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How the Cavs should spend the last of their mid-level exception

With about half of their taxpayer mid-level exception, there is only one option left for the Cavs

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Cedi Osman to a three year, $8.3 million dollar deal. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Cavs will use a portion of their taxpayers mid-level exception (MLE) to ink Osman to the deal and they have $2.4 million remaining on the exception.

This number becomes interesting for the Cavs because they have one roster spot left to fill and the $2.4 million they have left on their MLE is almost identical to the veterans minimum of $2.3 million. The Cavs would be smart to use the the rest of their exception on a younger player in free agency at this point. If a player comes along that has over 10 years of service, then the Cavs could just pay him the veterans minimum of $2.3 million and not have to touch the remaining funds on their MLE.

At this point, it has become clear that any kind of buyout that the Cavs want a part of won’t come until later in the season when a good portion of the players’ contract would already have been paid out. A championship contender like the Cavs could potentially entice such a player to sign hopes of winning a ring, playing at the minimum salary. A players’ overall loss in total salary wouldn’t be substantial, like it would have if it happened at the beginning of the season.

The only way that the Cavs can get any use out of the remaining MLE money would be if it were to pay a younger player more than the the league minimum owed to that player, in hopes they would sign on with the Cavs. This makes a great deal of sense because the Cavs need another young, but experienced, NBA player to help play out the marathon that is the NBA regular season.

At one point this off-season it made some sense for the Cavs to hold onto their MLE in case one of their rumored buyout targets, Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade, became available. The full MLE of $5.2 million would have helped in making either player closer to “whole” after a buyout. However, neither situation looks likely at this point. The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks have been engaged in trade talks that would send Carmelo Anthony to Houston. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday, that the Rockets and Knicks are “motivated’ to reach an agreement. Recent trade talks between the two clubs included a third and fourth potential team, as they try to make the money work.

As for Wade’s potential buyout, things don’t appear promising there either. According to ESPN, the Chicago Bulls don’t have any plans to buyout Wade. Bulls executive John Paxson had this to say in regards to the subject,

“I know [general manager] Gar [Forman] has spoken to Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent,” Paxson said. “As far as a buyout, it has not been broached. I will say this, that in this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would absolutely have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations. He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well. So right now we’re operating under the assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, then it would have to be advantageous for us.”

“Advantageous” for the Bulls means big pay-cut for Wade, who is set to make $23.8 million this season. It would seem that any Wade buyout is not on the horizon and would more than likely come sometime well into the season, if at all. It isn’t a situation the Cavs have the luxury to bank on and if it did happen in the spring sometime, Cleveland would still be a prime landing spot for Wade, who certainly would only take a pay-cut in exchange for a chance to win.

There are still a number of free agents on the market that could help the Cavs and fill their last roster spot admirably. A number of unsigned players could end up playing somewhere for the league minimum, worth anywhere from $815,615 to $2.3 million for next year.

As you can see, if the Cavs were to target a younger player still on the free agent market, the remaining $2.4 million on their MLE could come in handy. At the same time, there really is no reason to hold on to it for a veteran, as they could just use the veteran’s minimum. The Cavs need young legs to help play minutes during the 82 game regular season. Based on every NBA team’s current roster composition, the Cavs are the oldest team in the league with an average player age of 30.0. They are the only NBA team with an average player age over 28.7.

The core of the Cavs team is in place, at this point they need to add a player that has some playing experience in the league and can play significant minutes throughout the season. And maybe that player could improve over the corse of the season, too. A decent defender never hurt anyone either.