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Cavs free agency target: Richard Jefferson

Cavs free agency target: Richard Jefferson

Veteran leadership is one of the most important keys to success for a young and rebuilding team. Bringing back Channing Frye was a great move by the Cavaliers; he was one of the most popular members of the 2016 championship team and brings a positive joking attitude to the locker room.

However, Frye is only one third of the brilliant Road Trippin’ podcast that saw so much success during Frye’s first stint in Cleveland. Along with Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton, Frye anchored the show, but one component is currently missing.

Richard Jefferson is the third member of that team, and is currently a free agent. The Cavaliers should sign him, if only for his locker room presence.

Jefferson was drafted 13th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2001, but was immediately traded to the New Jersey Nets. He spent his first seven seasons in New Jersey, with his best campaign coming in 2004-2005, when he averaged 22.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in an incredible 41.1 minutes per game. Now, he only played in 33 contests that year due to a wrist injury, but his performance the season before and the season after proved that his 2004-2005 season was not a fluke. He averaged 22.6 points per game in 82 matches in 2007-2008.

Over the next seven years, Jefferson would play for Milwaukee, San Antonio, Golden State, Utah, and Dallas. Prior to the 2015-2016 season, Jefferson signed a minimum contract with the Cavs. He filled the role of LeBron James’ backup quite nicely, averaging 5.5 points in 17.9 minutes per game. His role increased during the playoffs, and he even filled in for an injured Kevin Love during the NBA Finals.

After the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship, Jefferson drunkenly announced his retirement in a postgame interview with Clifton. However, during Cleveland’s championship parade, he agreed to return to the team after the crowd of one million chanted “one more year”.

After the 2015-2016 season, Jefferson signed a two-year contract, and actually played more minutes in the 2016-2017 season. However, his age showed, and he wasn’t as effective, as his three-point percentage dropped from 38% to 33%. The Cavaliers fell to the Warriors four games to one in the Finals.

Just before the 2017-2018 season began, Richard Jefferson was traded, along with Kay Felder, to the Atlanta Hawks, who immediately waived him. At the time, this looked like a solid move by Cleveland, because it opened up two roster spots to add players who could contribute. However, the Cavs played much of the season with only 14 players, and two of those, Kendrick Perkins and Okaro White, did not play a single minute during the playoffs.

After being traded and waived, Jefferson signed with the Denver Nuggets, and up-and-coming team in need of veterans in their locker room. Jefferson was a good fit personality-wise, although he hardly played. He was active for 20 games, starting none, and averaged 1.5 points in 8.2 minutes. Denver elected not to bring back the 17-year veteran, and now Jefferson remains unsigned.

The Cavaliers currently have 13 players signed for the 2018-2019 season, including restricted free agent Rodney Hood. That leaves two roster spots open, and they should be filled with either young players with potential to develop, or older veterans to provide more leadership.

Jefferson fits the second term perfectly, and he has an advantage over the other free agents because of his history with the team. He is still best friends with Frye, and is adored by all the members of the Cavaliers.

Richard Jefferson would have a similar on-court role to what he played last year for the Nuggets. However, his off-court impact would be why Cleveland brings him in. The Cavs have a number of young wing players who could use some veteran influence, such as Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, and Okaro White. Jefferson knows what it takes to be a star in the NBA, and how to win a championship.

A re-boot of the Road Trippin’ podcast would also improve Cleveland’s morale, as the show was filled with player interviews, pranks, and jokes involving nearly every member of the team. Jefferson and Frye form one of the most unique personality duos in league history, and they were a major part of managing all of the different types of players Cleveland has had over the past few seasons. Although this year will be very different, they could still have a similar impact, this time on younger guys.

The Cavs already brought back Channing Frye for locker room reasons, so it only makes sense to do the same with Richard Jefferson. Whether the Cavaliers decide to tank or compete, improving morale is incredibly important, and there’s no better way to do that than having someone like Jefferson on your team.

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