If the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted to waive veteran point guard Mo Williams and "stretch" the $2.2 million they owe him this season over the next three years, their deadline passed Wednesday. The decision is somewhat surprising, given that all signs seem to point to Williams retiring and the move would save the Cavs significant money in luxury tax.
According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers remain "highly skeptical" that Williams will return for the 2016-2017 season.
Vardon explained the situation here:
The front office has heard the same thing, on numerous occasions, just not from the player. Williams, who battled knee and thumb injuries for much of Cleveland's 2016 title run, will now probably make the full $2.2 million he's owed, unless he reaches a buyout agreement with the Cavs as part of his retirement -- should he choose to end his career after 13 seasons.
Had the Cavs waived him Wednesday, they would've saved millions next summer in luxury-tax penalties. The team is already nearly $24 million over the $94 million salary cap and $4 million over the threshold to have to pay a luxury tax, and that's without the likely re-signing of free agent guard J.R. Smith.
He also went on to mention that the Cavs may try to find a trade partner to take on Wiliiams salary, in order to help strengthen the Cavs backcourt. How feasible a move like that would be remains to be seen, as the Cavs don't have a lot of assets to pair with Williams to make a move more inciting. A trade with Williams would likely involve the Cavs taking an unwanted point guard off a teams hands in exchange for cash to buyout Williams.
In the event that the Cavs fail to move Williams and he does retire, the backup point guard position will likely be split by Jordan McRae and rookie Kay Felder. Other alternatives exist as well, like staggering the minutes of LeBron James and have him run the second unit with Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Channing Frye. Or one of the two backups can be included in that lineup where they would be in a sheltered role. Either way, the Cavs leave themselves thin and exposed in the regular season should Kyrie Irving miss time.
The Cavaliers could also sign a point guard in free agency. Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and Kendall Marshall.
Perhaps the decision to keep Williams on the books signals that David Griffin has a deal in mind, maybe it means nothing. But between the backup point guard position and the J.R. Smith contract situation, the Cavs enter September with a few important questions left unanswered.