At long last, one of the strangest dramas of the young NBA season is over. Patrick McCaw is playing for the Toronto Raptors, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face no penalty for assisting him in getting there.
On Monday, the NBA announced that it had completed the investigation into the matter and found that the Cavaliers were not in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It’s a strange situation that could have cost Cleveland up to $6 million and its first-round pick — which will likely land in the top five — for what would have amounted to spite for the Golden State Warriors.
How did this all get started?
The Warriors acquired McCaw in a draft day trade after he was selected 38th overall in the 2016 draft, and he averaged 4.0 points per game in each of his two seasons with the team coming off the bench. McCaw hit restricted free agency this offseason but never found the deal he was looking for.
Golden State offered him a partially guaranteed two-year, $5 million contract, which McCaw balked at. But the 23-year-old shooting guard also did not want to sign for $1.7 million, which again would have left him a restricted free agent next offseason.
Stuck in limbo, the Cavaliers, who have lost three of the last four NBA Finals to the Warriors, offered him a non-guaranteed two-year, $6 million deal on December 28. Given that matching the contract would have raised their luxury tax bill from $11.3 million to $61.6 million, the Warriors allowed him to go to Cleveland.
Why did Cleveland release McCaw so quickly?
Here comes the weird part. Since all contracts are guaranteed for the season on January 10, McCaw only played three games with the Cavaliers before they released him after paying him just $323,529. The Cavs still had interest in bringing him back at a lower rate, but certainly appeared strange considering the history between the two teams.
The Warriors filed a complaint to the league accusing the Cavaliers of trying to circumnavigate the salary cap. According to The New York Times’ Marc Stein, who broke the story of the investigation, the Warriors were concerned that the Cavaliers made an under-the-table agreement to free McCaw of the restricted free agent classification.
Teams and players are forbidden from making “unauthorized agreements” based on deals that are “expressed or implied, oral or written” or include “promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind” with respect to a player contract.
In the end, the Cavaliers will not face a penalty, which could have been dire if their tanking season — which currently sees them with the worst record in the league — ended without a shot at Zion Williamson and a top draft pick.
McCaw opted to sign with the Raptors for far less money than he would have made with the Cavs, but he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer with far higher earning potential. Ultimately the Warriors come away with nothing, but the league avoided a potential PR disaster.
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