The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t experienced playoff basketball since the 2017-18 season—LeBron James’ last year with the team.
It’s been a frustrating few seasons for Cavaliers fans at times, but there is no denying that progress is being made. The Cavaliers have an extremely exciting young core that has served as the foundation for the team’s rebuild.
Collin Sexton headlines that core. The 22-year-old just finished his third NBA season and impressed many with his growth compared to previous years. In the 2020-21 season, Sexton averaged a career-best 24.3 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.1 percent shooting from deep.
He added 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steal per contest.
Sexton’s partner in crime is Darius Garland. Garland, 21, played like he had something to prove this past season. He averaged 17.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. He shot the ball at a 45.1 percent clip from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc.
On top of the exciting duo, the Cavaliers have an 11.5 percent chance of landing the top pick in the upcoming draft. They’re tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fourth-best odds at winning the draft lottery.
All of this is a very roundabout way of saying what Cavaliers fans know to be true: The future is bright in Cleveland.
The next step for the franchise, if it hopes to contend next season or perhaps the following year, would be to bring in some free agent talent.
Who should the team target in the upcoming class?
1. Jarrett Allen
First and foremost, the team needs to bring back restricted free agent Jarrett Allen.
Allen has evolved into an extremely solid center in recent years. The 23-year-old is getting better each year and most recently averaged 12.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game in the 2020-21 season.
The Cavaliers traded a first-round pick in January to acquire Allen, so it’s safe to assume that the team would like to keep him around.
With Allen being a restricted free agent, Cleveland has options. It can either sign him to a new deal or match any offer he receives from another team. Most of the speculation surrounding Allen is that the big man will want a deal worth north of $100 million.
The Cavaliers could manage that, but they may have to pick their battles with Sexton also eligible for an extension.
2. T.J. McConnell
A T.J. McConnell signing wouldn’t be the flashiest move, but depth at the guard position has been an issue for the Cavaliers for years.
McConnell would be a quality second-unit piece. He isn’t much of a scorer, but he does distribute the ball well and is very efficient when he does take shots.
The 29-year-old is coming off of arguably the best year of his career with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 8.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He shot 55.9 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from deep.
McConnell made $3.5 million a year with the Pacers, a figure that the Cavaliers would likely be able to manage if McConnell’s desired salary stays in that ballpark.
3. Jeff Green
With Kevin Love potentially on the move this offseason as a trade candidate, Jeff Green could slide into the power forward position quite nicely for this Cavaliers team.
It would be a reunion from the 2017-18 season, when Green spent one year with Cleveland.
Green, 34, could replace Love’s veteran presence. He could also be a key contributor in the frontcourt.
Green is currently in the midst of a playoff run with the Brooklyn Nets, but in the 2020-21 regular season, he averaged 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Green isn’t a great rebounder despite his 6-foot-8 size, but he makes up for it in the scoring department. Green is an excellent shooter for a big man and was a 41.2 percent three-point shooter this past regular season.
Green’s value in the upcoming free agent market is tough to gauge, but the Cavaliers would be able to afford him if they made it a priority. His one-year deal with the Nets was worth just $2.5 million.