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Cavaliers wing it through offseason until monumental trade

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The Cavaliers seemingly spent most of the offseason not knowing what they’d do at point guard.

They rushed to sign Jose Calderon, learned Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded, saw Derrick Rose left disregarded, signed Rose to a minimum deal, agreed to trade Irving to the Celtics, determined Isaiah Thomas‘ injury was more severe than anticipated then finalized the deal with Boston.

Not bad for a team that appeared to be operating without a fully formed plan. But not as good as it could have been, either.

The Cavs started the summer on the wrong foot by dumping general manager David Griffin just three days before the draft. That might have cost them Jimmy Butler and/or Paul George.

But new general manager Koby Altman still handled a star trade with Irving and came out well ahead – if Thomas is healthy, if Cleveland is willing to trade the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick.

A healthy Thomas is nearly as good as Irving right now, and the present matters so much for Cleveland with LeBron James propping its title window open. Jae Crowder – a versatile defender who shoots 3s will be essential against the Warriors – more than makes up the difference between the point guards this season. Again, if Thomas is healthy, and it’s a major question when that will be.

The Brooklyn pick is more valuable than any player in this trade, and the Cavaliers could use it to kick start a post-LeBron rebuild or trade it to improve their title odds this year. They can wait to decide, but both options should be on the table.

It’s so hard to build a team capable of winning a championship, and the Cavs are there. They shouldn’t waste any chance to maximize this opportunity. A better shot at the title would justify a longer post-LeBron rebuild, whenever that comes.

But which player worthy of that pick is available? Teams tend to hoard good players. Cleveland could always keep the pick and delay its decision into the offseason.

These are major questions – How healthy will Thomas be? What would the Cavaliers do with the Nets pick? – that make evaluating this offseason so difficult.

At best, Thomas is soaring by the playoffs, and the Cavs are even better than they were last year. They’d still have the Brooklyn pick in their back pocket to load up even more against Golden State or draft someone who’d infuse talent as this team ages. This could be the type of package that entices LeBron to stay in Cleveland.

At worst, Thomas never gets right. The Cavaliers, fearing LeBron leaving, refuse to trade the Nets pick then lose LeBron because of it.

With the specter of LeBron departing and the lackluster offseason that preceded it, the Irving trade is an all-timer. I think the Cavs came out ahead, but it’s tough to tell without knowing more about Thomas’ status, and they’re keeping that closely guarded. I am giving them full credit for the Brooklyn pick, because, whether or not they’re actually willing to trade it, they’re in position to.

Don’t overlook Crowder, an underrated player on one of the NBA’s most team-friendly contracts (three years, $21,917,475 remaining). He’s a significant part of the package. The third player acquired from Boston, rookie Ante Zizic, isn’t nothing.

Neither is Cedi Osman, a 2015 second-rounder signed this year. Signing Kyle Korver to a three-year, $22 million contract (though just $3.44 million of $7.5 million guaranteed the final season) is probably an overpay considering he’s 36. I like Rose much more as instant offense during LeBron’s short rests rather than a starter who neither defends nor shoots 3s well. Calderon doesn’t have a place on this team if Thomas and Rose are healthy, and I’m not sure Calderon would have been signed if Cleveland knew the latter two would later be acquired. Jeff Green has continuously disappointed, so maybe a minimum contract is finally the right salary for him – though if the Cavaliers are expecting a versatile and effective defender, they too might be left unsatisfied.

That amounts to several minor moves until one huge move. The Cavaliers might have aced the big one, but uncertainty about Thomas’ health has me docking them a full letter. If he’s healthy long enough before the playoffs to establish chemistry with his new teammates, bump them up a full letter. If he’s diminished all season, dock them another letter.

Offseason grade: B

Report: Cavaliers signing Kendrick Perkins

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Kendrick Perkins spent fewer than four months with the Cavaliers, including the 2015 playoffs. But nearly a year later after Cleveland let Perkins walk in free agency, LeBron James was still bemoaning Perkins’ absence.

Are the Cavs righting a wrong?

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Kendrick Perkins joined the Cavaliers at LeBron James’ minicamp in Santa Barbara, Calif., and will come to training camp next week, sources told cleveland.com.

