No, it’s not that difficult for the Cavs to have max contract space

david griffin

david griffin

There appears to be quite a deal of confusion about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ salary cap situation. Let’s try to clear the air with some math, shall we?

Just last week, GM David Griffin said the team could clear space for a max contract “just by waving our hand and making it happen.” Seems simple enough, no?

And then today, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst grouped the Cavs with the Rockets and Bulls that would “need to execute significant shuffling and perhaps even offload star players to clear [the maximum] $22.2 million.” Well that’s a bit of a different picture.

cavs contract data 2014-15Turns out, Windhorst is likely just exaggerating. I prefer that reading/narrative as opposed to him being fed or purposefully listing out wholly inaccurate information. The chart to the right shows everything we know about the Cavs salary cap situation right now. It’s complicated, so be patient.

Let’s start from the beginning. If the Cavs are actually going to be serious players for a max free agent, they’ll do one thing first: Renounce their right of first refusal to Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes and C.J. Miles. This would remove those dreaded cap holds currently eating up the team’s space, although limiting their bargaining power with those free agents. The Deng renouncement is probably a near-guarantee, no matter what.

Next, the Cavs will have decisions to make on those not-fully-guaranteed contracts. Hopson’s deal was made to be flexible; the $1.45 million could easily be traded or cut quickly for savings. The second-rounders are just space-fillers at the moment. They’re likely to stay, but could be cut if needed, too. Teams need to have at least 12 players, obviously.

Pause for a moment now. Including the entirety of Varejao’s contract and maintaining that 100% rookie scale hold for Wiggins, and you’re at about $49 million. The projected cap is $63.2 million. The Cavs would need to clear an additional $8 million, approximately. There are a variety of ways in which they could continue to do that:

— The easiest step would be to trade or release Varejao. If released, his $4 million guarantee would still count against the cap (savings of $5.7 million). If traded, it’d ideally have to be to a team with a trade exception possible, thus the Cavs wouldn’t need to bring back equal-ish salary.

— Other players also could be traded. This could include Jarrett Jack1, Brendan Haywood2 or literally anyone else. It’s not the type of “significant shuffling” or star-unloading that Windhorst alluded to. Sweetening the pot with future draft picks, the Cavs shouldn’t have too much trouble removing an additional $2-3 million or more as needed.

Trying to clear space for two (!) max contracts? Now that’d be much, much more difficult. I’d count that as “significant shuffling” a la trading away nearly everyone besides the team’s “star” players. But only clearing space for one? Not so hard. A few waves of the wand, as Griffin said. Nothing much more.

As a reminder, Kyrie Irving’s possible max extension wouldn’t take hold until the 2015-16 season. That’s a huge relief for the Cavs if they expect to be massive players this offseason.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, the Cavs currently don’t have the space for a max contract, but after a few moves, they could relatively easy have that necessary space. If LeBron James (or someone else) is actually going to make it known they want to be in Cleveland, the Cavs won’t have too much difficulty making the math work.

  1. Jason Kidd seemed to really want Jarrett Jack in Brooklyn. Perhaps a deal could be worked out to send him off to Milwaukee? []
  2. Fascinating tidbit from The Score about Haywood’s contract: He has a $10.5 million completely unguaranteed deal for the 2015-16 season. That’s a humongous possible trade asset for the summer of 2015. []
  • Ezzie Goldish

    Total speculation, but if Miami restructures in a way which gives room for a trade exception player, any chance Andy goes there/what would we expect back?

    Jack to MIL (Mayo?) makes sense.

    Nobody really seems to suggest this so perhaps I’m missing something, but what about picking up Bosh? Isn’t he a good player to pair with Kyrie (and Dion, Wiggins, et al)? He’s a rich man’s Hawes. Bosh and Ariza or Frye would seem to give the Cavs some nice weaponry…

  • mgbode

    The Deng renouncement is probably a near-guarantee, no matter what.

    Unless we are able to figure out a sign-n-trade. Quite possible if he wants to get onto a team without the cap room to sign him otherwise.

  • boomhauertjs

    Bosh didn’t want to come here when LeBron was here (Cavs and Raptors had a sign-and-trade worked out), why would he ever come here now?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I would think the difference now is that as opposed to being viewed as a #3 there, he would be viewed as a co-#1 here with Kyrie (like Kobe/Shaq) and Wiggins still so young. He would definitely be the ‘leader’/veteran without being old.

    It’s also a better fit for him, running pick/pop with Kyrie at the top. He’d be back to being a 20/10 guy but without feeling the franchise burden.

  • cmm13

    Other glaring difference is now he sees it’s possible to win it all with LBJ and a group of actual complementary players which the Cavs have.

    2010 was a much different team than this one. Aging vets on their way out versus young underachievers needing the right push.

  • Pasto

    Where’d you get $49M? Guaranteed + just Andy is about $49M & that doesn’t account for Wiggins or the rest of the “partially guaranteed” contracts

  • cmm13

    So if he does come back does Windy get re-assigned by ESPN or will he be stuck updating the Heat Index of Shabazz Napier’s rookie season?

  • WFNYJacob

    The $39M does include Wiggins. I then added Varejao’s $9.7M.

  • BradleyC

    I don’t know about you, but I would say having to trade off 3-4 players is significant. I’m sure it could be done and for LeBron clearly you’d do it, even if it meant using first round picks to do so. But I wouldn’t say it’s a wave of the hand, either.

    Here’s the issue: if LeBron wanted to come back, wouldn’t he WANT to play with Varejao? Doesn’t it make sense to keep him if you can figure out a way?

  • cmm13

    Best part about being LeBron:

  • mgbode

    BW’s contract clearly states that he needs to be close enough to LeBron at all times to sweep the dirty secrets under the rug.

  • woofersus

    I’m sure they’re waiting until the last minute to do this because of that possibility. Along those lines, if we happen to sign a big time free agent who would be worthy of a max contract, it’s very possible we would end up on the receiving end of a sign and trade as well, which might give us additional flexibility.

  • JES

    Out of curiosity, say they do clear space for one max deal this year. What do they have available next year to add another star FA? Would they have enough to add Kevin Love (if we had attractive trade pieces or if Love opts out)?