Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Luol Deng, Chris Grant, Mike Brown and David Griffin. In some order, those are the major stories of the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers to date.
Can Kyrie and Dion coexist? Is Luol Deng a Cavalier next season? Is Anthony Bennett the next Kwame Brown? Is Mike Brown the right coach for this team? All are fair questions; all have been debated in circles.
Here’s a new one: What about C.J. Miles?
Miles is the glue of this roster, or at least as much glue as an 19-33 team can have. He’s started at the 2, at the 3 and came off the bench. He’s the team’s most potent, yet inconsistent, deep threat. He’s a free agent this summer.
The following is surely a much-too-extensive blog on C.J. Miles’s impact on these Cavaliers and his free agency prospects. Consider yourself warned.
An examination of C.J.’s performance this season
My first three notes on C.J. Miles before researching this piece:
§ He’s a streaky shooter.
§ He’s prone to careless passes.
§ He should get more minutes.
Like many Cavaliers, C.J.’s place in the rotation has changed throughout the season. As of Feb. 10, he’s played in 47 games, started 34 yet is the third shooting guard on the team’s depth chart, behind Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters. He’s played some at the 3, thankfully over the ineffective Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee. His 20.1 minutes per game is seventh on the team, 5.8 less than Jack.
Miles’s purpose hasn’t changed: to make shots and spread the defense.
Among wing players, his numbers stack up quite nicely throughout the NBA. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 18.5 points, down from 19.2 last year but still second among all Cavaliers and better than any of his 7 years in Utah. His 39.3% mark from deep is tied for 41st in the league; his 79 makes is tied with Spencer Hawes for 38th and only 6 behind Kyrie Irving, who’s attempted 34 more.
His 16.63 PER is third on the Cavaliers, behind Irving and Anderson Varejao, and 1.63 points above the league average. Among 2-guards, he’s 12th in the NBA here, ahead of Lance Stephenson, Joe Johnson, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters (12.49). Among small forwards, the 6-6 Miles would be 10th, just ahead of Deng.
Despite his lowest minute totals (20.1) since ’07-08, Miles is averaging 10.1 points, shooting 43.9% from the field and is fourth on the team in total points scored. His 54 effective field goal percentage leads the team, and his 57.4 true shooting percentage trails only the 7-foot-1 Tyler Zeller.
This season, C.J.’s tallied 14 or more points in 15 games; unsurprisingly, the Cavs are 8-7 in those games. C.J. has scored single digits in 25 games, and the Cavs are a much less effective 7-18 here.
The first six games of the year, excluding an 8-point performance against the league’s top defense at Indiana, C.J. scored 10 or more points; the following five, he didn’t net double figures once.
The first six games of January, C.J. scored at least 14 points, including that barrage of three-pointers at The Q vs. Philly. He followed those up with consecutive 5-point efforts. Here are a few stat lines C.J.’s put up in the past few months:
§ 12/4 vs. Denver: 16 minutes, 0-4 FGs, 0 pts.
§ 12/28 at Boston: 11 minutes, 0-5 FGs, 0 pts.
§ 1/28 vs. New Orleans: 12 minutes, 1-2 FGs, 2 pts.
§ 2/1 at Houston: 11 minutes, 1-6 FGs, 2 pts.
The Cavs are a playoff-caliber team when Miles is making shots. But when he’s off, the Cavs are off.
In Cavs wins, C.J.’s averaging 21.9 minutes, 11.9 points, 49% FGs, 51.3% 3-point FGs and a +/- of +7, according toNBA.com’s stats database. In Cavs losses, C.J. averages 19 minutes, 9.3 points, 40.7% FGs, 31.7 3-point FGs and a -2.8.
What will free agency mean for Miles, the Cavaliers?
Well, C.J.’s gonna get paid more than he’s making now. At $2.225 million this year, Miles is the 10th-highest paid Cavalier, $1 million behind Gee, $2 million behind Clark and $4 million behind Jack.
Clark and Gee are unguaranteed for 14-15, and you’d assume they won’t return. Deng is an unrestricted free agent who’s apparently unhappy and may also not return, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. If all three of those guys leave, Cleveland’s got a glaring need on the wing Sergey Karasev’s probably not ready to fill.
My preference would be to dangle Jack’s contract in trades along with an asset, like Varejao’s unguaranteed deal, to free up more long-term flexibility. Maybe you draft a SF in the lottery and re-sign Miles as a SG/SF bench guy, anticipating Kyrie’s max contract and impending extensions for Tristan and Dion. (Of course this assumes Dion’s not traded — 50-50, maybe? — and the Cavs miss the playoffs — 80-20.)
