Three options the Cavaliers may exercise their 15th roster spot on
The Cleveland Cavaliers waving DeAndre Liggins with only a week before playoffs indicates the team has plans to add a new individual to the roster. Liggins had fallen out of the rotation following J.R. Smith’s return, and just as Cleveland has done the past two years, they may look to add a last-second playoff veteran to help fill an evaluated need.
Just to clarify, any player that was a free agent and cleared waivers before the deadline, which includes D-League players and unsigned veterans (Jarret Jack or Mario Chalmers), is available to play during the playoffs despite being signed after the deadline. They have until Wednesday to make this signing, though reportedly waiving Liggins after he made the trip to Atlanta with the team means there’s a good chance a free agent of interest reached out to Cleveland regarding availability. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look into the players the Cavs might try and pick up.
First, the Cavaliers likely evaluated their own needs heading into playoffs, and set realistic goals regarding how they can help these areas. The team isn’t going to find a world-beater of a defender on the already picked-clean waiver wire, so while defense is a clear need of this group, more likely Cleveland is identifying niche needs that are easier fixed through small positional additions.
Just to name a few of these: A temporary replacement for Tristan Thompson to finish out the last three season games + first and second round blowouts, a true enforcer similar to the role Jones or Perkins played on the last teams, additional depth at the point if they’d like to rest Kyrie Irving until the playoffs to help his knee, and a garbage-time true center. There are several choices as to whom the Cavs could add, though I’d like to just quickly take a look at three (two individuals and a hodgepodge category of names) options possibly intriguing Cleveland.
Regarding Tristan Thompson, he’s reportedly out for a third straight game. This shouldn’t be super concerning though finding a big man to help plug the hole would be helpful in the short run. Cleveland could, if they’re only concerned about the next three games, offer a ten day contract to former New Orleans Pelican’s big man Terrence Jones, though Jones isn’t playoff eligible. After signing with the Bucks, he was subsequently waived after the playoff deadline, meaning he’d contribute literally nothing during the 16+ game postseason stretch. Instead, if Cleveland wants a big man with similar skills, youth, and upside, they might give a try-out period to Canton Charge big man, Eric Moreland.
Moreland, the first time NBA D-League All Star, has just recently become available. The Charge recently were eliminated from D-League playoff contention, making all members of the roster available for last-second NBA team signings. For example, D-League MVP point guard Quinn Cook was signed for the rest of the season by the Dallas Mavericks after shutting down Seth Curry. Moreland, a third year player, has NBA reps with the Sacramento Kings and played for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ summer league squads. His time in college saw him become the all-time leader in Oregon State blocked shots and fifth all-time in rebounds over three years of his career.
The big man is known for his athleticism and clearing-the-glass ability. Though he does have a history with injury, Moreland likely would fit the bill as a traditional garbage time defensive big and is a perennial member of the 15th roster spot brawl, with his skills being top notch for a non-NBA player. If Cleveland prioritizes one last big and doesn’t see Larry Sanders as being “that guy”, a Moreland signing wouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
Cleveland isn’t only looking for skill when it comes to player signings. Even the oldest of NBA squads is never too bogged down with good locker-room guys, and one of LeBron James’ favourite locker-room buddies just so happens to still be available. A previous member of the Cavaliers, center Kendrick Perkins would meet a few needs Cleveland is looking for, that is if they’re confident with their current on-the-floor roster.
Perkins is a locker-room guy first and foremost. He’s a confident voice with tons of playoff experience, and is loyal to a T. Perkins got a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans early in the season this year, though it was clear this contract was more as a veteran mentor to arguably the fourth best player in the NBA (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook supersede him in that order), Anthony Davis. Perkins was a crowd favourite, a player favourite and a great member of the 2014-2015 playoff run. It was reported that many of the players were very upset when Perkins wasn’t resigned to start the 2015-2016 run, and bringing him back might help boost the morale on a team that’s facing some minor struggles on their way into the playoffs.
Here’s the scouting report: Kendrick Perkins is slow, he’s lost a step, he can’t stretch the floor, he’s not a particularly good rebounder, he’s a negative +/- during the garbage time, I haven’t seen him jump before, but… BUT… remember that time when he punched Jae Crowder? He’ll take a one game suspension, he’ll take those hard fouls. That punch against Crowder happened within 46 seconds of him stepping on the court. Perkins is a hard foul guy, he played on a gritty Celtics team back when they went on their championship run, he played with the Thunder during the Durant-Westbrook era, if Cleveland wants a guy to smack some kids around for getting too cocky, or you know, pulling Kevin Love’s arm out of its socket, Perkins is a regular Jackson Healy.
My boss and I started chatting the second this news broke, and he had a couple of ideas that I didn’t see, so I got to toss at least the ideas credit his way. Cavs Nation’s very own, Nikki Goel, that’s my boss, here’s your credit. Anyway, Goel suggested that with Kyrie Irving complaining about his knee bugging him might suggest Cleveland might be scouting an additional combo guard to help in case they need to sit Irving. He tossed around a couple of standard names, Mario Chalmers, Jarret Jack, the usual suspects. I came up with another, and because this is my article, we’re going to talk about him. I’m talking about the recently injured, but within timetable, Rodney Stuckey.
Let’s talk about Stuckey. If he can make it back in time and with 80% of what he was able to bring during the regular season, Stuckey could be a full-on rotation calibre player. He’s had a down year, only averaging around 7.2 points a game this year, though the shooting guard might actually provide some off the bench defence next to Shumpert. He averages around one steal a game, is comfortable coming off the bench, and has average three-point shooting which generally goes up on Cleveland. Stuckey, the 10-year veteran, has plenty of playoff experience with Detroit and Indiana, and would bring knowledge of the Indiana defence which might be Cleveland’s first matchup.
This, however, comes with a big “if”. Stuckey was downed with a patellar tendon strain about two weeks ago, which generally is a four to six-week recovery period. By the playoffs start, Stuckey would be right at the beginning of the projected period which he would be available. At latest Stuckey would be available to start by the second round. The concern, however, is would Stuckey be good enough by his return to be worth the signing.
Whether the Cleveland Cavaliers sign Stuckey, Perkins, Moreland, or heck, someone else I didn’t predict, it should be, in the eyes of the front office, an upgrade from DeAndre Liggins.