HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Cavaliers beat writer Chris Fedor discuss Collin Sexton’s free agency, Caris LeVert’s extension chances and Kevin Love’s future. The duo also discussed the latest on Cleveland’s NBA Draft, free agent and trade targets on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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2:05 Collin Sexton’s restricted free agency market
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Scotto: The Cavaliers want to retain Collin Sexton. He’s going to demand starting guard money, I’m told. There are some teams who will be in the market for a point guard this summer, including the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards, who would have to acquire Sexton in a sign-and-trade if they want to get him. Last season, no restricted free agent signed an offer sheet, and players such as Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen switched teams via sign-and-trade.
One executive told me, “I think Cleveland will extend a qualifying offer to Sexton and look to match an offer. I don’t see him receiving an offer, but I think Cleveland will use Sexton as a trade asset. I expect them to try and sign him to a deal in the $18-20 million annual range so they can eventually trade him.”
Another executive told me, “It’s a bad market to be a free agent. There’s not that much money available currently. Cleveland likely has the leverage with Sexton.”
Fedor: If we go back to last year’s offseason and the negotiations with Sexton about an extension, part of what the Cavs were saying to Collin’s representatives and part of what they were feeling going into those negotiations is they were in the driver’s seat. A big reason for that was they looked ahead towards this summer, and they said if he’s going to be a restricted free agent, who are going to be the teams that could potentially take him from us?
My sources tell me at the end of the Sexton negotiations, the two sides were kicking around Bogdan Bogdanovic money, so around $18 million annually. I get the sense that the Cavs are more comfortable in the range of $15-18 million (annually). I think Collin is looking more in the range of $18-22 million (annually). I do think there’s a gap they need to close this offseason.
There were questions about Collin and his playing style coming into this year. There were questions about whether he was a sixth man or whether he was a starter. There are some teams in the NBA that just aren’t comfortable with a 6-foot-1 starting shooting guard. He’s not a point guard. He’s more of a shooting guard with the way that he plays. With all the questions about him coming into the year and then, on top of that, he only plays 11 games and the Cavs go on to have success without him and win 44 games. That doesn’t help Collin when it comes to the negotiations this offseason.
Scotto: I appreciate your insight into the range disparity between where Cleveland was at and where Collin was at. That’s why I thought the executive who mentioned the $18-20 million range was in the middle for both. Ultimately, if something is going to get done, barring an offer sheet, that would be it.
Do the Knicks or Wizards, teams that are looking for guards, take a swing there? They both have younger cores. Those were the teams I was eyeing as possible teams that could make a run at him. The Knicks are going to try to go after Jalen Brunson.
Fedor: One team the Cavs are internally wondering about, not necessarily what they’re worried about, is the Detroit Pistons. To get some kind of lethal scorer next to Cade Cunningham and take some of the ball-handling responsibilities and pressure off him.
My sources tell me the Cavs do not believe there is a team out there that is going to give Collin a contract north of $20 million annually.
Scotto: I think, ultimately, Sexton ends up staying in Cleveland, and eventually, they’re going to flip him.
13:20 Caris LeVert’s extension chances
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Scotto: One executive told me, “I think Caris LeVert will get around $20.5 million per season on an extension. That’s a little too rich for me, but I believe Cleveland will pay him that if they want to extend him.”
Another executive said, “Caris is interesting due to his injury history. A short-term extension around the number he’s on would be good value.” He’s making about $19 million.
From what I’ve heard, Cleveland would like to keep LeVert. That’s why they traded for him with that intention… I’d surmise that both sides would like to make this (extension) happen at this point.
Fedor: I think they would too, but I think there’s another layer to this. The Cavs don’t have to do anything. He’s under contract next year, so if the contract negotiations don’t go the way they want them to go, he’s still under contract in the final year, making it a potential trade chip. I’m not saying that’s what they ultimately want, but that’s in their back pocket, just like last year’s negotiations with Sexton.
18:25 Kevin Love’s future
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Scotto: After years of being mentioned in trade rumors, Kevin Love has re-established himself as a productive player and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. By all accounts, he’s been a great veteran on and off the court for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to play alongside and learn from. He’s got an excellent relationship with J.B. Bickerstaff, who, truthfully, I think is the only guy who probably could get through to Love to accept his role. I went from him being someone they’d try to sell off to wondering if there’s a way for both sides after this season to continue their relationship. He’s in the final year of his deal at almost $29 million. It’s a great trade chip if they wanted to use it now.
Fedor: When you look at the Cavs, anybody not named Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen could be moved this offseason… They recognize the value Love brings on and off the court. They need more adults… Unprompted, Garland, who’s grown very close to Love throughout the last two years and refers to him as Hall of Famer, Kevin Love. He’s our Hall of Famer. That’s the kind of reputation he has in the Cavs’ walls. They joke with him and call him “grandpa Kev.”
