September 23, 2018 | 11:19 pm
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The Reigning Champs Press On in Cleveland

With all the noise about Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors, Dwayne Wade joining the Chicago Bulls and other free agency drama this summer–the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been much of a buzzworthy topic as of late. The Cavaliers have seemingly been flying under the radar in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean the reigning champs aren’t hard at work ready to defend the title in the 2016-2017 season.

So what exactly have they been up to this summer?

The Cavs entered the 2016 draft without a pick as they traded their first-round selection to the Boston Celtics in a three-team trade in the summer of 2014. This move was made to clear salary in anticipation of the return of LeBron James from his four-year leave of absence with the Miami Heat. Overall, the Cavaliers didn’t really have a whole lot of turnover. Center Timofey Mozgov was offered a lucrative deal by the Los Angeles Lakers who, as some say, are overpaying the Lithuanian big man who brought in 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season. Australian-born Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 7.5 points per game in the 2015-2016 season, also made the move to a team who offered him a higher than expected salary and will be suiting up with the Milwaukee Bucks. I will say that losing Dellavedova likely won’t be too much of an issue for Cleveland as they enter the new season. Dellavedova uses questionable tactics that reflect the disparity in talent between he and some of the NBA’s better guards. Good riddance in my opinion.

Cleveland was able to re-sign small forward Richard Jefferson and his 5.5 points per game to a two-year deal. They also re-signed G/F James Jones who will hopefully be able to make more of a contribution than the 3.7 points per game he brought last season. Either way those two were brought back for veteran leadership. Last, but certainly not least, LeBron James signed a three year commitment with the Cavaliers on August 12th. The team knew he would be staying in Cleveland, but I’m sure having ink on paper makes everyone in the Cleveland front office sleep a little better at night.

Unfortunately, JR Smith still remains a free agent for the 2016-2017 season. Some have speculated that he is staying in Cleveland just so he can attend the ring ceremony during their home opener on October 25th and will leave soon thereafter. Smith has stated that he would like to play for a team where he can fully bloom, but honestly I think his best bet is to remain in Cleveland. He can be somewhat of a loose cannon at times and is prone to poor decision making. Working under the strong leadership of Tyronn Lue and LeBron James has been, and will continue to be, good for him if he chooses to remain in Cleveland. The Cavs could certainly use Smith’s shooting abilities from beyond the arc in clutch moments as we saw him deliver last season.

Along with the re-commitments Cleveland was able to secure, they also scored big time in acquiring shooting guard Mike Dunleavy from Chicago in exchange for the rights to Albert Miralles who is playing professionally in Spain. Dunleavy is a sharp-shooting stud and is a 14-year NBA veteran who shot 39% from three last year. Dunleavy’s portfolio includes experience and a high basketball IQ that any team would be lucky to have. He’s also pretty excited to get to work with Cleveland right away. When asked about his new teammates Dunleavy stated:

(They’re) pretty humble group for coming off winning a championship and going to the Finals two years in a row. They like to joke around and have a good time, but when it gets down to doing work they’re serious, put the time in and you don’t always see that with teams. I’ve been on a lot of teams where guys come and go, show up five minutes before practice and leave right after. We have our best players here an hour and a half early and stay an hour and a half late. Quite honestly, that’s kind of new to me.

High praise from a veteran who has no doubt seen it all. Best of luck to Dunleavy with his new team!

Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue is also looking to bolster his coaching staff for the upcoming season. If you follow the NBA closely, chances are that you’ve heard about the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Garnett announcing his retirement after 21 years in the league. Garnett is retiring after an incredibly successful career in the NBA. He ranks 3rd in all-time career minutes, 5th in games played, 9th in total rebounds, 11th in field goals made, 16th in steals, and 17th in blocks. If he would have played in the 2016-2017 season he would have been the first player in NBA history to play in his teens, 20s, 30s & 40s.

Lue has extended an invitation to Garnett to join his coaching staff. Garnett discussed the opportunity with Lue, and Garnett’s wife is reportedly pushing to make it happen. He has said that he’s not ready to take on that role just yet, but has also said that he “might do it”. Lue also made a less serious offer to Allen Iverson, but Garnett appears to be a more realistic candidate for the position.

Catching up with The King during training camp, LeBron James stated that Cleveland added experience to the roster in the offseason. He went on to say that Cleveland isn’t a young team in terms of age but they’ve only played together for two seasons so they will only continue to get better as time goes by. James explained that it’s a great feeling when you’re able to win with a group that you work hard for and with a group where each player makes sacrifices for each other. What an inspiring comment from such a sound leader.

Combining James with Lue  for another year makes me certain the two will lead Cleveland to another title in the 2016-2017 season. I know, it’s a little early to be making predictions, but I really like what I see happening with this group. The Cavs lineup is primed and ready to earn their earn another trip to the NBA Finals. This is a team that has gotten past some early drama and are a stable franchise now that a title has been brought to Cleveland. I look forward to what this team will bring to the 2016-2017 NBA season. They will surely not disappoint!

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