The Cavs now have 18 players with standard contracts, and 15 – the regular-season limit – have guaranteed salaries. I doubt Cleveland wants to waive the two without guaranteed salaries, Kay Felder and Edy Tavares, either.

In other words, Perkins is a longshot to stick into the regular season.

Perkins was washed up when with the Cavaliers two years ago. The 32-year-old who sat out last season hasn’t produced on the court in several years. He’s tough and well-liked in the locker room, which might give him a chance of sneaking onto the regular-season roster.

But the Cavs should focus on developing toughness and chemistry among their rotation players. Perkins is just a crutch, most likely one who’ll be yanked away by cut-down day a few weeks from now.

Report: Lakers sell jersey ad for $36M-$42M over three years

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The Lakers are a financial behemoth, though that’s tied to a local-TV deal signed when they were still good.

How do current conditions value their brand?

John Lombardo and Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Daily

The Lakers have signed a jersey patch deal with S.F.-based e-commerce company Wish. The three-year agreement, according to a source, is between $12-14M annually

That’s the second-richest known jersey-ad deal – behind only the Warriors ($20 million annually) and ahead of the Cavaliers ($10 million annually).

It clearly pays to be Los Angeles, though don’t discount the role of the Lakers’ fantastic history and intriguing future.

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony to accept trade to Trail Blazers if Knicks and Rockets don’t strike deal

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Carmelo Anthony trade talks between the Knicks and Rockets appear to be going nowhere.

Yet, Anthony’s camp is reportedly cautiously optimistic he’ll get dealt by Monday.

This might explain why.

Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports:

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have recruited Anthony to Portland. The Trail Blazers have plenty of expendable players who could be aggregated to matching Anthony’s salary – Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis – plus lower-paid players to give New York value. This certainly looks plausible.

It’d make sense for Anthony to hold out as long as possible for Houston, his ideal destination. He can use his no-trade clause to force the Knicks to deal with only the Rockets.

But what if that fails?

I’m skeptical New York, Portland and Anthony all agree to a deal. There are just too many sides to please.

The Knicks will need more than just bad contracts to move Anthony, and the Trail Blazers don’t need more scoring enough to relinquish significant assets. Anthony would also have to approve, and as miserable as the Knicks have been, the New York market still matters.

Again, this is plausible, but I’m doubtful. Either way, we should know soon with training camp around the corner.

LeBron James reportedly “invested” in helping Derrick Rose get next big contract

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Reality smacked Derrick Rose across the face last summer.

Last season, the former MVP made $21.3 million in the final year of a five-year rookie contract extension, and while injuries had slowed his game he was playing better. Combine that with seeing the drunken sailor spending spree the previous summer, and he was hoping for — if not a max contract — still a healthy eight digit one. Instead, he signed a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, $2.1 million, to play for the Cavaliers.

LeBron James wants to see his man Rose get paid again, Dave McMenamin of ESPN said on The Jump.

“I’ve heard that for the first couple of days, Derrick Rose has been ‘killing it.’ I’ve also heard that LeBron is invested in Derrick Rose’s career so that he can get that next contract.”

The first part of that, the “killing it” part, you can just throw out. Maybe Rose looks great at the mini-camp LeBron is hosting for the Cavs in Santa Barbara, I hope he is, but preseason everybody is “killing it” or “has lost/gained 15 pounds and is in the best shape of his life” or “has worked hard and now has an impressive jump shot.” Rose probably does look great in Cavaliers camp against Jose Calderon, let’s see how he looks once he has to go up against real NBA players.

Rose’s next contract will be interesting. Maybe LeBron can set him up to look better this season, but it’s going to be on Rose mostly. Once healthy (whenever that is), Isaiah Thomas will be the starting point guard in Cleveland, plus as always LeBron James will have the ball in his hands a lot. (Which he should, he’s the best player on the planet.) But that means Rose needs to learn to work off the ball with LeBron more, and when LeBron (and eventually Thomas) sit, Rose needs to take over and show he can get a team buckets for a 5-7 minute stretch. Do that and he has a role that will get him some money. I’m not sold Rose can do much more than that at this point in his career.

How much money Rose will get is another issue. It’s going to be a tight market next year where only a few teams have much money to spend, and Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, and maybe Rajon Rondo (depending on how he does in New Orleans) will be higher on team’s boards than Rose.

But if LeBron is “invested” that could help Rose make a little more green next season.