There's a lot of money being thrown around in the 2012 NBA offseason. A select few teams have dominated most of the contracts (Nets, Clippers, Mavs, Suns, Knicks), while other teams seem content to watch the madness unfold. The Cavs are one of these latter teams.
It's one thing to give out one bad contract to a restricted free agent (Landry Fields to Toronto) or to play mind games and try to make the most of the new collective bargaining agreement (Houston's offer sheets to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik), but for the most part, the remaining NBA teams are falling into set categories: teams that are already cap-strapped, teams committed to winning, teams committed to tanking in order to potentially start winning.
I look at the San Antonio Spurs, who quietly re-signed players already on their roster, or the Thunder, who took a flyer on Hasheem Thabeet and did nothing else, and I'm envious - the plan is working, patience pays off - but in all honesty, the Cavs seem to have the right idea.
Through the first period of free agency, in which the amnesty deadline has passed, the Cavs have signed one player, restricted free agent Luke Harangody, to a $1.1 million qualifying offer.
The Nets, on the other hand, have committed $330 million dollars to becoming hopefully the 2-4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Don't get me wrong, the Nets have a nice team. Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez is a formidable starting lineup, and there is some upside to MarShon Brooks, TyShawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic and other bench players.
But the Brooklyn Nets - just like the Cleveland Cavaliers - still aren't winning the NBA Title. And they're now out of the running for any and all free agents for at least two years or if/until they can flip Kris Humphries and his two-year, $24 million deal in a package.
Honestly, I have no problem with what the Nets are doing. They had to secure their point guard, who they traded most of their assets for, to a long-term deal. And the team got creative with the other pieces and parts with which to surround Williams. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has the money to spend and wants to make a splash with the team's move to Brooklyn.
But it casts a light on the difference in philosophies between the two teams. The Nets are trying to win now, in an era dominated by super teams, and they have no fallback plan. The Cavs are trying to win later, and are hoping to give themselves the best chance at a super team, or a way out for the future.
It isn't that the Cavs have been quiet or in stasis during free agency; they're just not making moves for the sole sake of making moves (see: the Suns acquiring the amnestied Luis Scola). The club has worked out and talked with free agent point guards Derek Fisher and Jonny Flynn, made its qualifying offers to Harangody, Alonzo Gee (still pending) and Semih Erden (off to Turkey) and is still in talks to bring back Daniel Gibson (who is on a team option for 2012-13). Cleveland has been right in the thick of every Dwight Howard rumor as a third team with open cap space. That space is extremely valuable as an asset right now, and GM Chris Grant knows it.
The team has what will turn out to be a useful expiring contract in Luke Walton ($6.1 million) that at the time seemed like a strange contract to take on in the Ramon Sessions deal. Cleveland owns two first round picks in the 2013 draft (better of the Heat and Lakers and its own), with a chance at a third (lottery-protected Sacramento from the J.J. Hickson deal) and two seconds. Anderson Varejao's team-friendly contract, after this offseason, has never been more enticing.
When the time is right for the Cavs to make a move that will further their standing long-term and not just in the interim, they will. Which obviously frustrates fans excited by the prospects of Andrew Bynum trade rumors or the idea of Scola as a Cavalier.
In the meantime, Cleveland has the reigning Rookie of the Year, last year's No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson, this year's No. 4 pick Dion Waiters, No. 17 pick Tyler Zeller and 24-year-old Omri Casspi all looking to improve and get better. They won't all pan out, but Grant is of the mind that he wants to have as many bullets in the chamber to increase the odds that he hits on as many useful role players, starters and stars he can find.
The youth movement has begun, and the front office is setting in motion the means to get Kyrie Irving the players he needs to grow the franchise for the future. All that takes is time, a willingness to get creative and a little luck. The Cavs seem fully committed to the first two parts of that equation. And luck? Well, Cleveland certainly deserves some.