Men on the Move

An Offseason for the Ages Changes the Lanscape of the League
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

It’s understandable for Cavalier fans to be a little lax when it comes to keeping up with this summer’s free agent frenzy. When a franchise lands one of the most coveted free agents of all-time, not to mention the best player on planet Earth, it’s easy to lose focus on the rest of the basketball universe.

The Wine and Gold officially inked LeBron James on July 12, and they added a pair of his former teammates in Miami – Mike Miller and James Jones – early this week.

Players the Cavaliers have lost through free agency include a trio of veterans: CJ Miles signed with Indiana, Spencer Hawes signed with the Clippers and Luol Deng – acquired last January – will try to fill the void James left on South Beach.

But the Cavaliers’ offseason facelift didn’t end there. The Wine and Gold dealt Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev and Tyler Zeller in a three-team trade involving Boston and Brooklyn, with the Cavaliers acquiring the rights to Boston’s 2015 second-round Draft pick as well as the rights to Ilkan Karaman and Edin Bavcic.

In early July, the Wine and Gold sent Alonzo Gee – who started every game for Cleveland just one year ago – to the New Orleans Pelicans, acquiring the Clippers’ second-rounder in the process.

Cleveland shored up the post and added a veteran presence when they traded for Brendan Haywood and rookie Dwight Powell, the 45th pick in this June’s Draft – sending Scotty Hopson and cash considerations to the Charlotte Hornets. Haywood, a 12-year vet, won an NBA Championship with Dallas in 2011 and ranks among the top 10 among all active players in field goal percentage. Powell joined the Cavaliers Summer League squad in Vegas and notched 15 points and nine boards in Cleveland’s finale.

Most recently, the Cavs dealt last year’s second-rounder, Carrick Felix – along with next year’s second round pick and cash considerations – to Utah in exchange for guard John Lucas III and forwards Erik Murphy and Malcom Thomas.

In all, only six players from the roster that closed the season against Brooklyn in 2013-14 remain with the Cavaliers. (And more changes could still be in the offing this offseason.)

That's just how the Wine and Gold has changed in a couple months and just a small glimpse at how player movement can shift the league’s landscape heading into next season – with still several big names on the market.

As we move through August, with some of the smoke cleared from a busy July, here’s a look at some of the changes that have reshaped the league …

CHANGE OF SCENERY – It was an odd offseason in terms of player movement. Some of the biggest names in the game changed addresses while other heavyweights stayed put.

Of course the biggest name to change address is LeBron James, who doesn’t really have to change his Bath Township digits at all. He’s coming home.

In an attempt to soften the blow of LeBron taking his talents back to Cleveland (and to a lesser extent, the retirement of Shane Battier), the Heat inked Deng to a two-year deal as well as luring forwards Danny Granger from Los Angeles and Josh McRoberts from Charlotte.

The Bulls were tough with or without Derek Rose in the lineup, and this offseason they stocked up on the offensive end after missing out on the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. They signed veteran big Pau Gasol, who had had been dealing with trade rumors in L.A. for the past few years.

Staying within the Wine and Gold’s division, the Pacers poached a pair of players from Central squads – inking Miles earlier this summer and signing swingman Rodney Stuckey, who spent his first seven seasons with Detroit. Indy still has a tall order in front of them as far as returning to the Conference Finals – after losing Lance Stephenson in free agency and Paul George to a leg injury suffered in a Team USA scrimmage.

The Hornets did more than change their name from the Bobcats this summer. They added the mercurial Stevenson as well as veteran forward Marvin Williams to bolster a strong draft and surprising finish last season. Charlotte could be the surprise team of the East if they stay healthy.

Another Eastern Conference team on the rise is the Washington Wizards – who gave Indy all it could handle in last year’s postseason. Their biggest move was to retain center Marcin Gortat, which they did. But the Wiz also added 16-year veteran Paul Pierce and acquired Kris Humphries and Dajuan Blair via sign-and-trades.

The Wizards did lose versatile forward Trevor Ariza in a sign-and-trade three-team deal involving Houston and New Orleans. In the deal, the Wizards got Melvin Ely and a trade exception, the Pelicans received Omer Asik, forward Omri Casspi and cash considerations and the Rockets got Ariza, former Cavaliers Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson, and a 2015 first-rounder from New Orleans.

Some smaller moves in the East include Caron Butler, Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin signing with Detroit, Channing Frye leaving Phoenix for the Magic Kingdom and defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha eschewing OKC for a rapidly-improving Hawks team in Atlanta.

One of the bigger trades earlier this summer saw Orlando send versatile swingman Aaron Afflalo back to the Denver Nuggets – where he played from 2009-12 – in exchange for Evan Fournier and the draft rights to Roy Devyn Marble.

Vince Carter, who spent last three season in the Big D, will spend his 17th NBA season in Memphis after inking a multiple-year deal with the Grizzlies. Shaun Livingston, who revived his career with the Cavaliers, heads west – leaving the borough of Brooklyn to suit up for Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors.

There was considerable player movement out in Cali this offseason. Big man Ed Davis signed with the Lakers, who also acquired Carlos Boozer after he was amnestied by the Bulls. In mid-July, the Lakers also acquired guard Jeremy Lin in a trade with the Rockets.

Veteran center Chris Kaman left the Lakers to sign with the Blazers and Jordan Farmar defected to the LakeShow’s crosstown rivals. Hawes will give the Clippers some depth in the post.

The Mavericks were almost as busy as the Cavaliers this offseason, as they continue to try to get Dirk Nowitzki one more ring before the future Hall of Famer hangs ‘em up.

After losing Jose Calderon to an early-summer deal with New York – sending the Spanish guard and Samuel Dalembert to the Knicks in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton – the Mavs signed Orlando’s all-time assists leader, Jameer Nelson, as well as prying up-and-coming forward Chandler Parsons from the Rockets.

STAYING PUT – Retaining your own free agents is just as vital to a team’s success as landing one off the market. And as big as LeBron’s return to Cleveland was to the Cavaliers, keeping stars like Anthony in New York, Gortat in Washington, Kyle Lowry in Toronto, Gordon Hayward in Utah and Chris Bosh in Miami will keep those teams playoff-relevant into the immediate future.

The World Champs were able to keep Tim Duncan from retiring, but also convinced key pieces Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner to stay in San Antonio.

The other team in last year’s NBA Finals did lose LeBron, but aside from keeping Bosh and Wade and landing Granger and McRoberts, they also retained solid role players, Mario Chalmers and Chris “Birdman” Anderson.

Veteran big man Zach Randolph re-signed with Memphis and Rudy Gay agreed to stay in Sacramento. Big Baby Davis, a Doc Rivers favorite, will stay with the Clippers, P.J. Tucker will remain in Phoenix and Nick Young is still a Laker.

BEST OF THE REST – With all this movement, there are still some big names remaining on the market.

Six-year veteran and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Michael Beasley, is still on the market. Other unrestricted free agents still looking to land somewhere include MarShon Brooks, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Singleton, Byron Mullens, Ramon Sessions, Emeka Okafor, Greg Oden, Jordan Crawford, Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen and Shawn Marion.

The two biggest names remaining on the market, however, are restricted free agents. Greg Monroe has proven to be one of the East’s best young bigs and Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons will do everything in their power to keep him. Eric Bledsoe is also restricted, but he’s also already rejected Phoenix’ first offer to keep him in the Valley of the Sun.

The regular season tips off at the end of October, but Training Camps are creeping around the corner already. Some new faces will adjust to new places, some players have stayed where they are and others are still undecided. The offseason has already been interesting – especially for the Wine and Gold.

What’s the next move gonna be?

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