The Cleveland Cavaliers have been busy today, trying to rebound after a rough loss two nights ago with a win tonight. However, before the Cavaliers host the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Cleveland Clinic Courts were busy for a different reason: the FREE AGENT SUMMIT OF 2017.
I may be exaggerating a little but the Cavs did hold an audition for four point guards who are eager to get back into the league. The four candidates were Mario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich, Lance Stephenson, and Jordan Farmar. Notably left off the list were fellow guards Nate Robinson and Norris Cole, for reasons left unexplained (although Norris Cole has reportedly also drawn Cleveland’s interest as well).
Each player has their strengths and weaknesses. Mario Chalmers has the experience of playing with LeBron, being a steady shot maker, and is he is also very comfortable playing on or off the ball. He knows how to win based off his two championships with James, and we also know he won’t upset team chemistry or do anything then more what he is required, which can be good for team chemistry. He had a solid campaign in the 2015-2016 season with Memphis and should still be squarely in his prime. However his promising season did end with a torn Achilles, and history shows that players who suffer that injury are usually never the same. While Chalmers is still only 30, it remains to be seen if he is all the way back from that debilitating setback.
Lance Stephenson has the benefit of being the youngest of the candidates at 26, which leaves the hope for a higher ceiling as well as a limited amount of upside. Unfortunately he is also coming off an injury (a groin injury early this season with the Pelicans) that led him to being released. He is a bigger guard with good vision and an ability to attack the basket. In addition his size (6-5) gives him the potential to switch defensively and get mismatches on offense. However he has the reputation of being rather mercurial, and he also has a rather strained history with LeBron James from his battles with him in the playoffs a couple of years back. All of this can be smoothed over but what can possibly be a deal breaker is his shooting, especially from range. Stephenson is a career 30% three-point shooter and was 1-10 in the 6 games he played earlier this season with New Orleans. The Cavaliers are best when Kyrie Irving and James are given space to attack off the pick and roll with a spread floor, and frankly Stephenson just wouldn’t be able to keep his defender honest off the ball. This would also make him a liability in any situation other than off the bench, because unless Stephenson has the ball in his hands he isn’t nearly as effective.
Kirk Hinrich is a proven veteran with a career average of 4.8 assists, and he is a heady playmaker. He also has a career average of 37% from three-point range, and he has had 5 seasons of hitting 100 three pointers, so he can definitely stretch the floor. Unfortunately for an older team, Hinrich has the distinction of being the oldest FA guard on the market at 36, and many teams around the league feel this is his last shot at making it back into the NBA. It might also be rough in a finals matchup against the Warriors having a laboring Hinrich chase Stephen Curry through screen after screen after screen. Hinrich still has a shot at making the team, but it’s a long shot, and that’s putting it kindly.
The last candidate is Jordan Farmer, and it is interesting to see that the Cavs invited him. Farmer is only 30 and has been around the league for a while. He’s also been on 4 teams in 4 years though, and obviously hasn’t blown anyone away with his play. I doubt he’ll get that much of a look with the Cavs but he will probably get a 10 day contract or two on an injury ravaged team seeking back court help (think the Dallas Mavericks)
The Cavs have been searching for that third play-maker for a couple of months now. While these four free agents aren’t movers and shakers, they are all very capable and can help the team. With the Cavs looking to repeat as champions, this may not be the only additions they make. However it will be a step in the right direction, and for the Cavs, that’s a start.