Apr 6, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) is pressured by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency: Cap Space Matter for Cavs?

The 2014 NBA Draft was exciting but relatively anti-climatic for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans. Many moves were rumored and even expected but instead the Cavs did the simple thing of drafting the best player in the draft. Then drafting the best shooter available with their second round pick. At this point the roster is in tact, no major moves, no extra draft picks picked up and NBA Free Agency right around the corner.

For the Cavs this could still be a roster altering off-season. At this point the Cavs have a flexible roster, a couple extra first round picks, all of their own first round picks and cap space to a lot with which to make moves. Last night Jacob Rosen of WFNY, he does a ton of analytic work for them and does it well, posted up the Cavs roster and the salaries associated with said roster:

As it stands we expect the Salary Cap to be about $63 million dollars. Based on keeping all of the non-guaranteed players the Cavs would have only about $10 million dollars to spend on free agents. Not picking up Hopson’s option gives another $1.5 million. If the Cavs cut Varejao they would save another almost $6 million dollars. That would give the Cavs near $18 million to spend.

Yet does that number even matter for the team? Are the Cavs, like so many other teams in the league, limited by the basic cap number in their pursuit of upgrades to their roster? Rumors have flown that the Cavs are looking not only to bring in LeBron James but also Carmelo Anthony, or trade for Kevin Love. Even outside of those big names the Cavs seem like they could look for Chandler Parsons or Gordon Hayward to fill a need as a shooter at the small forward position plus upgrades around the roster. But are they limited to $12 or $ million to spend?

The simple answer is no, no they are not. As you look at the guaranteed contract side of Jacob’s list you will find an interesting array of players. Of that group of players Jarrett Jack and Brendan Haywood may be the most difficult of them to move. Jack’s salary is high and is for at least another year after this one. He struggled in his first season with the Cavs and may be best suited as a 6th man off the bench. Over $6 million is a bit much for that. Rumors before the draft were that the Cavs may deal Jack to the Nets for a similarly priced Marcus Thornton, a gunner at the 2 guard spot. Thornton actually makes $2 million more then Jack but his contract runs out this year.

Hayward will actually be an interesting case next summer. Currently he will only count for just over $2 million. He also helped the Cavs get second rounder Dwight Powell, a stretch 4 that could fit well in David Blatt’s system or be a part of a trade this off-season. The Cavs cost themselves the $2 million in cap space to get Powell, all for Alonzo Gee‘s voidable contract, but also for the options Hayward provides the team next off-season. Next year Hayward has a $10 million dollar voidable year on his contract. The Cavs could move him to a team looking to dump salary and bring back a quality veteran or more draft assets. The receiving team can then cut Hayward and take the money off their cap. Worst case scenario is the Cavs cut him themselves, no way they keep him at that cost.

Everyone else with a guaranteed contract is easily tradeable. Starting at the top and working our way down we will look at how the Cavs could rid themselves of any of the other salaries on their roster. Kyrie Irving could be traded for 3 first round picks tomorrow, the Cavs could choose what salaries they did or did not want to accept back. Ditto for Wiggins. While Anthony Bennett had a difficult first year the Cavs could quickly trade him to a team with cap space, willing to give him a shot (Philadelphia 76ers come to mind) for a second round pick just to clear the cap space.

Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters both have value and could fetch something quality in a trade. The expectation is that if they are moved this off-season it will probably be together in a way of getting a star player, say Kevin Love. If they are moved that way contracts would come back but would be for the type of player the Cavs wanted the cap space for in the first place. If just to move the contracts the Cavs could secure a first rounder for Waiters and possibly another for Thompson, just to clear out the cap space.

Tyler Zeller, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix all have low contract costs and could be given away for a conditional 2nd round pick. Possibly the Cavs would have to trade a 2nd rounder of their own to add to Felix but either way the Cavs could clear all 3 of their contracts in a heartbeat without taking back any salary.

