A lot has been speculated about the Cavaliers plan for the future. I want to go into details regarding the possible options that the Cavaliers organization has following the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season.
As it stands at the moment, the projected salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is 62.1 million. This number could fluctuate up and down but the projection is that it will be around this 62 million mark. The Cavaliers currently have 20,321,323 in salary cap space if they went into free agency with Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and Sergey Karasev still on the roster. By waiving Anderson Varejao, the Cavaliers would have 26,121,323 in space because Varejao is only guaranteed 4 million of his 9.8 million dollar salary. The chances of the Cavaliers just waiving Anderson Varejao are very slim though.
His contract is very appealing for multiple reasons. For one, the contract is only partially guaranteed so the team acquiring Varejao could send out over 10 million in salary and then waive Varejao and save themselves 6 million dollars. Also, Varejao is a bargain for 9.8 million a year so he could easily bring back a quality asset in a trade. So, let’s say the Cavaliers were to trade Varejao around the draft and took back no salary at all. The team would have 29,121,323 in space with such a move.
Another method the Cavaliers could approach to dump salary would revolve around Jarrett Jack. Around draft time, the Cavaliers could attempt to dump Jack’s contract along with a low quality asset. If they used this approach, the Cavaliers would have 26,621,323 in salary cap space for free agency. But what is the most amount of salary cap space the Cavaliers could have this summer?
If the Cavaliers dumped both Varejao and Jack and took back no salary in return, the team would have 36,421,323 in cap space. If they also shipped out Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev for future assets, the team could have as much as 39,592,923 in salary cap space this summer with a roster consisting of Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters. I think it is probably unrealistic to think that the Cavaliers would get rid of both Zeller and Karasev though. I’m going to work under the assumption that the Cavaliers would not ditch Zeller and Karasev for next year. This would leave them going into free agency with a roster of Kyrie, Dion, Tristan, Bennett, Zeller, and Karasev and salary cap space of 36,421,323. This leaves the Cavaliers with a few different options for this summer. I’m going to outline them under three distinct paths.
Under Path 1, the Cavaliers attempt to keep max cap space open for next season. The cap space required for a max free agent is around 20,020,875 with a 4 year deal for 85,489,136 available to be offered. If the Cavaliers are attempting to keep this 20 million dollars open, the team would be left with 16,400,448 in cap space. They could use this 16,400,448 in a few different ways though. Luol Deng will likely request at least 33 million for 3 years or 42 million for 4 years. Let’s says for either of these deals though, the first year salary is around 10 million with a structure of around 10/11/12 or 9.5/10.25/10.75/11.5. Regardless, this would leave the Cavaliers with roughly 6,400,448 in space. This money could be used on Jarrett Jack if he is not traded. Or it could be used on Anderson Varejao/Spencer Hawes.
I am not sure how the rules operate for Varejao’s contract. I do not know if his last year could be entirely ripped up and a new contract be created or if we would have to drop the salary down to the 4 million mark and then work from there. Regardless, it may or may not be possible to retain Varejao with only 6.4 million in cap space. If Zeller and Karasev were traded, that 6.4 million could be as high as 9.6 million. Path 1 would result in Deng and Varejao being resigned leaving 20,020,875 in capspace for a max free agent. This would leave a lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Max Free Agent, Thompson, Varejao with Deng, Bennett, Zeller, and Karasev off of the bench. Another possible lineup could be Kyrie, Deng, Max Free Agent, Bennett, Varejao with Dion, Thompson, Zeller, and Karasev off of the bench.
Path 2 is the same as Path 1 to start out. Path 2 involves resigning Deng and then looking elsewhere for the use of the 6.4 million in cap space. Provided Spencer Hawes does exceptional over the rest of the season, the Cavaliers could look to resign him. What could Hawes’s projected salary look like though? To figure this out, I am going to look at some similar centers and their contracts.
Javale McGee signed a 4 year deal worth 44 million when he was 24 years old. During the previous season, he averaged splits of 11.3 ppg/7.8 rpg/.5 apg. McGee was seen as a very high potential player.
