's free agent class. For now, though, there is a list of unrestricted free agents currently identified. Here are two of those 2013 free agent lists from Hoopsworld and ESPN.com for your reference. Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum will headline this year's class if you hadn't heard. While they won't want to come to Cleveland, there could be a few frontline-ish caliber players who might.  Before getting too far, though, first here are the dollars I went virtually shopping with... * This season the NBA Salary Cap is $58 million. The floor, or what teams are required to spend at least is $49 million. The luxury tax line at $70 million. I am assuming these all remain constants next season. * If the Cavaliers did not extend any qualifying offers, pick up an options, trade any players, or re-sign anyone not currently under a fully guaranteed contract next season they would bring back: Anderson Varjeao, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee and Tyler Zeller. * Those six players would be under contract for approximately $29 million in total next season. * This leaves roughly $29 million for the Cavaliers to arrive at the $58 million salary cap figure. It also requires they spend at least $20 million to get to the salary cap floor. There's more they could then do with the luxury tax line, however, but they will be adding draft picks and whoever else too so I stopped at $58 million.   I'd then be shopping for a combination of two or three players off the following list. Positions are in parenthesis, age is as of this season, stats are career numbers. 1. Al Jefferson (C): 27 years old, 16.2 points and 9.0 rebounds   2. Josh Smith (PF): 27 years old, 15.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists 3. Paul Millsap (PF): 27 years old, 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds 4. Cory Brewer (SF/SG): 26 years old, 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds (166 career games) 5. Jarrett Jack (PG/SG): 29 years old, 10.8 points, 4.2 assists 6. Nick Young (SG): 27 years old, 11.4 points and 1.9 rebounds 7. J.J. Reddick (SG): 28 years old, 8.8 points, 1.8 assists Before you saying anything about Josh Smith or Nick Young, keep in mind how depraved of NBA talent this Cavaliers team really is. The Hawks are winning because of Smith right now, too, and I'd take a flier on him. At significantly less dollars, I'd also take a chance on Nick Young. The money and years would have to be really right for Swaggy P, though.  It's also worth noting that I put a space between Paul Millsap and Corey Brewer for a reason. I am suggesting the Cavaliers go ahead and invest in one of Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and Paul Millsap. I'd then try to fit one or two of the next four players into a total package of $26 million-ish in terms of next season's salary for the group. I'm not overlooking the importance and variability of the years associated with each contract, but it's too early to really get into all that. Essentially, the goal is to improve significantly next season while not mortgaging the future too much. Anyways, here is the unrestricted free agent package I'd like the Cavaliers target: * Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer and Jarrett Jack - if you can get that done for $26 million combined in next season's salary cap numbers. Those three players will earn a combined $23.6 million this season.  So...if the Cavs didn't trade Varejao...next season they'd start Al Jefferson and Anderson Varejao in the post, under this hypothetical, while bringing Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller in off the bench. Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack would be your three guards rotating between the point and shooting guard spots. Alonzo Gee and Corey Brewer would be playing small forward. Brewer, an impact defender on the perimeter, hopefully improves the Cavaliers awfulness defensively a little bit. Then they'd draft the best players available in June. Preferably a small forward who can start and whatever position the next best player available plays.   All of this is subject to change pending further developments. It also assumes the Cavs aren't able to acquire someone better like DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay in a trade without having to give up Varejao.
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