LeBron James used his free agency to leverage the Cleveland Cavaliers management to improve the team this off-season. Whether he needed to put on that show or not (he didn’t), owner Dan Gilbert is going to break out the checkbook. The Cavaliers will have the highest payroll in the land next season — 0ne that includes a hefty luxury tax bill that will push the Cavs’ up to $200 million or so spent on players.
So what does LeBron think of the efforts to re-sign Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert (and himself), plus get Mo Williams?
It’s a good start, but he wants to see more, he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN at an Akron premiere of his movie “Trainwreck.”
“It’s been good so far, but we have a lot of work to do,” said James, who co-stars in the movie, when asked about the Cavs’ offseason. “We still got to re-sign Tristan [Thompson]. Hopefully we can bring back J.R. [Smith] as well and see if there’s some other free agents out there that’d love to come here and play if we’re able to do that.
“We definitely don’t want to come back the same team. We want to come back better. But right now, we’ve been doing so far, so good.”
The Tristan Thompson deal will likely get done. Eventually. There’s a gap between the two sides — Thompson reportedly wants Draymond Green level money (five years, $85 million), while the Cavaliers realize he isn’t worth that much. Thompson and LeBron share an agent, so LeBron can lean on the Cavs to get a deal done, while Thompson has to know there are few teams left with the cap space to make him an offer sheet in the ballpark he wants. The sides will figure it out.
J.R. Smith could be a different story. The Cavaliers have a great trade chip in the expiring $10.5 million contract of Brendan Haywood, and they are shopping it around looking for wing depth. If they find a deal for a player less erratic than Smith, then they may not be as eager to re-sign him. At least at a price that Smith would like.
The biggest advantage the Cavaliers have going into next season is continuity — a second year with the core playing together, a second year working with coach David Blatt. The second half of last season the Cavaliers started to figure it out, they were an offensive juggernaut, and they might have won it all if not for playoff injuries to Love and Kyrie Irving. Next season they will be better just for having had those experiences and time together.
But the roster will be deeper, too. LeBron should be happy.