The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a storied history in the NBA, with some of the best players in the league having played for the team. While the Cavs have had their fair share of terrible free agent signings, they have also made some great ones. Some have even helped the team win their lone championship in 2016. In this article, we will take a look at the 10 best free agent signings in Cavs history, ranked.
Cleveland Cavaliers History
The Cleveland Cavaliers, established in 1970, have left an indelible mark on the NBA landscape with their enduring presence in the league. Over the decades, the team has experienced a rollercoaster of fortunes, marked by both triumphs and challenges. That said, their commitment to competitiveness has remained steadfast.
Throughout their storied history, the Cavs have etched their name in the annals of basketball by gracing the NBA Finals stage on five occasions. However, the sweetest moment came in 2016 when they achieved a historic milestone by clinching their inaugural championship. This victory resonated deeply with the city of Cleveland, ending a championship drought that had persisted for more than half a century. Of course, it instilled a sense of pride in Cavs fans worldwide.
The Cavs have had the privilege of hosting some of the most extraordinary talents the league has ever seen. Hometown hero and debatable GOAT LeBron James donned the Cavs jersey and left an indelible legacy during his tenure. His transcendent skills and leadership qualities elevated the team to new heights, delivering the city’s only NBA title to date.
Kyrie Irving, a dazzling point guard with an unparalleled skill set, added another dimension to the Cavs’ game during his stint with the team. His clutch performances and mesmerizing ball-handling abilities brought excitement to Cleveland fans and were instrumental in the team’s championship run.
Kevin Love, a versatile forward with scoring prowess and rebounding tenacity, further fortified the Cavs’ roster. His presence in the frontcourt, alongside LeBron James and Tristan Thompson, created a formidable trio that played an integral role in the team’s championship campaign.
Through the decades, the Cavs have not only been a source of thrilling basketball. They have also embodied the resilience and determination of a franchise and its fan base. Their journey, marked by the pursuit of excellence, remains an inspiring tale in the annals of NBA history.
“CLEVELAND, THIS IS FOR YOU!”
SEVEN YEARS AGO TODAY
The 3-1 Comeback
A Cavs Championship
End of a 52-Year Droughtpic.twitter.com/0MTSIyrQ5u
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 19, 2023
Here we will look at the 10 best free agent signings in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ franchise history, ranked.
10. Larry Hughes
In the summer of 2005, Larry Hughes inked a lucrative five-year, $70 million contract with the Cavs as a free agent. He was enlisted to strengthen the team’s foundation around the emerging superstar LeBron James.
Hughes, honored as an NBA All-Defensive First Team member in 2005, provided the Cavaliers with a dependable option. Before suffering a finger injury, he consistently contributed with an average of 16.2 points and 37.6 minutes per game.
9. Matthew Dellavedova
Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova made a return to the Cavaliers in 2015. Before re-signing, Delly’s 2014-15 regular season featured 67 games, including 13 starts. He maintained averages of 4.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists during 20.6 minutes per game. He showcased remarkable shooting prowess, boasting a career-high .407 three-point shooting percentage and a .763 free-throw accuracy rate. His 3.34 assist-to-turnover ratio also led the Cavaliers for that season, ranking fourth in the NBA. Dellavedova also played a crucial role in all 20 games, making seven starts, during the 2015 Playoffs. He helped the Cavs win their lone title in 2016.
8. Anthony Parker
In 2009, Anthony Parker, in the latter stages of his career, signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Cavaliers. This acquisition aligned with Cleveland’s mission to assemble a strong supporting cast around LeBron James. Parker played a key role in the Cavs’ impressive 61-win campaign in 2009-10. During that season, Parker participated in 81 games, averaging 7.3 points and 2.9 rebounds.
7. Jeff Green
Jeff Green became a cornerstone of the team after the Cavs signed him in 2017. He played a pivotal role in guiding the team to the NBA Finals in 2018, consistently contributing as a scorer and defender. Prior to joining Cleveland, Green’s previous NBA journey included stints with the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City, Boston, Memphis, and the LA Clippers.
6. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Lithuanian big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas was actually drafted by the Cavs, but they also gave him an extension in 2005. He agreed to a substantial five-year deal worth between $55 and $60 million.
For the subsequent four seasons, Ilgauskas served as the starting center for the team. They made it to the NBA Finals in 2007 and reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009. During the summer of 2009, however, the Cavs acquired Shaquille O’Neal via a trade.
5. Iman Shumpert
In 2015, Iman Shumpert arrived at the Cavs from the Knicks through a three-team trade, the same deal that brought JR Smith to Cleveland. Shumpert later solidified his commitment to the team by signing a four-year, $40 million contract as a restricted free agent.
Shumpert brought versatility to the Cavs, excelling defensively and occasionally assuming point guard duties under then-head coach Tyronn Lue during the 2016-17 campaign. Beyond his distinctive flat-top hairstyle, Shumpert deserves recognition as one of the Cavs’ superior free agent signings, given his significant role in the team’s championship victory in 2016.
4. JR Smith
The Cavs secured JR Smith’s return in 2015, which proved pivotal as he emerged as a key player, contributing significantly to the team’s first championship win in 2016. Smith agreed to a two-year deal, earning $5 million in the upcoming season, with a player option for the subsequent year. The off-guard’s free agency status remained unchanged.
The reunion between Smith and the Cavs held paramount importance for both parties. Smith had declined his $6.4 million player option for the 2015-16 season to explore the market, a decision that came with a significant cost. Nevertheless, he had the opportunity to make amends with a productive season, with his contract featuring a no-trade clause.
3. Tristan Thompson
The Cavs inked Tristan Thompson in 2011, and he rapidly became a key contributor to the team’s success. Thompson’s prowess as a rebounder and defender significantly contributed to their first franchise championship win in 2016. After becoming a restricted free agent following the 2013-14 season, Thompson later re-signed with the Cavs under a substantial five-year, $82 million contract.
Thompson once stood as the longest-tenured member of the Cavs roster. He was with the team since they selected him in the 2011 draft before leaving for the Celtics in 2020. His excellence on the boards and durability are noteworthy, with Thompson holding the franchise record for consecutive games played.
2. Kevin Love
Kevin Love’s signing in 2014 marked a pivotal moment for the Cavs as he has been a key contributor ever since. His consistent scoring and rebounding played a significant role in the team’s first championship win in 2016. Love’s arrival in Cleveland occurred through a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014. After helping the Cavaliers achieve a 53-29 overall record that season, Love decided to re-sign with the team.
Love announced his intention to remain with the Cavs in a first-person essay for The Players’ Tribune. He emphasized his desire to address “unfinished business” after a Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors. His partnership with Thompson bolstered the Cavs’ frontcourt, with Love’s three-point shooting playing a pivotal role in the team’s championship journey in 2016.
1. LeBron James
The return of LeBron James to Cleveland in 2014 stands as the most significant free agent acquisition in Cavs history. It not only brought one of the league’s premier players to the team but also resulted in the franchise’s inaugural championship. After completing his rookie contract with the Cavs, James chose to depart for the Miami Heat, a decision that initially drew the ire of many Cleveland fans.
James achieved two championships during his four-season tenure with the Heat. Then, in 2014, the former No. 1 overall pick made a remarkable return by declaring he was “Coming Home.” Opting out of his contract with Miami on June 25, 2014, he reaffirmed his commitment to Northeast Ohio less than a month later.
“I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland,” James explained in his essay for Sports Illustrated.
His return, alongside Love, Thompson, Delly, Smith, and Kyrie Irving, led the Cavaliers to their maiden championship in franchise history, securing a historic sporting title for Cleveland after 52 years.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had some great free agent signings over the years, and these signings have helped the team become a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. From LeBron James to Tristan Thompson to Kevin Love, the Cavs have had some of the best players in the league play for them. While the team has had its fair share of terrible free agent signings, the good ones have helped the team win championships and become a respected franchise in the league.
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