This offseason will be an important one for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It will give some much-needed time for the players, coaching staff and front office alike to further amplify the team’s strengths while addressing some of their most glaring needs. Cleveland ended with a record of 51-31 and took the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference during its 2022-23 campaign. Its lack of shooting and physicality on the interior led to a loss against the New York Knicks in five games during the NBA playoffs.
Cleveland won’t have the flexibility to make the bigger offseason splashes it had in seasons past. But it still has many options to pursue if it wants to take the steps to make itself a more complete team by the time they tip off again next fall.
The Cavs’ total cap figures add up to just under $127 million, according to Spotrac. That includes an estimation of guard Darius Garland’s cap figure and three non-guaranteed salaries. Forward Lamar Stevens will be on a club option for the 2023-24 season.
The Cavaliers can try to sign a solid contributor or two with the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, or “a cap exception that allows teams to sign one or multiple free agents to contracts above the minimum salary even if they are above the cap,” according to CBS Sports Basketball Writer Sam Quinn. RealGM estimated the figure would be $12.22 million for the 2023-24 season. Cleveland’s Bi-Annual exception, one that can be used only once every two years, can also be an option if the Cavs need to add another player.
Cleveland can try to sign shooting specialists at a lower cost, look for some backup center options or try for a near-swing for the fences with moves for more reliable contributors at the small forward spot.
Could New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Richardson be an affordable option to pursue in the offseason? And how would he fit with a Cavaliers team looking to make a lengthy run in the playoffs?
Josh Richardson is a 6-foot-5-inch guard who split time with the Pelicans and the San Antonio Spurs during the 2022-23 season. He was taken with the 40th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, a class that included former Cavs forward Larry Nance Jr. and now Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman.
The 8-year NBA veteran averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during the 2022-23 season. He played in 42 games for the Spurs before being traded to the Pelicans in exchange for guard Devonte’ Graham and four 2nd-round picks.
Richardson had shooting averages of 43.1% from the field and 36.5% from the 3-point line, putting him at a comfortable, but not extremely reliable, range in both areas. Cavs guard Caris LeVert finished the year with averages of 43.1% overall and 39.2% from beyond the arc last season.
Josh Richardson played in one game against the Cavaliers last season, a 112-111 win by the Spurs over the Cavs in December. He scored 24 points in 27 minutes off the bench for the Spurs, hitting nine of his 13 shot attempts and five of his seven 3-pointers as he continuously moved around the perimeter or dove inside in search of open shots.
Josh Richardson won’t be the solution to every one of Cleveland’s biggest deficiencies during the regular and post season.
But he can be a reliable player for a Cavs team needing extra scoring help off the bench, especially if the Cavs continue experimenting with three-guard lineups in the future. The 29-year-old guard earned an average of 11.8 points per game on 42.8% from the field over 503 games in the NBA, peaking at 16.6 points per outing when he played for the Miami Heat during the 2018-19 season.
Guard Caris LeVert was the only player outside of its big four to score in double digits on a nightly basis for the Cavaliers during the regular season. LeVert’s production jumped up to 15 points per game during the team’s playoff series against the Knicks, but he was one of just three players to score in double figures for the Cavaliers during their postseason run.
Josh Richardson can provide some much-needed veteran experience to a younger Cleveland roster. Though he last played in a playoff series in 2021, his extra playoff experience would be nothing but beneficial for the Cavs.
Should the Cavs go for Josh Richardson?
Richardson can be an expensive ask for the Cavaliers if he asks for the same $12.2 million figure he earned during the 2022-23 season.
The Cavs do need players who can help lift a reserve unit that scored 20.4 points per game during the playoffs and 28.7 per game during the regular season, putting them in 11th among postseason teams and 28th in the regular season.
Luckily for the Cavaliers, LeVert said he wanted to return to Cleveland in April.
“I definitely want to be a part of this culture, be a part of this team,” LeVert said. “This group is a super special group and I definitely want to be a part of that.
“But you all know it’s a business, so we’ll see what happens this summer.”
If the Cavaliers are able to bring him aboard on a more team-friendly option while leaving enough room to pursue a backup center and re-sign some needed veterans, then Richardson could be a positive addition for Cleveland and provide at least a short-term solution around the team’s younger players.