It’s now been eight days since the Cavaliers were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals and the oft-criticized Tyronn Lue is still Cleveland’s head coach.
With each passing day, it looks more and more like Lue, who has three years left on the five-year, $35 million extension he signed after the Cavs won their only title in 2016, will be back on the bench next season.
If, that is, he wants to be.
It now appears highly doubtful owner Dan Gilbert or general manager Koby Altman will fire Lue, who has led the Cavs to one title and three Finals appearances in 2½ seasons as head coach, because that almost always happens in the days immediately following the end of a team’s season.
There is, however, an outside chance Lue could resign and forfeit the remaining money on his contract, though he said immediately after the Cavs were eliminated by the Warriors in Game 4 that he planned on returning.
The 41-year-old dealt with health issues for much of last season and took a medical leave of absence at one point, and also didn’t seem to relish the constant spotlight and scrutiny that came with coaching a team led by four-time league MVP LeBron James.
Still, whether potential — and highly probable — unrestricted free agent James is back in Cleveland or not, it seems unlikely Lue will voluntarily step away and forfeit tons of money, especially since two if his remaining years are fully guaranteed, with the Cavs owning a team option for 2020-21.
Excluding James, whose future has and will continue to be heavily discussed, here’s a look at the contract breakdowns and futures of other players on the Cavs’ roster at the end of 2017-18:
Kevin Love: Whipping boy Love will make $24.1 million next season and has a player option that would pay him $25.6 million in 2019-20.
The underrated but sometimes underwhelming power forward-center has enjoyed his time in Cleveland and would like to be back, but he’s also the Cavs’ most tradable commodity.
It’s possible Altman could package Love and the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft, which will be held Thursday night, to land a big-time player with more athleticism and versatility, which in turn might be enticement enough for James to re-up with the Cavs.
It’s equally possible that Love might be moved for a package of young, athletic players if James doesn’t return, because the Cavs are a bottom-tier playoff team at best — and probably not even that — with him as their best player.
George Hill: An average-at-best NBA point guard, Hill struck it richer than anyone with his talent ever should in free agency.
Last summer, the now 32-year-old signed a three-year, $57 million deal with the Utah Jazz. He earned
$20 million in the just-completed season and will make $19 million guaranteed next season. He has an $18 million deal for 2019-20, but only $1 million of that is guaranteed.
Though $19 million is way too much for next season, Hill’s contract for the following season could make him somewhat attractive to a team looking to rid itself of an equally big deal, but with more years and guaranteed money remaining.
Tristan Thompson: Thompson will make $17.5 million and $18.5 million, guaranteed, over the next two seasons. That’s a lot of money for a role player, which makes it highly unlikely the Cavs will be able to move him.
J.R. Smith: The Cavs probably would trade Smith for a box of popcorn right now, as the mercurial and often unproductive shooting guard will make $14.7 million next season and $15.7 million in 2019-20, though only approximately $4 million of the latter is guaranteed.
Jordan Clarkson: Clarkson, who seemed to shoot (badly) every time he touched the ball in the NBA Finals, will make $12.5 million next season and $13.4 million in 2019-20, all guaranteed.
He just turned 26 on June 7, however, so he’ll likely be back with the Cavs. That’s especially true if James leaves — and even more true if Love also departs — because someone on the roster has to be able to score.
Or at least be willing to try to score, and Clarkson certainly has no problem taking shots.
Kyle Korver: Korver is 37 years old, will be entering his 16th season in the league and shot a dismal 1-for-16 from the field while scoring exactly five points against the Warriors in The Finals.
Yet he has a guaranteed contract for $7.56 million next season and could earn $7.5 million in 2019-20, though only about $3.5 million of the latter is guaranteed.
The guy’s a true pro and keeps himself in excellent shape, but if a plausible deal comes along, the Cavs will jump at it, especially if James does not return.
Rodney Hood: Hood will be a restricted free agent on July 1, and the Cavs must give him a $3.47 million qualifying offer by June 29 in order to maintain their right to match any contract offer he receives from another team.
Hood was a huge disappointment after being acquired from Utah at the trade deadline, even refusing to go into an Eastern Conference semifinal game vs. Toronto, but in an odd twist of fate that may end up benefitting the Cavs in the coming weeks.
The 6-foot-8 left-hander once was in line to get a big-time offer sheet in free agency, but likely cost himself millions of dollars with his poor performance in Cleveland. That, however, increases the chances Hood will receive only a reasonable offer — say, four years for a total of $40-48 million — and the Cavs will match it. If someone gives him an outlandish offer, the Cavs will let him walk.
Larry Nance Jr.: Nance will earn $2.27 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Cavs already have started talking to him regarding an extension.
Jeff Green: Green made the veteran minimum of $2.33 million in 2017-18 and will be an unrestricted free agent. The Cavs like his versatility, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll sign for the veteran minimum for a second straight season, so he’s probably gone.
Cedi Osman: Twitter-favorite Osman will make $2.78 million next season and $2.9 million in 2019-20, so he isn’t going anywhere — unless the only way another team will complete a blockbuster deal is if he’s included.
Ante Zizic: The Cavs have a team option on Zizic for $2.78 million next season and another for $2.9 million in 2019-20. They’ll almost certainly exercise both.
Jose Calderon: Like Green, Calderon played for the veteran minimum of $2.33 million last season. He’s an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return.
All of this means Altman is going to have an extremely busy summer, beginning with James and filtering all the way down to the end of his roster.
Whether James returns or not, the Cavs figure to have a rather large handful of new faces on their roster in 2018-19.
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