How close are the Cleveland Cavaliers to making a lengthy run in the NBA playoffs?
Cleveland fought its way into more than just a taste of the playoffs when it took the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. It earned wins over the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers before falling in five games to the New York Knicks in the playoffs. It took a valiant win at home in Game 2, but dropped three-straight games at Madison Square Garden and Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse to ultimately end the series with a 4-1 loss.
After using a tightly-knit rotation during the NBA playoffs, who can Cleveland look out for in the offseason to shore up a bench in desperate need of scoring and big help?
The Cavaliers could be looking at Los Angeles Clippers center Mason Plumlee and Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid, according to Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor.
“The Cavs will look at veteran Mason Plumlee and 23-year-old Naz Reid,” Fedor wrote in an edition of “Hey, Chris!” last Tuesday. “But the cost could be prohibitive.
“Dwight Powell, Thomas Bryant, Drew Eubanks, Bismack Biyombo are other possibilities.”
Should the Cavs go after Naz Reid or Mason Plumlee during the NBA’s free agency period? And how would they fit with a Cavaliers roster in search of its first playoff series win in half a decade?
Naz Reid is a 6-foot-9-inch center who played for the Timberwolves during the 2022-23 season. He has four years of NBA experience. The former LSU big averaged 11.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 18.4 minutes per game. He scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds when the Timberwolves took on the Cavs in January, making eight of his 16 shot attempts and one of his seven 3-pointers as Minnesota took a 110-102 win over Cleveland in the Target Center.
“I thought Naz really came alive in that second half,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said, via the Associated Press. “I thought he played well all game, but he really stepped up in Rudy’s absence, gave us some emotional play as well with the big dunks.”
Reid was on the final year of a 4-year, $6.1 million contract he signed with the Timberwolves in 2019. He is listed as an unrestricted free agent in 2023 after his club option was exercised for the 2022-23 season. He earned an average of $1.5 million during his four years with Minnesota, earning as high as a $1.9 million cap hit during 2022-23.
Mason Plumlee, a former first-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, split time with the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets last season. He earned averages of 10.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in 79 games and 60 starts. In February, he was traded to the Clippers from the Hornets in exchange for guard Reggie Jackson, a 2028 second-round pick and cash considerations.
Like Reid, Plumlee is listed as an unrestricted free agent in 2023. He earned an average of $8.2 million over the 3-year, $25 million contract he signed with Detroit in 2020, including a nearly $9.1 million cap hit during the 2022-23 season.
One of Cleveland’s biggest needs is a backup center who can earn reliable minutes off the bench and relieve pressure from center Jarrett Allen and forward Evan Mobley.
The Cavaliers placed second-to-last among teams that made the postseason in rebounds per game with 37.2 and third-to-last in contested rebounds, or rebounds where an opponent is within 3.5 feet of the rebounder. The Cavs placed only above the Brooklyn Nets in rebounds per contest after their five games against New York.
Cleveland’s only other listed center, a 15-year NBA veteran in center Robin Lopez, played for a total of just over six minutes in the playoffs between Games 2 and 3. He averaged 8.1 minutes per outing in 37 games, earning as many as 19 minutes during a 117-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Fiserv Forum in late November.
Reid can add a decent 3-point shot to a Cavaliers roster that shot at a 32.7% rate during the NBA Playoffs. He shot at a comfortable percentage from the 3-point line, hitting 34.6% of his 3-point shots on 3.2 attempts per game. He hit three of his six long-range shots in a 10-point win over the Utah Jazz in December and an 8-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in March.
Plumlee can add veteran experience to a team needing proven bigs off the bench. The 6-foot-11-inch center has almost a decade of NBA experience with six different teams, earning career averages of 8.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 740 career games and 446 starts.
Would the two centers be worth the potential asking price and provide at least a short-term solution at the backup center spot?
Should the Cavs go for Naz Reid or Mason Plumlee?
Reid and Plumlee can provide valuable minutes for a team in desperate need of extra help off the bench if they have reasonable asking prices in free agency.
At just 23 years old, Reid could provide more of a long-term option off the bench whether or not he can show that he has room for improvement with the Cavaliers. Along with 23-year-old Darius Garland, 22-year-old Isaac Okoro and 21-year-old Evan Mobley, Reid could become a more youthful option for a Cavs team that does not have a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Should Plumlee choose to stay at the $8.2 million average salary he earned over the past few years, he would be the sixth-highest-paid player on Cleveland’s roster for the 2023-24 season. His 2022-23 cap hit of nearly $9.1 would make him the fourth-highest. While both figures fit well, they would take up a significant portion of the team’s Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, which will have a projected starting salary of $12.2 million.
It may be more difficult to pry Plumlee from the Hornets, who said he enjoyed his time in Charlotte in late February.
“It’s not even tough for me anymore,” Plumlee said in February. “I’ve loved my time here, this year especially. I’ve loved playing for Cliff, I’ve loved playing with guys like Melo. I’m appreciative for it. … If they want to move on, that’s a business decision. But it’s not really tough by the time you get to this point in your career.”
Cleveland could try its hand at other options if both Naz Reid and Mason Plumlee’s asking prices become too lofty for the Cavaliers to afford. Powell, Bryant, Eubanks and Biyombo are all listed as unrestricted free agents by Spotrac. Bryant, a former second-round pick by the Utah Jazz, played in 59 games for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets during the 2022-23 season.
It will all depend on what the Cavaliers prioritize most in free agency and beyond.
Will they add some much-needed big help off the bench, or focus more on shoring up the team’s scoring and wing help? Will they try solidifying its small forward spot with veteran options like Royce O’Neale, or will they take a risk in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft and select a player like Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates?
Only time will tell whether, and how much, the Cavaliers will shake up their roster during the offseason.