The Cleveland Cavaliers entered the summer with a laundry list of their players hitting free agency.
In the first 24 hours of the NBA’s free agency period, the Cavs re-signed their biggest free agents, piling up a giant payroll in the process.
Those three players combine for $US230 million, and the Cavs still have to factor in LeBron James’ likely one-year max deal, plus potential contracts for J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova.
The Cavs payroll will get even larger as the summer goes on. LeBron’s 2015-16 salary will come in around $US22 million. Add this to the $US14.4 million Kyrie Irving will make next season as part of a five-year, $US90 million extension and Anderson Varejao’s $US9.7 million salary, and the Cavs are creeping steadily to a historically high payroll.
If we take the average yearly values of Love, Thompson, and Shumpert’s deals — $US22 million, $US16 million, and $US10 million, respectively — and apply them to the Cavs’ payroll next season, they’re already looking at $US91.6 million in payroll. Add in James’ $US22 million salary, and, say, the $US8 million per year Smith is reportedly looking for, and it jumps to $US121 million. However, $US10 million should be subtracted, because the Cavs are desperately trying to unload Brendan Haywood’s $US10 million salary before the summer is over.
Still, even at $US111 million, the 2015-16 Cavs would be almost $US30 million higher in payroll than the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets, who led the NBA with an $US85 million payroll. As Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal notes, the Cavs could be the first team to rack up a $US200 million bill, including luxury tax payments, in NBA history. The 2013-14 Nets paid a record $US197 million in payroll and taxes.
However, this is the bet the Cavs are making on their roster — one forced upon them by LeBron James. James’ one-year deals are both a way to make more money and keep pressure on the Cavs to stay committed to building a winner.
After coming within two wins of the NBA championship, the Cavs believe that had they had a fully healthy squad — Varejao missed most of the season, Love missed the final three rounds of the playoffs, Irving missed Finals Games 2-6, and Shumpert played through a hurt shoulder — they would have won.
The Eastern Conference is once again shaping up to be the weaker of the two conferences, and if the Cavs return a full team with one year of experience already under its belt, they could have an easy path back to the Finals. They just will pay mightily for it.
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