NBA Free Agency: Exploring the Cavaliers Salary Cap Situation for the Summers of 2013 and 2014 and a Possible LeBron Return

Last week we broke down the Cleveland Cavaliers’ tradable assets going forward including all their incoming future draft picks. Today we’re taking a look at the Cavs’ roster with its salary cap implications and how things break down over the next couple years.

Rumors broke this week that the expected salary cap for the 2013-14 NBA season will be $58.5 million, up from $58.044. It was expected that the cap would be up around $60 M so this news was a bit of shocker to teams who are pressed up against the cap and are in danger of paying the luxury tax. The Cavs are not one of those teams. The salary floor is $49.337 M, equal to 85% of the cap.

According to HoopsWorld.com the Cavs have only six players (Varejao, Irving, Gee, Thompson, Waiters, and Zeller) with guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 season for a total of $27,483,284. The following players have options on their deals:

  • Marreese Speights: $4,515,00 Player Option—Likely going to opt-out for free agency.
  • Omri Casspi: $3,313,480 Qualifying Offer—No way the Cavs offer him anything.
  • CJ Miles: $2,225,000 Non-guaranteed—I’m not sure on this one but I’d like to see him back. That’s good value for a player like Miles. Especially this year there’s no reason why they should need that $2 M.
  • Wayne Ellington: $3,103,733 Qualifying Offer—I would guess that the Cavs look to keep him but they’re not going to break the bank to do so.
  • Kevin Jones: $788,872 Non-guaranteed—I don’t see much of a point in bringing him back because I don’t see much of point in him as a player. But they need players on the roster and he makes next to nothing so they might bring him back. It doesn’t hurt anything.
  • Chris Quinn: $1,106,942 Non-guaranteed—I think there’s more of a chance of Jones staying than of Quinn staying.

If you count Miles, Ellington, and Jones as the most likely to be back, that’d put the Cavs at $33,600,889; leaving them $24,899,111 short of the cap, $15,736,111 short of the floor.[1]

For the summer of 2014 the Cavs will have the following players on salary as of right now:

  • Anderson Varejao: $9,704,545 Non-guaranteed
  • Alonzo Gee: $3,000,000 Non-guaranteed

Then it’s all the guys on rookie deals…

  • Kyrie Irving: $7,070,730
  • Tristan Thompson: $5,138,430
  • Dion Waiters: $4,062,000
  • Tyler Zeller: $1,703,760
  • Jones would have a qualifying offer of $1,115,243.

If you include all those players at those prices (and I’d be a little surprised if they kept Varejao at that number unless he has a huge, injury-free season in 2013-14…and even then it’s highly unlikely) the Cavs would be at $31,794,708; still an incredible $26,705,292 short of the 2013-14 cap number which is sure to go up for 14-15. If you knock off both Varejao and Jones that available space goes up to $37,525,080.

The summer of 2014 is important obviously because that’s when LeBron James can come back to Cleveland. Now, I don’t think we should count on him coming back by any means. I’d put the chances at around 30-35% that he comes back. But even if there was only a 5% chance you still have to keep space available in the outside shot that the best player in the game wants to play for you. Chris Grant and the Cavs would be crazy to tie up their cap space before the summer of 2014.

So, going off of the $58.5 M cap for the upcoming season a max contract would be worth $20,475,000 (35% of the cap). Just to round up to leave some wiggle room because that number will go up a little for the next season we’ll just say the Cavs need to leave $21 M free to be safe.

Now, taking the $37,525,080 of free space in 2014 and subtracting the $21 M to set aside for hypothetical-LeBron, we’re left with $16,525,080 that the Cavs can spend before next summer in long-term deals. They could spend all of that this off-season of course and be left with $8,374,031 under the cap for 2013 to spend on one-year deals.

So to recap, the Cavs have…

  • $16,525,080 that can be spent on long-term contracts this summer.
  • $8,374,031 that can be spent on one-year deals this summer.
  • $21,000,000 that should be set aside of hypothetical-LeBron.

A lot of this is still contingent on what happens with guys like Speights, Ellington, and Miles who have options with their contracts. What happens in those situations will at least affect how much money the Cavs have available to spend this summer, but they won’t affect the summer of 2014 (with the possible exception of Ellington who could be signed to a long-term deal).

Also, don’t underestimate those one-year deals. There are situations with some veteran players who you might be able to sign to those kinds of deals. There’s also guys like OJ Mayo last offseason who went a long time unsigned to a long-term deal and settled for a one-year contract with Dallas. You could also fill that spot through a trade similar to what the Cavs did this past season in the trade with Memphis. That $8+ M is very valuable even on a one-year basis.

The biggest question for Chris Grant and the Cavs will be what they decide to do with that $16,525,080 of free long-term space. If the Cavs end up using their no. 1 pick that player will get $4,436,900 next season and $4,636,600 in 2014-15 according to HoopsWorld. This would leave the Cavs with $11,888,480 to spend on long-term contracts. Now do the Cavs want to spend that all on one player or try to split it up?

The task for Grant this summer will be just that. How much do you want to spend on Shaun Livingston to keep him? How much are you willing to pay for Ellington? How much money are you willing to spend on a key free agent? Do you trade the pick to get more immediate-impact talent as well as keep more cap flexibility? Is Dan Gilbert willing to pay the luxury tax down the road when Kyrie and Tristan come up for extensions in 2015, followed by Dion and Zeller in 2016?

We’ll explore more of these options down the road as we get into free agency.


[1] This is the last time I’m going to mention the floor. It’s really not that big of a deal, especially for this Cavs team. Unless we were tanking this season there’s no reason the Cavs should be anywhere close to the floor.

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2 thoughts on “NBA Free Agency: Exploring the Cavaliers Salary Cap Situation for the Summers of 2013 and 2014 and a Possible LeBron Return

  1. Pingback: NBA Draft Rumors: Cavs No. 19 Pick Options including Sergey Karasev and…Paul Pierce??? | Cleveland the GOAT

  2. Pingback: NBA Free Agency: Following the Heat and Spurs Team Salary Structure Model for the Cavaliers | Cleveland the GOAT

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