There's no time like the present for Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry to begin formulating an offseason plan. (He probably began formulating his offseason plan sometime when there was still snow on the ground, but for the purpose of this post, he's just started.)
Whom do the Cavs keep? Whom do they let go? Where do they put their money? Let the Danny Ferry crystal ball tell all....
This offseason is the D-Day we've been anticipating for three years running. This summer, LeBron either gives his stamp of approval on the organization by signing a contract extension, or opens up a big, slimy can of worms by opting instead for restricted free agency in the summer of 2007.
There is no question the Cavs will offer LeBron a max deal, five years and somewhere around $75 million according to the latest figures. The earliest they can slide the contract across the table is July1, and LeBron will have until the end of October to accept or decline.
All signs currently point to LeBron's satisfaction with the Cavs. Owner Dan Gilbert has gone out of his way to be attentive to LeBron as a player and LeBron as a person, and has sunk a bunch of money into the organizational infrastructure in the form of upgrades to The Q and a planned practice facility in suburban Independence.
For LeBron's part, he has publicly said he "can't wait to sign my contract extension." In January, he told ESPN The Magazine he "wants to stay in Cleveland and build a champion." Advancing to the seventh game of the second round of the playoffs should help the Cavs convince LeBron that is exactly what is happening.
Ferry's plan: Extension? Heck, yeah.
Nobody outside of LeBron was more critical to the Cavs success down the stretch than Murray. But that doesn't mean he is indispensable. It would be nice to keep him, but there are other factors at work. The Cavs can only offer him a midlevel salary cap exemption, and there is a strong possibility a lousy team looking for some excitement might overpay for Murray.
There is also the question of whom the Cavs can draft next month. Below 20, where the Cavs will pick, your chances of landing a talented big man are slim. short, quick guards like Murray are usually far more plentiful. There would be no reason for the Cavs to draft a future point guard and them re-sign Murray, despite his stellar showing late in the season.
Ferry's plan: Tempting, but I think he'll pass on Flip.
The Cavs declined Gooden's fifth-year option last season because they wanted to see if he was worth paying as a restricted free agent this summer. Results are still as inconclusive as Gooden's play.
The Cavs could do better than Gooden, and Ben Wallace and Jamaal Magloire are both free agents this summer. But they could also do a lot worse. Gooden's skill set duplicates Zydrunas Ilgauskas' way too much, and Z isn't going anywhere. But Gooden also brings lively legs and a surprisingly deft mid-range shooting touch. He also placed his own scoring on the shelf to become a defender and rebounder in coach Mike Brown's schemes.
Ferry's plan: He will probably offer Gooden the midlevel exemption. I wouldn't be surprised if Gooden, who bounced around to three different teams in his first three years, accepts.
We all know there are fans out there who can't wait to see the Cavs dump the over-the-hill Snow, who fills a stat sheet the way a square peg fills a round hole.
But two factors will probably lead Ferry to keep him here: Snow's contract and his experience.
Snow is signed for three more seasons, making him very difficult to trade. He also showed his veteran wisdom numerous times during Cleveland's playoff run. The fans might not like it, but Ferry might think it beneficial to keep the tough veteran defender around for at least one more season as the young Cavs learn the ropes of contention.
Ferry's plan: Snow can probably go home for the summer fairly confident he will be reporting to Cavs camp in October.
Where columnists like Roger Brown get off pegging Marshall as an aged stiff who can't do anything but shoot the three, I'll never know.
Marshall proved he can contribute even when his shots aren't falling, including a monster double-digit rebounding effort against the Pistons. Much like Snow, Marshall might be on the downhill side of his career, but on a team with precious little experience, he is valuable.
Ferry's plan: Marshall will probably be back.
Yeah, his tendency to jack up three-balls like a loose cannon is irritating. But he has a fat contract and he buried enough clutch jumpers to justify keeping around.
Ferry's plan: What, you think he's going to dump the greatest shooter on Earth?
The Wild Thing brings little in the way of skill, but darned if his play didn't make a difference against the Pistons. He snagged rebounds, defended reasonably well (though he is a serial foul-committer), and even got the ball to go in the hoop at times.
He could start next year, but Varejao is great being an energy guy off the bench. I don't really want to lose that. Now might be the time to talk extension with Varejao before he becomes a restricted free agent next year. Lock him up at the bench-player price before other teams start talking about a starting gig.
Ferry's plan: He might talk extension over the summer. It's hard to tell if anything will get done with Varejao prior to summer 2007.
He's slow. He can't defend all that well. Even his soft shooting touch abandons him at times. He has a predictable up-and-under pet move that both the Wizards and Pistons exploited in the playoffs.
But Z has two things working in his favor: his 7'-3" height and his close relationship with Ferry. The old adage in basketball is that you can't teach height. If you have a skilled 7'-3" player, you take the good with the bad because sooner or later, that height is going to help you.
It might be a flawed way of thinking, but baseball managers who play the percentages get burned, too. Z stays, or the Cavs wouldn't have inked him to a five-year deal last summer.
Ferry's plan: Send Z a Christmas card in July.