The more time I spend thinking about how Anthony Bennett and his game will fit into the Cleveland Cavaliers rebuilding puzzle the more bullish I become about the big man from UNLV.
As Ryan Kern wrote here at StepeinRules.com back on February 11, "Bennett has a pure jump shot and is absolutely ferocious on the glass. Lose sight of him for a second and he’s flexing at your crowd."
Beyond the obvious benefits of adding a player capable of flexing at your crowd on a moment's notice, though, is also the prospects of Bennett spending some time at the small forward position. Over the weekend, Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Record-Journal told Glenn Moore from Cleveland.com that he also believes in that possibility for Bennett.
But while we'll have plenty of time to discuss the big Canadian, how he fits with Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving and even what type of impact we can expect from my guy Sergey Karasev in the months ahead, free agency is the task at hand for now.
Below are my thoughts on a handful of potential FA targets for the Cavaliers.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reported on Monday that the Cavaliers are interested in acquiring Darren Collison to backup Kyrie Irving at the point guard position. There was also talk surrounding the possibility of acquiring C.J. Watson but he has since signed elsewhere.
Among the backup point guards available this summer, however, Collison has always been the guy I'd love to see the Cavaliers acquire. He would be able to provide a stable NBA veteran presence along with the ability to contribute on a nightly basis. What I also have always liked about Collison, since spending time with him for a SLAM article I wrote on Darren back when he was with the Pacers, is that his commitment to team is real and contagious.
I know people attach those type of taglines to guys frivolously, but the way people like Frank Vogel and Roy Hibbert spoke about Collison convinced me those intangibles are real in his case. Collison is a student of the game who spends his free time watching film, which is something I'm sure attracted him to Mike Brown and the Cavs.
Though he's struggled some over the last two seasons, he's still a capable starter in this league if needed. At the same time, however, he's also a guy who'd be willing to support Irving in his continued to development and I'd be excited to see Collison land in Cleveland when the free agent dusts eventually settles.
Earl Clark wouldn't be as impactful of a signing as Collison, but he is still a 6'10" big who averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13. For a time, he also filled in admirably in the starting lineup and has the ability to stretch defenses to an extent with the three-point shot.
In a vacuum, signing Clark would seem like a roster-filling move with the potential for some upside. But based on Brown's familiarity with Clark, from their time together in LA, he makes this possibility a bit more intriguing. If Brown likes the fit for Clark on this team at a nominal price, then I'm going to trust his judgment on that. If it came down to one guy or the other, though, I'd prefer the Cavs address the need at point guard by inking Collison.
Sam Amico also reported, beyond the Cavaliers interest in Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic, that "it is believed T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor is unwilling to match a large offer" for his 27-year-old center. If the Cavs do ink Pekovic to a lucrative offer sheet–in the double-digit million-range for four seasons–things will get particularly interesting.
With Kevin Love signed long-term, and the prospects of doing the same with Ricky Rubio looming, the Timberwolves can't possibly fit what Pekovic is set to earn on an open market into a salary cap structure that doesn't penalize them mercilessly under the new CBA moving forward. So whether or not Taylor would be willing to match an offer for his restricted free agent, I'm not sure he even can.
If the Cavaliers acquired Pekovic, he would have the potential to lock down the center position for the next four years. The 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds he posted last season would've earned All-Star consideration if the game was still structured to include at least two centers.
When the Dwight Howard sweepstakes conclude, however, Pek is likely to be among the contingency plans that teams in need of a center eventually pursue. So while I'd be all for adding a player of his caliber to the equation, I think the price tag will become too much for the Cavs liking regardless of what Minnesota decides to do.
The decision to offer unrestricted free agent Andrew Bynum the type of money he will command, despite missing all of last season with an injury, is a topic that almost deserves a week-long series of blogs and opinions. It's a complex proposition that goes a bit deeper than whether or not you think Bynum will be healthy enough to produce like the All-Star he once was with the Lakers.
While health is ultimately at the crux of the Bynum debate, other questions are also in play. Would Bynum accept a one-year deal for say $13 million to prove his worth as a max-level free agent? If that was the case, I'd go ahead and spend whatever Dan Gilbert has left under the cap to find out how Bynum might look next to Kyrie Irving in a one-season scenario. This time next summer, there'd be no commitment to worry about and the Cavs might even have a leg up on a All-Star center they could sign in 2014 should they choose to do so.
But if the market for Bynum dictates anything more than a one-year deal, I'd have to pass. His health is one thing, but he also made decisions last year in Philadelphia that included a bowling outing on his injured knees that furthered the damage. That's not a good look, and would be an even worse look if he was doing that at Corner Alley on E. 4th while Gilbert picked up the tab.
One guy I'd like to see Cleveland pursue who hasn't been linked to the Cavaliers at this point is Corey Brewer.
He could be a moderately priced player that fills a need at small forward while also improving the defensive attack on the perimeter.
I've written a few articles for BleacherReport on free agency over the last three days and included Brewer as one of the best available value signings on the market.
Here is what I wrote about the former Denver Nugget on Saturday:
Corey Brewer: Appearing in all 82 regular-season games, Brewer earned a bulk of those dollars on the perimeter with his ability to defend from the small forward position. His long arms seemed to always find themselves in the passing lanes, and he averaged 1.4 steals because of it.
In addition to being one of the better overall defenders available in free agency, Brewer posted solid offensive numbers for the Nuggets in 2012-13. Playing 24.4 minutes per night for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, Brewer averaged 12.1 points and 2.1 rebounds. Those totals, according to Basketball-Reference.com, translate to 17.8 and 4.2 per 36 minutes.
I think Brewer can be acquired for the $4-5 million range. I also believe he could start at small forward and then improve the reserve unit dramatically by including Alonzo Gee in that group to bring instant firepower off the bench.
We'll be back with more free agency talk later. Collison is reportedly meeting with the Cavs today so be sure to say hello if you see him around.