You’re right. Him being in the final year of his contract and making around $30 million means it opens up trade possibilities for the Cavs. If they want to get involved in Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell, Tobias Harris, or some other higher-priced guys like Harrison Barnes, and they feel like they’d be a better fit, Kevin is their way of doing it. His contract matches some of these upper-echelon players that could be available in a trade this offseason.
I think because of the way Kevin played this past year and accepting a lesser role, I think it boosted his trade value.
25:35 Cavaliers trade candidates
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Fedor: They need two-way wing scorers. That’s what is required in the NBA, and the Cavaliers don’t have those. They need a reliable backup point guard to fill the Ricky Rubio role.
Here are the names that I’ve heard: I think both (Bojan and Bogdan) Bogdanovics would make sense. Gordon Hayward, whose salary lines up with Kevin Love… Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jeremi Grant, Aaron Gordon. And this is one that I’m watching. I think it’s less likely than it was when the postseason started, but it’s one that I’ve heard kicked around inside the walls of Cleveland. It’s Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors.
Scotto: Hayward is an interesting name. I touched on this in a podcast with Rod Boone. Miles Bridges is looking at $25 million or close to a max salary annually. They’re going to have to move somebody if they don’t want to go deep into the tax. They didn’t do it for Kemba Walker. They value Hayward that when he plays, he’s a solid veteran presence who helps round out that roster. I think he’d be a great fit for Cleveland overall. You wouldn’t have to overpay to get him.
Fedor: There’s another name, too, since they need a reliable backup point guard that can start, and I’ve heard this name with the Cavaliers as well. My sources tell me J.B. Bickerstaff would love to coach him again, Mike Conley. If Utah decides to move him in an effort to put the right pieces around Donovan Mitchell and shake up that roster. Conley for somebody like Caris LeVert is something I think the Cavs would consider.
34:55 Ricky Rubio’s potential return
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Scotto: Personally, I’d like to see them bring back Ricky Rubio. I thought he was perfect for them. Kevin Love would be all about it.
Fedor: My sources tell me there’s mutual interest in that (Ricky Rubio) reunion. In fact, some people are essentially penciling him in as on the roster. I wouldn’t go that far with it. It’s complicated because even though he’s a great fit, there are some variables here. How good and effective is he going to be coming off a second torn ACL? You’re not going to get him until about midway through the season. The earliest would be November or December.
Let’s say the Cavs use their full mid-level exception or part of the mid-level exception on Rubio. That would be their big free agency move. The backup point guard then becomes who for those first few months? They’d have to use another roster spot on a competent third point guard.
38:15 Draft pick possibilities
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Fedor: The argument for the Cavs keeping the pick is getting someone at No. 14 that has a skill set they don’t have. Their offseason mantra has been playmakers and two-way wings. If they could get a wing shooter at No. 14, it’s something I think they’d consider.
Darius Garland is probably going to get a max extension as soon as free agency opens this offseason. They committed to Jarrett Allen. They’re going to have to commit to Evan Mobley in the future. Who knows what’s going to happen with Collin Sexton and Caris LeVert? This is going to be an expensive roster moving forward. It’s something the Cavs have to consider. The guy they’d draft at No. 14 is really team-friendly in terms of his contract and a young player under team control for the next four or five years.
The type of player they’d acquire in a trade centered around the 14th pick I don’t think is going to move the needle all that much for them to give up the chance to take a swing on the upside of Malaki Branham, Johnny Davis, Ben Mathurin if he falls down the board, Tari Eason, who’s a player I know the Cavs like. Kentucky’s TyTy Washington is another player I know the Cavs like. Jeremy Sochan is another player I know the Cavs are interested in.
42:20 Free agent targets
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Scotto: If Cleveland offers Sexton a qualifying offer, as expected, they’d be $21 million below the luxury tax with the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception available to spend in free agency, according to our HoopsHype salary cap expert, Yossi Gozlan.
Fedor: One of the names I hear that the Cavs are interested in, according to my sources, and I’m not sure this team is going to let him go, but they’d be very interested in Tyus Jones to be Darius Garland’s backup. He’d fill the Ricky Rubio void. If the Cavs feel like the complications involving Rubio are too much, I think they’d use the full mid-level exception on Jones. Other names I’ve heard that they’re interested in are Delon Wright, Kyle Anderson, Goran Dragic, and Raul Neto. Other ones I’ve heard recently if they want to go away from a point guard in free agency are Jeremy Lamb and TJ Warren.