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The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
The LeBron James contract
With an NBA championship with Cleveland under his belt, the LeBron James contract situation will become magnified on July 1.
James, will have two options if he were to opt out of his $24 million contract: sign a one-year contract with Cleveland or another team with a focus on 2017-18 or sign a four-year max contract with Cleveland or another team.
Signing the one-year contract would see James fall short of the $30 million max salary slot because non-Bird rights would need to be used. Although James qualifies for early Bird rights, rules state that a player must sign for a minimum of two years (not including options) to take advantage of the exception.
Going the one-year route means James could take advantage of the projected $107 million salary cap next summer.
Here’s a look at James’ contract options:
One-year deal with focus on 2017-18
Cleveland Another team
2016-17: $27.5 million $31.0 million
2017-18: $35.7 million $35.7 million
2018-19: $38.4 million $37.4 million
2019-20: $41.3 million $39 million
2020-21: $43.8 million $40.6 million
2021-22: $46.5 million
Total: $233.1 million $183.1 million
Signing long term this summer
Cleveland Another team
2016-17: $31 million $31 million
2017-18: $33.2 million $32.4 million
2018-19: $35.7 million $33.8 million
2019-20: $38 million $35.2 million
Total: $138 million $132.4 million
The bench and Bird rights
Cleveland will need to weigh the value of its own free agents against those on the open market.
Because the Cavaliers have $99 million in guaranteed contracts, allowing Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith to leave in free agency will not offer any cap relief for suitable replacements.
All three players have full Bird rights, and Cleveland can exceed the cap to bring back each player. However, the three players combined for $11 million in salary this past season and that figure could double in free agency.
Cleveland does not have Bird rights with reserve Richard Jefferson, who said he was planning to retire after the Cavs’ Game 7 win in the NBA Finals.
Jefferson proved to be the Cavaliers’ best option off the bench during the championship run. If he changes his mind and decides to play, Cleveland can only sign him for the $3.4 million tax mid-level.
Cleveland, without a first- or second-round pick, will only have the tax mid-level exception and minimum contracts to use if its free agents were to sign elsewhere.
The value of Kevin Love
Player A is a 28-year-old power forward who averaged 17 points and shot 42.7 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three-point range. Player B is a 27-year-old power forward who averaged 16 points, shot 41.9 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range while averaging close to 10 rebounds per game.
Put Kevin Love (Player B) on the open market as a free agent and one would expect him to entertain better offers than the Hornets’ Ryan Anderson (Player A).
Fortunately, Cleveland has Love under contract for the next four seasons.
What Cleveland management will need to decide is if Love, who struggled in the Finals, fits into the philosophy of the franchise going forward.
With the rising salary cap, Love’s value will only grow based on how salaries will skyrocket in the future.
The Cavaliers are limited when it comes to addressing their roster.
The options for Cleveland: bringing back its own free agents or exploring the free-agent market with limited resources.
Either option will have the Cavaliers looking for a backup point guard, small forward and center, and possibly a starting shooting guard.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Love
3. Kyrie Irving
4. Tristan Thompson
5. Iman Shumpert
6. Channing Frye
7. Mo Williams
8. Sasha Kaun
9. Jordan McRae
10. Dahntay Jones
FA cap holds
11. J.R. Smith
Full Bird rights
12. Timofey Mozgov
Full Bird rights
13. Matthew Dellavedova
Restricted/Full Bird rights
14. James Jones
Early Bird rights
15. Richard Jefferson
FA cap holds
None ($30,610,140 over)
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
With a projected cap of $94 million, Cleveland is one of the few teams that will focus on the luxury tax and not projected cap space.
The Cavaliers, with $99 million in guaranteed salaries, will see that number grow if they bring back their free agents.
Cleveland will have the tax mid-level exception of $3.4 million and minimum salaries to use if it wants to sign players outside of its core free agents.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: To Phoenix
Second round: To Boston
2018: To Portland (Pick Nos. 11-30)
2019: To Portland (Pick Nos. 11-30)
Cavs own their first-round picks beginning in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Key rights to: Dom Pointer (Round 2, No. 53, 2015); Cedi Osman (Round 2, No. 31, 2015)
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