So let us assume that Irving, Wiggins, Jack (or a similar contract) and Haywood are going to be on the Cavs roster next year and that everyone else could be moved without adding any salary. That means the Cavs only have about $22 million tied up in next year’s cap. Obviously they will need to keep some talent, and won’t want to just give away some of their high draft picks. Yet the chance to sign James, Anthony, Parsons or Hayward won’t be stopped by the hard cap space number that will be presented anywhere.

The Cavs can move most of the salary owed currently easily. They will obviously look to get talent back for their players but if those trades allow them to sign 2 stars and a solid role player to join Irving, Wiggins, Jack and Haywood the more power to them. Then next year, when they have no cap space after signing those players, the Cavs can move Haywood for about $10 million in talent from another team.

What do you expect to happen this off-season with the Cavs almost unlimited ability to have cap space?

Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

  • Jarod Cook

    This all hinges on The Decision 2.0. If the big 3 at Miami all opt out and resign at a lower salary (which is what I think is going on), then Miami will have cap space to go out and get better role players. On the other hand if LeBron decides to come back to Cleveland, there will be a trade for Love.

    So if the Return of the King happens, the first big decision for the Cavs is who and what to give up for Love. The most likely deal IMO would be Waiters+TT+2 1st rd picks. I’d hate to see both of them go because they’ve showed progress, and think Waiters could be an all star, while TT could be a good starter in the future. But it frees up $9 mil that could be used to resign Love. With the clashing personalities of Waiters and Irving, followed up with the drafting of Wiggins. It’s safe to assume Waiters days are numbered in Cleveland. And TT is no where near the player that Love is, and is in the final year of his contract. So add in the 2 1st rd picks and I think we got a deal. Maybe they could throw in Jack also to shed the team of his horrible contract.

    The next question is would Irving then be willing to take less then a max contract? He wants this so bad, but IMO doesn’t deserve it. But if LBJ and Love come to town, who are going to want big deals. Is Irving going to be able to step back and take a lighter pay check for the team, IMO No. Based on what I’ve seen from his all about me mentality I’ve seen the last few years, I don’t see him taking less then max.

    Off the potential FA on the Cavs roster the only one worth keeping is Hawes. How many 7 footers in the NBA can actually step out and shot 3′s? He’ll fit in well with the system that Blatt is going to run offensively. and having Hawes and Love who can both shoot 3′s on the floor at the same time, would cause nightmares for defenders. If they can get Hawes for $6-$8 mil a year he’d be worth keeping. As much as I’d like to see the Cavs keep Andy. His almost $10 mil a year is eating up to much cap room. I’d hate to see them just cut him, but maybe they can get him to sign an extension and lower his cap hit.

    In the end no way do the Cavs get away from breaking the cap, if they sign LBJ, Love, and Irving to max deals, without gutting the team. Maybe they come together and form a new big 3 in Cleveland, and all of them take a more cap friendly deals. some where in the $14-$16 mil a year range. That way Cleveland can still keep most of their role players without going over the cap.

  • Letterman007

    Wade just opted out and it sounds like the Big Three are going to give the Heat another chance. I’m hoping they go year to year and have an opt out after each year, thus giving Pat Riley a chance, but not locking in! I think next year will be the best chance of getting LBJ back, if he does come back! But by then, Love might be locked in somewhere else and so will Melo.

  • Joe

    After reading all the web pages about salary caps, I am more confused than I was before I read.
    Anyhow, Kevin Love can be signed under Bird Rights, and that has some impact. (?)
    Tristan is one of my all-time favorites, but if we get Love, he will be a man without a position.
    So the Cavs send TT, JJ, another favorite of mine, Hopson, and two #1 draft picks + Haywood for Love.
    Sign Lebron (Dreeeeeeeemmm, Dream Dream Dream Dream…).
    We should be below luxury cap level even after re-signing CJ Miles, (+ 4 for Andy) Delly, Felix, Wiggins, Powell, and Harris (though I think Harris was drafted to be traded). 40 + 8 for rookies + 20 for Lebron and 16 for Love – 6 for Jack – 5 for TT = 73.
    Add in 3 million for another center (Haws won’t fit this scenario due to salary.) and you are at 76.
    77 is the luxury threshold probably.