Following a trip to the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to figure out how to keep and improve a championship-caliber team, while hoping that both LeBron James and Kevin Love stay with the team, although it could be in the form of a new contract due to their player options.
This is the list of players the Cavs might end up losing this offseason, through free agency or simply opting out of their deals: LeBron James (player option), Kevin Love (player option), J.R. Smith (player option), Tristan Thompson (free agent), Mike Miller (player option), Iman Shumpert (free agent), James Jones (free agent), Matthew Dellavedova (free agent).
Despite both stating they want to stay and the move not making a whole lot of sense, both LeBron James and Kevin Love, according to “sources” which the big sites love citing, are going to opt out of their deals. Maybe sign a new one-year contract, so they make a little bit more money? The big salary cap rise doesn’t make sense signing a long term contract now, but maybe both players are afraid of dropping off this season? That fear doesn’t make sense because James is still the best player in the world while Love hasn’t really shown he deserves a max deal this season.
Losing J.R. Smith isn’t a disaster, but it’s unlikely he’ll get more money than the $6.4 million he’ll be owed next season on a player option. It’s also going to be difficult finding a player who can produce at the same level, and the same goes for Shumpert, who deserves to make a lot more than $2.6 million a season. Mike Miller, the one player option the Cavs don’t want to opt in, will, unless he decides to retire.
If everyone opts in and that’s even before Thompson and Shumpert get their re-signings, the Cavs are in to pay $88 million next season. So will Gilbert be willing to put on a Net-esque kind of spending performance by going over $100 million in cap hits alone before even considering how much it’ll cost in terms of luxury tax? Mind you, every team that has overspent in such a way has never really achieved anything. It’s not worth it, most of the time.
There’s the $10.5 million owed to Brendan Haywood, but if he’s waived before August they’re off the hook, which is a huge clearing. Right now the Cavaliers are trying to trade him and maybe even throw in a first round draft pick (24th in 2015), focusing on getting a guard to either backup or play alongside Kyrie Irving. For teams looking to dump salaries, it might not be a bad deal to take.
Other useless players getting paid on this roster? Overpaid maybe. Anderson Varejao is a good friend of James. But he’s owed $9.5 million next season, with the two years coming after that either partially or not guaranteed at all. The Cavaliers might be able to do better, or especially find someone more durable and manage a better salary cap situation by moving him. With Mozgov playing for under $5 million a year, Varejao at this price might be too expensive of a luxury to have.
In the end it’s assumed that both James and Love are staying in some version of new deals. With that core, this time hoping to stay healthy from start to finish, it’s realistic thinking about a championship. But the Cavaliers are in now way heading into the offseason confident and without worries on their minds. From an optimistic outlook things can go South very quickly.