INDEPENDENCE: The Cavaliers will have two first-round picks and about $20 million in cap space this summer, but no one around Cleveland Clinic Courts is expecting the team to contend for a championship next season.
Their winning percentage improved from .232 to .318 this season and another step is expected next year. But one step and legitimate contention are two entirely different topics.
"We're headed in the right direction. It's still going to be a long process, guys," coach Byron Scott said during Friday's season-ending interviews. "We're probably not going to be there this coming year, but if we hit home runs in the draft, it puts us in a position to get much better quicker."
The Cavs won their tiebreaker with the New Orleans Hornets for the third pick in the draft and won the tiebreaker with the Memphis Grizzlies for the 24th pick.
Now they'll go into the lottery with 138 chances out of 1,000 at landing the No. 1 pick. Once the top three spots in the draft are established by the lottery, the rest of the teams will be slotted by record. That means the Cavaliers can select no lower than sixth. Their pick from the Los Angeles Lakers will be 24th.
The Cavaliers also own the Hornets' pick in the second round, meaning they also hold the 33rd and 34th picks.
"The work we didn't get to do with our young guys in a season that was very condensed and to still end up winning more games than we did last year with some of the injuries we sustained I think was a very positive move forward for us," Scott said. "I feel very, very, good about the future of our franchise."
But that doesn't necessarily mean exhausting all -- or even most -- of the abundant cap space at their disposal. The Cavaliers have three restricted free agents -- Semih Erden, Alonzo Gee and Luke Harangody. Of the three, only Gee is a lock to return. The Cavs would have to extend qualifying offers of about $1.1 million to Erden and Harangody to control their rights and that is no guarantee to happen.
They also have two unrestricted free agents in Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker. Jamison has already said he isn't coming back -- he didn't show up for Friday's exit interviews -- while Parker is strongly considering retirement.
"We have a lot of cap space, but cap space doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go spend it," Cavs General Manager Chris Grant said. "If we’re going to spend, I want to spend wisely. We’re going to stay pretty disciplined and methodical in our process. We don’t want to overpay guys. If a guy fits into a role of what we’re trying to do and can grow with our team, then great. We’ll do that. If not, we’re going to stay disciplined."