We’ve reached the end of the NBA free agency moratorium and we felt this would be a good time to re-evaluate where the Cleveland Cavaliers stack up with their newly signed free agents and draft picks in terms of salary cap space going forward. The Cavs of course added Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, and Carrick Felix through the draft and Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark in free agency. The NBA salary cap was officially set Tuesday night at $58.679M, slightly higher than the $58.5 it was originally thought to be.
Let’s go bullet points to break this down…
- Including their two first-round rookies, the Cavs have ten players on guaranteed contracts for the coming season.
- Second-rounder Felix, Kevin Jones, Chris Quinn, and CJ Miles all have non-guaranteed deals.
- According to HoopsWorld.com Cleveland currently has $37,833,284 in guaranteed salaries with an inclusive total of $41,954,098.
- When you add in Bennett ($4,436,900) and Karasev’s ($1,223,200) slotted salary numbers as the Nos. 1 and 19 picks respectively that brings the Cavs guaranteed money up to $43,493,384 and their inclusive total to $47,614,198.
- This leaves Cleveland with $11,064,802 of cap space under the inclusive total and $15,185,616 under if you only count guaranteed money.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you just don’t follow the Cavs at all (then why are you reading this now?) you’re well aware that the Cavs have offered free agent center Andrew Bynum a reported two-year, $24M deal. We don’t know the specifics of the proposed deal regarding how the money would be metered out over the two years. When you look at the available space that the Cavs have though, you can see how they could add Bynum pretty easily. If they have to cut one guy to make it happen then so be it.
That’s all fun, fine, dandy, and boring but what does it ultimately mean? Glad you asked.
Chris Grant has done a really great job of organizing this team’s salaries so that they can maintain flexibility going forward. What dooms so many teams to abject mediocrity is that they saddle themselves with over-priced role players. We’ve talked about this in the past but just in case you were looking for a current example just scan up and down the Milwaukee Bucks roster. For the most part the role players on the Cavs are all on rookie deals so they’re a tremendous bargain. About the time that those rookie deals are running up the Cavs will have other players coming off the books to make room for the obvious raises that guys like Kyrie, Tristan, and Dion will all get.
Kyrie and Tristan come due for their second contracts in the summer of 2015. There is only player currently on the roster not on a rookie deal (Jack) who’s current contract extends past that summer. In 2016 when Dion and Zeller are due for new deals, the fourth year of Jack’s contract is non-guaranteed. If Kyrie and Dion continue on the career arcs that we hope and project for them then it likely won’t make a ton of sense at that point to have a backup guard who’s making $6.5M.
But before we get to that point we’ll have to deal with the summer of 2014 and the albatross of LeBron’s Decision 2.0. I’m on record as wanting to win without LeBron but if he wants to come back I’d be crazy not to take him. Even with the money the Cavs have spent this summer and even if they add Bynum as well, Grant still has this team is perfect position to hand out a max deal next summer. Varejao, Gee, and Clark all have non-guaranteed deals and Miles, Quinn, and Jones’s contracts are all done. That’s about $21M off the books right there. And if they needed to clear out a little more room they could easily trade one of their guys on a rookie deal to make it happen.
While some may get frustrated by the supposed lack of urgency in making seemingly big splashy moves to make the team better today you must recognize how the best teams build their rosters. It takes careful planning and organization to leave yourself available to make a big move when the time is right. Chad Ford talked about this yesterday when he was on the BS Report with Bill Simmons. It’s all about stockpiling assets in the form of draft picks and young players with promise who are still on their rookie deals. You allow that team to grow and don’t max out your cap space with overpriced role guys. Then when the opportunity presents itself, like it did to Houston in the form of James Harden and Dwight Howard, you make your move and bring on stars. You want to spend on guys who are going to make a difference, not on guys like Zaza Pachulia.
The Cavaliers are in the perfect spot to make big moves like that happen. They not only have they left enough room to add a franchise center in Bynum this summer but they also have room for the big ticket item in LeBron next summer. And if neither of those happens they still have the flexibility then to keep all their young guys on the team beyond their rookie deals. You know, instead of being forced to trade some of them away because you’re paying Kendrick Perkins $9M.
 I couldn’t find how much second round picks are slotted to make but whatever it is, it’s pretty negligible the first year. So Felix’s salary shouldn’t be too punitive should he make the team.
 Sorry, Chris Quinn, but it’ll probably be you.