- Re-signing Kyle Korver will help the Cavaliers stick in the driver's seat in the East but won't do much to keep up with the Warriors.
“Hired gun for LeBron James” is more than just a temporary position.
The Cavaliers have agreed to re-sign sharpshooting forward Kyle Korver to a three-year contract worth $22 million, according to multiple reports. The deal reportedly includes a partial guarantee on its third season. Korver, 36, was acquired by Cleveland from Atlanta in a midseason trade, and he played a meaningful bench role during the Cavaliers’ run to their third straight Finals.
With massive long-term commitments to its stars already on the books and no GM in place following David Griffin’s departure, Cleveland finds itself in “Hold down the fort” mode. Retaining Korver, despite his advancing age, is hardly a blunder: He cost Cleveland a first-round pick back in January, he shot a blistering 48.5% following the trade, he was a part of the “LeBron + Bench” lineup that posted a 124.4 offensive rating in the playoffs, and he had multiple game-changing postseason shooting performances against Indiana and Toronto.
The deeper Cleveland went, though, the less effective Korver proved to be. He was a forgotten man in the Finals, vulnerable to being picked on by Golden State’s offense and held to just 36.8% shooting overall and 31.3% from beyond the arc. As a means to helping keep Cleveland in the driver’s seat in the East, keeping Korver works. However, it’s an irrelevant move when viewed through the lens of keeping up with Golden State.
Remarkably, this contract represents both a pay raise and a career-high average annual value for Korver, who is coming off a four-year, $24 million contract and had never previously earned $7 million or more in a season. How many players claim the biggest payday of their career during their age-36 season? Not many. This oddity reflects Korver’s staying power, the increased importance of shooting in the modern game, and Cleveland’s need to cling to as much of its current talent as possible given its limited options for acquiring outside talent.
Some degree of hand-wringing over the contract length here is warranted given Korver’s age, but he should be a useful rotation player in 2017-18 and a trade piece in 2018-19 if James bolts in free agency. The partial guarantee on the third year also opens up the buyout option in 2019 if Cleveland’s title window shuts or if Korver’s game falls off a cliff.
Perhaps the biggest downside here is the actual cost of retaining Korver, as his new deal will swell Cleveland’s luxury tax bill considerably. With so many other aging faces and non-contributors on the Cavaliers’ bench, owner Dan Gilbert must grin and bear it as he seeks out possible salary-dump trades elsewhere. And there was a clear and present danger associated in letting Korver walk for nothing and trying to get by without him, as similar skimping by Heat owner Micky Arison on Mike Miller helped push James back to Cleveland in 2014.