Cleveland Cavaliers Salary Cap Outlook - 2012 and Beyond

Luke Walton, trade bait

National pundits regularly talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers as having a bright future. Much of this has to do with Kyrie Irving, and, to a lesser extent, Tristan Thompson and now Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. But it goes beyond the young players we have under contract. Much of the Cavaliers presumed future success is speculative, and will be dependent on the team using other assets, such as expiring contracts, draft picks, and salary cap space to improve the team beyond the young core of players Chris Grant has brought to Cleveland. While I will admit that the salary cap rules are very complex and don't pretend to know or understand all of them, this post will outline where the Cavs have money invested, and in the comments we can try and answer questions people might have. Follow the jump to see who gets paid what and what it means.

The first contract worth mentioning that the Cavaliers will have to honor this upcoming 2012-2013 is a guy who doesn't even play on the team, and yet will still be the highest earning salary the team pays. Yes, I am talking about Baron Davis, and the Cavaliers will be paying him just short of $15 million next season. As you read this, take a moment of silence to thank Dan Gilbert for absorbing Baron's ridiculous contract. If he had not been willing to do it, Kyrie Irving never would have come to Cleveland. Luckily, thanks to the amnesty rule, Davis's contract will not count towards the salary cap this year, and as you will see, this should afford the team significant flexibility.

The Cavaliers currently have 10 players under contract for 2012-2013 on guaranteed contracts. This means that the Cavaliers have no choice but to honor the contract, and they will almost certainly be on the team when the season starts. Their salary for the season, in millions, is listed next to them.

1. Anderson Varejao - $8.4

2. Kyrie Irving - $5.53

3. Luke Walton - $6.1

4. Daniel Gibson - $4.8 (only about half of which is guaranteed, but it would really be surprising if he wasn't brought back, for better or worse)

5. Tristan Thompson - $4.06

6. Dion Waiters - $3.73

7. Tyler Zeller - $1.56

8. Jeremy Pargo - $1.0

9. Luke Harangody - $1.0

10. Omri Casspi - $2.28

This comes to right around $40 million dollars, with five roster spots to fill. Alonzo Gee, Samardo Samuels, Jon Leuer, Kelenna Azubuike, and Kevin Jones would seem to be the most likely options to fill out the roster, and Gee is the only player who will make more than $1 million. The salary cap is set at $58 million for 2012-2013, which means that even with the most conservative estimate, the Cavaliers should have $10 million dollars to play with during the season. This could take the form of absorbing a "bad" contract that cash-strapped teams don't want to pay that might fill a void we have, or to pick up (another) future draft pick.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't just attempt to limit how much teams can spend. It also seeks to make sure teams are attempting to be competitive and make sure players are getting a good percentage of league revenue back in their contracts. One method to help in this endeavor is the salary floor. For this season the salary floor will be 85% of what the salary cap is, which comes to about $49.3 million this season. The Cavaliers would be in serious dangerous of failing to meet this threshold if it weren't for a certain Baron Davis, whose contract can be used to meet the floor despite his amnesty status. Baron Davis, helping the Cavaliers from the grave, God bless him (wait, your telling me he isn't dead? Well, this is awkward). Next year though, the salary cap is likely to increase to around $60 million, and the salary floor will be 90% of the cap figure moving forward. The Cavaliers will have to do some serious work to meet this threshold because, at the moment, the following are the team's only 2013-2014 salary commitments:

1. Anderson Varejao - $9.1

2. Kyrie Irving - $5.9 (this is a team option that will obviously be exercised)

3. Tristan Thompson - $4.3 (this is a team option that will obviously be exercised)

4. Dion Waiters - $3.9

5. Tyler Zeller - $1.6

6. 2013 Cavs first round pick

7. Heat/Lakers first round pick (the Lakers may actually be a better regular season team than the Heat at this point, by the way)

The way the rookie salary scale is structured, it would be nearly impossible for the two first round picks to cost anymore than a combined $6 million, so the Cavaliers only have about $30 million dollars committed for next season. They will have to find a way to add on about $25 million, at a minimum, just to reach the floor. So for everyone who wants to add no pieces at all because we are still just trying to build our young core, the time is running out for that. Next season, the team will have to invest serious dollars into improving the product.

For those of you worrying about Kyrie Irving's next contract, there is reason to rest easy. For one, the team has a few different options they can take in terms of keeping him in the Wine and Gold, and each option involves us having more money to offer him than anyone else. After his 2013-2014 season, the Cavaliers will be able to offer him an extension of up to 5 years. If he declines to accept this (which would be going against the grain of recent players like Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose who have jumped at the money) the Cavaliers still have another option for 2014-2015. Following that they will decide whether or not Irving is worthy of a qualifying offer. They almost certainly will extend that offer, making him a restricted free agent. At that point, Irving can either accept the qualifying offer (which no one would do, because it involves walking away from guaranteed money), or he could sign a max deal with another team, which the Cavs could and would match. Long story short, Mr. Irving will be in the Wine and Gold for the foreseeable future.

One last note, and then we can do questions in the comments. With Walton, Gibson, Casspi, and the other players who are on one year deals coming off the books after the season, the Cavaliers are going to have a lot of expiring contracts they can use in potential deals. Cap space, expiring contracts, first round draft picks galore, and most importantly, that Kyrie Irving guy- they are right when they say the Cavaliers are in good shape.

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