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NBA Free Agency: Exploring the Cleveland Cavaliers salary cap situation

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The Cleveland Cavaliers enter the offseason with the potential to have plenty of cap space.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA draft is just barely behind us, but the breakneck pace of the NBA offseason rests for no one. Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has a lot on his plate in his first summer at the helm. He said in Andrew Wiggins' introductory press conference that adding the Kansas wing was just the first move of what he hopes is a "monumental" offseason.

The next big phase of the summer, of course, is free agency. On July 1st teams are able to reach out to free agents and start negotiating contracts. Contracts can not be signed until July 10th. The league salaries turn over on Tuesday, and the salaries players have for the 2014-15 season become operative.

A few things will happen immediately:

  • Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be eligible for extensions. However, their salaries for next season are already set in stone. Irving will make a little over $7 million, Thompson a little over $5.1 million. The extensions would kick in the following season.
  • Luol Deng, Spencer Hawes, C.J. Miles and Andrew Wiggins will have cap holds. This means that even though Deng, Hawes, and Miles are free agents, their potential salaries tie up potential cap space. It's likely the Cavs will renounce all but Andrew Wiggins' deal. It won't necessarily mean that the team doesn't have the intention of bringing the players back, just that the Cavaliers value the flexibility of having cap space.
  • A strong free agent class headlined by LeBron James will become available. The salary cap for next season is projected to be $63.2 million.

So what will the Cavs cap situation look like? Will the team have space to add a free agent of two? The Cavs have a lot of flexibility, which makes it difficult to outline in some respects.

The first thing I would say about this is that it isn't exactly a good representation of Andrew Wiggins' cap hold. This represents Wiggins as signing a contract of 120% the slotted salary of the top pick. It's exceedingly likely that he will make that amount. Until he signs the contract, though, he will count as 100% of the slotted salary. His cap hold will actually be $4.59 million during free agency.

The Cavs will probably renounce their free agents' immediately. This would leave Anderson Varejao, Irving, Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Jarrett Jack, Wiggins, Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix, Brendan Haywood, Matthew Dellavedova, Scotty Hopson and Anthony Bennett with salaries for next year totaling about $51 million.

Hopson's contract is not guaranteed, so the Cavs could create $1.45 million in space immediately. Anderson Varejao has $4 million of a $9.7 million deal guaranteed. If the Cavs waived Varejao, that $4 million would count against the Cavaliers cap. It's incredibly likely the Cavaliers could find a taker for Andy's contract if they really do need to create cap space quickly.

And that's a salient point for the entirety of the Cavaliers roster, really. Aside from Jarrett Jack, each contract on the team could be moved very easily, and there is probably no shortage of teams willing to take Jack on.

We don't entirely know what the Cavs needs or targets are going to be in free agency. There may be a trade or two or three coming. The Cavaliers have so many young and unproven players that it's a little difficult to think through. For example, they could probably use an upgrade at power forward. But if you sign a free agent, there probably won't be enough minutes for both Thompson and Bennett.

Finding the right mix of veterans that can supplement the team's talented young core should probably be the goal. At minimum, the Cavs are likely to have $13 million in space. We will continue to keep you updated and give our take on what we want the Cavs to do, and what the Cavs ultimately do.