After a season of frustration, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans, and front office, are looking forward to a summer that will hopefully bring about change. With a productive summer, the Cavaliers could force themselves into the conversation of relevant teams.
Just last summer, the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, and Detroit Pistons were afterthoughts on the NBA landscape. Each in their own way made moves to try and gain relevance. Now? The Raptors purged themselves of the bloated contracts for Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay, won their division, and are competing against a more seasoned (read: old) Brooklyn Nets team. Atlanta made a late season push to make the playoffs and are giving the top seeded Indiana Pacers a serious run for their money up 2-1 in the series. The Bobcats were the laughing stock of the league for signing Al Jefferson, but changed into one of the top defensive teams. And Detroit…let’s not talk about Detroit…their fans have already suffered enough through a season of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith.
The Cavaliers have a nice foundation of young players, but desperately need a solid summer of roster moves to matter again. Of course, the big potential target for Cleveland is LeBron James. That is, if he opts out of his current contract. Assuming LeBron wants to sign in Cleveland, the options moving forward are incredibly simple…do anything that is needed to create the necessary space to sign LeBron. But if LeBron isn’t an option, then the situation in Cleveland becomes a little more tricky.
Based on information provided by CBA expert, Larry Coon, the 2014-2015 salary cap is expected to be roughly $63.2 million, an increase of $4.5 million from this season. The luxury tax is also expected to make a significant jump to $77 million.
Currently, the Cavaliers have seven players on guaranteed contracts for next season:
Kyrie Irving – $7.45 million
Jarrett Jack – $6.3 million
Anthony Bennett – $5.56 million
Tristan Thompson – $5.42 million
Dion Waiters – $4.06 million
Tyler Zeller – $1.7 million
Sergey Karasev – $1.5 million
For these seven players, the Cavaliers have committed $32 million in salary. With a figure as low as this, the Cavaliers have the opportunity to have over $30 million in cap space.
Sadly, it’s not that simple. Luol Deng alone has a cap hold of roughly $19 million, which would cut deeply into the teams available salary space. This doesn’t even consider the cap holds for Spencer Hawes (roughly $7.4 million), or the unguaranteed contracts for Anderson Varejao ($9.8 million), Alonzo Gee ($3.25 million) and Scotty Hopson ($2.45 million).
Deng, Hawes, Varejao, Gee, and Hopson currently would count towards roughly $41.9 million for Cleveland….which would leave the Cavaliers with no available cap space.
Varejao, Gee and Hopson could be traded to teams that are looking to cut salary (they would then be immediately waived), while the cap holds for Deng and Hawes can be waived at any time (this would remove Cleveland’s bird rights for each player).
All-in-all, the Cavaliers could be significant players in free agency and on the trade market. But with pressure mounting for immediately progress, will they be able to mirror the current success of Toronto, Atlanta and Charlotte, or take a significant step backwards like Detroit?