Nikola Pekovic signed a 5 year deal worth 60 million at the age of 27. During the previous season, Pekovic averaged splits of 16.3/8.8/.9. He is a good defensive center and was paid accordingly.
Marcin Gortat has been projected to receive a deal of around 4 years and 40 million dollars at the age of 30. He has had splits of 11.1/8.5/1.2 so far this season. This has already been described as the Wizards overpaying to keep their own.
Lastly, Spencer Hawes of 2012. At the age of 24, Hawes received a 2 year deal worth 13 million after a year in which he averaged 9.6/7.3/2.6. He is currently in the last year of that deal.
So what should Spencer Hawes of 2014 receive? He has averaged 13/8.5/3.3 at the age of 26 years old. These numbers could be slightly inflated due to the 76ers high number of possessions per game but that does not change the fact that he is a stretch big man who is an excellent passer and floor spacer. Based on the other centers’ deals, I feel like Hawes is probably going to be offered somewhere around 4 years for 36 million at the least. Other possible deals could be around 3 years for 30 million or 5 years for 42.5 million.
With the Cavaliers additional cap space, maybe they decide to resign Deng and Hawes. Hawes’s deal would probably be structured with a first year salary of somewhere between 7-9 million per year. Provided the Cavaliers can squeeze both Deng and Hawes into this 16.4 million in cap space (or 19.5 million if Zeller and Karasev are traded), the Cavaliers could have a starting lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Max Free Agent, Thompson, Hawes with Deng, Bennett, Zeller, and Karasev off of the bench.
Path 3 is both the safest and least exciting of the three paths. The Cavaliers would have 20,020875 in cap space with a roster of Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and Sergey Karasev. They retain the Bird Rights to Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes. The Cavaliers could choose to ignore the possible cap space and free agency and resign both Deng and Hawes. CJ Miles could possibly be retained as well. They could come out next year with a lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Deng, Thompson, Hawes with Jack, Miles, Bennett, Varejao, Zeller, and Karasev off of the bench. This is the deepest and most complete team and probably the most likely result as well. This team with a full year together and time for maturity could easily compete for a top 4 playoff seed in the East. Something to consider for next year is that Lebron and Carmelo could both be gone from their respective teams. If they chose to leave for a team in the Western Conference (unlikely at least in Lebron’s case), the Eastern conference would only have one dominant team left in the Pacers. The Pacers are faced with the possibility of losing Lance Stephenson as well in the offseason. The East could be even weaker next year (as scary and sad as that is to say).
BONUS PATH 4
Okay, so I lied when I said there were only three paths. Of course there are many, many, many more paths that the Cavaliers could go down this summer. One last path intrigued me, though. There is the possibility that Kevin Love will be available this summer. I am sure there will be other Superstars who are rumored to be available but Kevin Love has been mentioned for awhile. It is possible that Kevin Love could be traded from the Timberwolves this summer and if that were to happen, the Cavaliers would be a team that has the assets to possibly acquire him. The only way that I see Kevin Love being traded this summer is if he goes to management and tells them he wants traded, or tells them he wont resign, or the Timberwolves decide on their own to blow things up. If this did happen though, the Cavaliers could easily build an attractive package surrounding Waiters, Bennett, Thompson, Varejao, 2014 lottery pick, 2015 pick, 2015 Memphis pick, 2015 Miami pick, Zeller, Karasev, etc. Obviously the trade package would not and could not include all of these assets but a deal could most likely be struck using some of them. The price of Kevin Love would determine whether I would consider this path at all.
This post is coming up on 1700 words now so I will try to bring it to a brief close. The Cavaliers are at a crossroads this summer. There are a lot of different avenues that the organization could choose and everyone and their mother will have an opinion on what they should do. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens, this is still my team and will continue to be my team. I will support them (and criticize them when they make me angry) regardless of what happens this summer and I hope true Cavaliers fans will do the same. With that being said, what do you think the Cavaliers should do?