After LeBron James left Cleveland for a second time this summer, many around the league thought the Cavaliers would start a full rebuild project by trading veterans Kevin Love, George Hill, Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith.
Instead, the Cavs signed Love to a four-year, $120 million extension, meaning the franchise will now pay the All-Star forward roughly $145 million over the next five seasons. Cleveland has tried to move Hill, Korver and Smith, but hasn’t found a trade market for any of the three players.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz spoke to an Eastern Conference scout to get his take on the Cavs’ offseason, and the scout is not impressed with what general manager Koby Altman has done so far.
“I don’t like what they’re doing,” the scout told Swartz. “I would have done the full rebuild. Indiana got lucky. Cleveland needs to build through the draft for the next two to three years, bite the bullet and go from there. Even with the roster that they have now, they’ll probably still get a top-10 pick, maybe a top-five. I don’t see Cleveland being very good. I would have gutted.
“There’s about seven guaranteed playoff teams already. Are they going to be better than Brooklyn and Atlanta? Yeah. Probably New York. Are they going to be better than Charlotte and Orlando? I don’t know. I don’t see [Cleveland] in the top eight. The only way they can get better is gut it and start over again. It’s not an attractive place for a free agent.”
The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers are considered the best teams in the East, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards not too far behind. The Cavs could make the playoffs as a lower seed, but what’s the point? The worst place in sports is to be stuck in mediocrity, and it appears that’s where the Cavs are now.
The aforementioned scout was not a fan of the Love extension, saying the Cavs should look to trade him for some assets later in the season.
“Oh, God, I didn’t like it,” the scout told Swartz. “$30 million for Kevin Love? I like Kevin, but he doesn’t have LeBron anymore, and he’s going to have to carry the load. He’ll be back like [he was in] Minnesota, getting big numbers on a bad team. He might get 20 rebounds a game because they’ll miss a lot. He’ll definitely be one of the leading rebounders this season.
“I’d trade him with that contract and try to get assets. Five years at $30 million a year? I wouldn’t want him at that. If he were making $21 million, $22 million or even $23 million, sure, but not $30 million. That’s a max player. He’s not a max player. He’s not a franchise player; he’s probably the third guy on a really good playoff team. I doubt he would have gotten that contract from anyone else. He’s a really good player, but I don’t like it for $30 million.”
Cavs rookie point guard Collin Sexton is the one piece the scout is high on. During summer league, Sexton got to the rim at will, finished in heavy traffic and attacked the basket in transition, something the Cavs will need from him on a nightly basis during the regular-season to generate easy offense now that James is gone.
Sexton also showed he’s going to be a rugged defender for the Cavs on the perimeter. As of now, Sexton’s perimeter shooting is considered the skill he needs to work on most. Sexton’s most valuable assets appear to be his quickness and driving ability.
“Sexton is their point guard of the future,” the scout told Swartz. “He’s a piece. They’ve at least got the 1 and 4 positions locked down. With him just being a freshman coming out of Alabama, it’s going to take him a few years. I like him a lot, though. He’s going to be thrown into the fire early. I think he’ll come along quicker than the typical draft pick because I see him playing a lot of minutes.
“I like him, but Sexton’s not ready [to lead a postseason team like Donovan Mitchell], and he won’t do that. I see him more like a De‘Aaron Fox. Fox struggled, but you saw brilliance there at times. It’s going to be the same with [Sexton].”