Let’s also assume LeBron James returns to Miami or signs anywhere but Cleveland, so the Cavs will have enough cap room to chase whomever they please. What will it cost to re-sign Miles, who turns 27 next month?
Here’s a quick look at some free agent wings from this past summer and their salaries moving forward:
§ Alan Anderson, Brooklyn: $948K
§ Marco Belinelli, San Antonio: $2.8M, $2.9M
§ Chase Buddinger, Minnesota: $5M, $5M, $5M (player option)
§ Mike Dunleavy, Chicago: $3M, $3M
§ Kyle Korver, Atlanta: $6.8M, $6.3M, $5.8M, $5.3M
§ Kevin Martin, Minnesota: $6.5M, $6.8M, $7.1M, $7.4M
§ Martell Webster, Washington: $5.2M, $5.4M, $5.7M, $5.8M (team option)
§ Dorell Wright, Portland: $3M, $3.1M
§ Nick Young, Los Angeles: $1.1M, $1.2M (player option)
And here’s how they’ve performed this season:
§ Anderson: 49 games, 25.4 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 40.2% FGs, 34.6% 3P, 10.47 PER
§ Belinelli: 50 games, 24.9 mpg, 11 ppg, 50.2%, 44.4%, 14.83 PER
§ Buddinger: 17 games, 16.6 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 35.5%, 35.7%, 6.01 PER
§ Dunleavy: 50 games, 29.2 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 43.7%, 38.3%, 12.92 PER
§ Korver: 45 games, 34.4 mpg, 12 ppg, 47.9%, 46.3%, 13.76 PER
§ Martin: 48 games, 32.3 mpg, 19 ppg, 42.7%, 39.9%, 16.74 PER
§ Webster: 48 games, 29.8 mpg, 11.1 ppg 44.7%, 40.5%, 12.84 PER
§ Wright: 40 games, 12.7 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 35%, 33.9%, 10.09 PER
§ Young: 48 games, 28.8 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 41.9%, 34.9%, 14.62 PER
And C.J.’s one last time:
§ Miles: 47 games, 20.1 mpg, 10.3 ppg, 43.9%, 39.3%, 16.63 PER
I’ll take C.J. over any of those guys except Martin and Webster. Korver’s a dead-eye shooter who would, at least on paper, take a lot of defensive pressure off Kyrie and Dion. Buddinger’s health keeps him a question mark. And Nick Young’s an athletic young player who’s had the benefit of lots of opportunity on a depleted L.A. roster.
Here’s what we know for sure: Miles has played close to 9 full seasons in the NBA with earnings shy of $19 million, according to Hoopshype. He’s apparently agent Billy Ceisler’s only NBA client. Obviously I can’t speak for C.J., but I’d want to cash in.
I’m not sure this free agent class will help his cause. Hoopshype ranks C.J. as the 16th best SF and 59th best player available;according to their rankings, he’d be the 10th best SG. (These rankings place C.J. behind Shaun Livingston, Jodie Meeks and 23 spots behind Jordan Crawford, so, yeah...)
My evaluation of this FA class contains three tiers: the franchise guys in Carmelo, Dirk, Bosh, Wade and LeBron. Then, there’s a second tier of guys like Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Rudy Gay, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and maybe Danny Granger.
Finally, there’s C.J. and the third tier, one that’s crowded with wings. Nick Young, Ray Allen, Trevor Ariza, Thabo Sefolosha, Jordan Crawford, Vince Carter, Caron Butler, Jodie Meeks, Mike Miller, etc.
My best guess is these guys fetch deals in the $2-5 million range, depending on the situation. I’d guess C.J. falls in the $3-4.5, perhaps on a 2- or 3-year deal more favorable to the team than player.
(Many teams will be incorporating lottery picks, and others will be hoarding cap space for the blockbuster summer of 2015.)
At that price, why not?
We know what C.J. is —an effective off-ball cutter who’s not a liability defensively, has good length for a 2 and deceptive athleticism, and can knock down a half-dozen triples any given night. The fans like him, and presumably he likes being here.
I’d love to see a bench unit that features C.J. and an improved Bennett for the next few years. C.J.’s actually more effective off the bench; per NBA.com/stats, Miles averages 12.1 points on 46.3% from the field in 18.9 minutes as a bench player this year, compared to 9.6 points and 42.8% shooting in 21.9 minutes as a starter.
C.J. understands his role and his spots, and so do his teammates. And also, who wouldn’t want this shot chart off their bench?
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.