Halfway through training camp, the Cavaliers’ roster is beginning to take shape.
The Cavs waived veteran Kelenna Azubuike on Sunday, reducing the number of players to 17. With two weeks of camp remaining, including four more preseason games, the Cavs have two cuts left to make. The last two will be much more difficult than the first three.
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, Tristan Thompson, Samardo Samuels, Jon Leuer, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller and Luke Walton appear locks to make the team.
Walton doesn’t fit into the Cavs’ long-term plans, but he’s moving well in the preseason, he knows the game incredibly well and his $6 million expiring contract could be an intriguing trade chip at the deadline.
There’s always a possibility the Cavs eat the $6 million and release Walton, but that seems unlikely.
That leaves the trio of Kevin Jones, Michael Eric and Luke Harangody to fight for one or, perhaps, two roster spots, depending on how many point guards the Cavs elect to keep. Coach Byron Scott has maintained he would like to carry three point guards if possible, but he conceded that is by no means a guarantee. If he chooses to keep three point guards, then both Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan will make the team. If they elect to keep two from the trio of Jones, Eric and Harangody, then one of the point guards will have to go.
Sloan has continued to impress in his preseason appearances. He has added a little bit of an outside game and appears to have surpassed Pargo on the depth chart. But Sloan is playing on a nonguaranteed contract for this year, and Pargo is guaranteed about $1 million.
Pargo did not fare well in his only preseason game last week against the Milwaukee Bucks and is in line for an extended look again tonight when the Cavs face the Orlando Magic in Cincinnati.
In fact, Jones, Harangody and Eric could all see extended minutes tonight. Jones and Eric have each only played five minutes through the first four preseason games. Jones received a three-year contract from the Cavs, but only $50,000 is guaranteed.
Eric impressed during summer league. The Cavs love his 7-foot frame and believe he could develop into a great defender in the NBA, but if he makes the team, he’s likely headed to the Development League.
Harangody scored nine points in nine minutes in a preseason game against the Chicago Bulls. It remains his only preseason appearance. Harangody will make about $1.1 million this season.
Scott said after the loss Saturday to the Wizards he would like to treat the final two preseason games as regular season tune-ups, meaning he’ll go with the rotations he is expected to use during the regular season.
That could leave games today and Wednesday as big opportunities for guys trying to make the roster.
As for Azubuike, he played just 13 minutes during the preseason as he continues to work his way back from two knee surgeries.
Azubuike, 28, had surgery on Nov. 18, 2009, to repair a torn patella tendon. He was later traded to the New York Knicks, where Knicks doctors quickly determined that the first surgery — performed by Phoenix Suns team doctor Tom Carter — was not done correctly. Azubuike needed a second procedure. As a result, he has spent the last three years rehabbing a knee injury.
By releasing him now, he has the chance to latch on with another team.
“I still believe I can go out and be effective and help a team win,” he said earlier in camp. “I’m motivated to do that this season. I don’t feel like I’m back at square one, but I have to start over and re-establish myself. That’s what I’m doing now.”
Scott said he would stick with the same starting lineup he used for Saturday. That means Irving, Waiters, Miles, Thompson and Varejao will start today against the Magic.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.