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NBA Draft and Free Agency: Cleveland Cavalier assets and salary liability

The NBA season is over and the lottery order is set. How much do the Cleveland Cavaliers have to spend? How much money will our rookies make?


One of the fun things I do as an obsessive fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers is keep a spreadsheet of Cleveland Cavaliers salaries and commitments. As we move toward the NBA Draft and free agency with another season completed, there is a bit of uncertainty with the spreadsheet, but there are also some really satisfying things involved as well:

  • I was able to remove the names of Omri Casspi, Luke Harangody and Daniel Gibson.
  • I increased the amount of money that will likely go to our first round draft choice, as it is no longer the third, fourth or fifth pick, but instead the first overall choice.
  • In the place of that first overall choice, it now says Nerlens Noel (please Chris Grant, don't make this bullet point sad. Also, guess what name I have slotted in for the 19th pick?).

2013-2014 Salaries*

Anderson Varejao, C - $9.1

Kyrie Irving, PG - $5.915

Dion Waiters, SG - $3.89

Tristan Thompson, PF - $4.285

Tyler Zeller, C - $1.63

Alonzo Gee, SG/SF - $3.25

CJ Miles, SG/SF - $2.25 **

Marreese Speights, PF - $4.6 ***

2013 1st round draft pick, 1st choice - $5.2

2013 1st round draft pick, 19th choice - $1.5

* all salaries in millions

** The Cavaliers have a team option for Miles, which they are overwhelmingly likely to exercise.

*** Speights has a player option. I have no idea whether or not he will exercise it.

The draft picks will be slotted slightly lower as cap holds than what I have listed. NBA teams consistently sign rookies to the 120% maximum increase over what the slotted value actually is. The amount I am accounting for takes this into account, but would mean that the Cavaliers have an extra $1 million or so should they use all of their cap space.

If Speights opts in, and Miles' option is exercised, the Cavaliers have 10 players who will have guaranteed contracts at a total cost of around $41.6 million. Cleveland will also have the option to extend qualifying offers to Omri Casspi of $3.3 million (LOL) and Wayne Ellington, $3.1 million (likely). If the Cavaliers extend the offer to Ellington, a few things happen. One, a cap hold of $3.1 million gets added to the Cavaliers total, which would put them at $44.7 million. Two, Ellington becomes a restricted free agent, and the Cavs can match any deal he signs with another team or sign him to a long-term deal themselves. Three, Ellington can simply sign the one year offer.

The salary cap, which was $58 million this year, is likely to increase to about $60 or $61 million. The salary floor, starting next season, is 90% of the salary cap. There is no real penalty for failing to reach the floor, and it is not taken into account until the season is over. The Cavaliers can add on salary throughout the season to reach the floor, or the money needed to reach the floor is distributed to players under contract. I don't believe this will be an issue for Cleveland. If Speights, Ellington, and Miles return Cleveland will need to spend about $10 million to get the the floor. Given the reports about the Cavaliers intention to be aggressive in trying to win, I don't see it as being all that difficult. While there is no real penalty, it would be a serious public relations hit. The players union would be upset that Cleveland wasn't paying players, it would give the appearance that the team isn't serious about winning, and people would (mistakenly) think Dan Gilbert was being cheap.

Future Draft picks owed

The Cavaliers don't owe anyone any draft picks. But other teams sure do owe us quite a few. Let's take a look.

2013 - the Cavaliers own the rights to the 1st, 19th (from Miami, via Los Angeles) , 31st (from Orlando), and 33rd draft picks in the 2013 draft. Only first round picks are guaranteed contracts.

2014 - Sacramento sends its 1st round pick to Cleveland, top 12 protected. Sacramento can miss playoffs, but must pick 13th or 14th for Cleveland to collect. If this isn't the case, the pick is top 10 protected from 2015-2017. Frankly, if the Cavaliers don't receive this pick in the next four years, I will feel a lot worse for the people of Sacramento than I do for our Cavs on missing out.

Memphis and Orlando will also be sending Cleveland its 2nd round picks.

2015 - Miami sends its first round pick to Cleveland, top 10 protected. It is also top 10 protected in 2016 before losing its protections in 2017. In all likelihood this won't be a great pick, but who knows if the Big 3 will stay together?

This is also the first chance Cleveland will have at the Memphis protected lottery pick. The protections are as follows: 1-5 and 15-30 protected in 2015 and 2016, 1-5 protected in 2017 and 2018, and finally unprotected in 2019. I have no idea when we are going to see these picks.

So there you have it. Didn't exactly clear everything up did I? At this point in the offseason, it is nearly impossible. The Cavaliers will, at minimum, have $16 million of cap space, and anywhere from 3-5 roster spots to fill to get to 15. Should be interesting.