For Cavs, the time to spend is now

david griffin

The Cavaliers have already had one heck of an offseason. They drafted Andrew Wiggins with the first pick and signed Kyrie Irving to a max extension. Those two moves alone have set them up to be relevant for hopefully the next 5-6 years. But, what about another big splash this offseason? Twenty-four hours ago when I started thinking about writing this, the Heat’s Big Three looked to be a little more unified. Nevertheless,what the Cavaliers cannot have happen, regardless of the James situation, is fail to capitalize on the tremendous amount of cap space that they’ve allotted themselves.

If you haven’t seen Jacob’s graphic that he assembled data, here it is.

It outlines how much cap space the Cavaliers currently have under the projected salary cap figure (about $14 million dollars if you include Varejao and exclude Hopson, Delly, and the two second round draft picks). That figure is likely to dwindle next offseason for several reasons. The first is Irving’s max, which will pay him $15.8 million if he’s at the 25% cap rate. Next, the raises of all their high draft picks (Waiters, Zeller, Thompson, Bennett, Wiggins) will account for another $4.5 million or so. If they don’t trade Jarrett Jack (they should), he will be another $6.3 million. Factor in a couple of likely signings (whether large or not), and it just seems unlikely that the Cavaliers roster will ever be this flexible again in the foreseeable future.

Is paying Gordon Hayward a max contract of 4-years and $63 million, starting at $14.8 million, overpaying him? Yes, I believe it is. But, I also believe that’s the nature of free agency. We see it every single season with bloated free agent contracts. But, if you are going to overspend and enter the free agency game, it makes sense to overspend on a 24-year-old that can score, create, and facilitate that fits well with your other franchise cornerstone pieces. Hayward has good size, and he won’t be asked to fill the same alpha dog role he was this past season in Utah where his shooting dipped1. If the Cavs think he is the best player that they can acquire in free agency this summer, they should offer him the deal and make Utah bite the bullet and match it. It would seem that’s something that is quite up in the air anyway. To me, the Cavaliers should have a decent enough feel of the landscape on other guys by the time they offer Hayward the deal officially that the three days shouldn’t sink them.

Paying an average of ~$16 million over four years for Hayward is probably about $10 million dollars over what he really should get for the life of the contract, in my opinion. But, how else are the Cavaliers going to acquire this type of talent? We should hopefully not have our own pick near the top of the draft for quite some time, and as this young core ages, the Cavaliers will have some decisions to make about who to pay and who to let walk. The wine and gold will not have this many young players on the cheap with potential trade value in the seasons going forward, which will make trades all the more difficult. The free agency woes of a town like Cleveland are also well-documented.

Dan Gilbert has relentlessly shown in this rebuilding phase that he is willing to pay the price to turn this team around. From the Baron Davis trade that netted us Kyrie, to the bench-energizing move for Ellington and Speights in 2013, to the Andrew Bynum signing, to the Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes trades, Gilbert has consistently thrown dollars around in an attempt to make this team better. Even if this signing eventually takes them into the luxury tax, there seems to be no indication that Gilbert wouldn’t pay the tax in successive seasons, despite its much more punitive nature under the new CBA.

The shrewd acquisition of Brendan Haywood’s services creates another interesting angle for things, however. Haywood could be used as a large part of a deal to acquire a high-dollar guy and provide the other team substantial cap savings. The Cavs could in effect acquire a player of the same caliber that they could sign this offseason. As we know, it’s much more likely that a trade or sign-and-trade is the way something substantial is going to get done for the Cavaliers. Still, tossing James completely out of the picture, a team with Kyrie, Hayward, Wiggins, and another $10+ million dollar guy could be a pretty fun team in 2015-16.

This isn’t throwing a bunch of money at an injury-riddled player or washed up All-Star or somebody north of thirty. If the Cavaliers can make a substantial offer to Hayward, Parsons, or the like2, then they should do it. Having a chance to pair 3-5 young (19-25 year old) talents together for several years is not something that many NBA teams are in the position to do. The Cavaliers with their high-drafting for four years straight suddenly have been afforded that ability.

  1. One interesting stat I noticed was that Hayward shot just 28% from the corner last season, but his career average still sits at 37%. []
  2. I’m not as big on Greg Monroe as far as fit, for what it’s worth, but you never know. []

  • Clown Baby

    Kirk, did we just become best friends?

  • WFNYKirk

    YUP! 🙂

  • thenoclist

    You guys have so much room for activities.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Amen Kirk Amen! Besides taking a shot at Hayward which depending on what you read may not even happen I wouldn’t mind seeing a run at Chandler Parsons and/or Greg Monroe. I think Parsons would be the longest shot of the three but you never know unless you try.

    In addition to that maybe they can flip Jack and get out from under his deal. I also think it’s time to really think about Varejao. Some would have a very hard time seeing Varejao go but the fact that he can’t play anything close to a full season heck 3/4 of a season for the money he gets is hurting this team. Either that or how about a pay cut Andy so your team can get better? Also if he does stick around I would like to see him return to what made his name and that was coming off the bench.

  • Jaker

    Right on Kirk. I assume you don’t think Monroe could play Center, but it sounds like he could in Blatt’s system of High IQ athletic Bigs. Is there a way to sign Parsons and do a Sign and Trade for Monroe? I think it wouldn’t cost us much more than Waiters(who I am moving on from). Then trade JJ for Thornton and sign Mo Williams (MOGOTTI), and I think we have a playoff team!

    Dream Big, right?

  • Steve

    The Cavs could easily have this kind of flexibility just next offseason. With Varejao off the books, let Thompson walk instead of overpaying and you’ll have room for a max deal again.

    Until the Cavs give a big extension to one of their lottery picks (and which of Thompson, Waiters, Bennett are you willing to overpay to keep?) it is unlikely they will be in a position where they can’t make, at most, some small moves to get well under the salary cap.

    And once again, the narrative that Gilbert is willing to spend rears its ugly head. One, assuming the Cavs keep the guys that we expect, they will be about $10M under the cap minimum. If Gilbert doesn’t throw a bunch of money around, he doesn’t get to keep it. Second, the Cavs are going to end up right around the cap when all is said and done. 25 teams spent at the cap or above last year. So, kudos to Gilbert for keeping up with the Bobcats, Magic, and Pistons.

  • architrance

    I absolutely agree. The Cavs need to MAX out their cap space this summer, before Kyrie’s deal kicks in. Hopefully Gilbert’s wallet agrees. I actually don’t mind Andy’s team option, assuming it doesn’t get in the way of signing whatever free agents they target. At ~$10m he becomes a great expiring contract that can be flipped for another upgrade. Deal him or not, they can resign him next summer to a much smaller contract.

    The Problem, I think, is still Lebron. I’m actually starting to think that the Heat are Toast. They are running into the same problem the Cavs had when Lebron was noncommittal – who wants to sign with them if they have no assurance Lebron stays? Wade/Bosh aren’t going to resign until he signs. No other big free agent is going to take a pay cut to play for the Heat when NONE of those 3 have committed. The longer Lebron takes, the more free agents the Heat lose out on (assuming they even have ANY cap space to make real offers). I just don’t see them being able to improve that roster at all unless they get a commitment from Lebron ASAP and some players agree to take some serious pay cuts. Will all that happen? I’m doubting it.

    So, I think the Cavs are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how this plays out.

    Of course another reason why the NBA is SO messed up is that none of these announced “deals” are real yet. All verbal agreements. EVERYTHING could still change, right Carlos?

  • TNB

    Am I the only one who can see a sign and trade happening with the Heat and cavs for LeBron? LeBron wants a max, the cavs can make the space, and the heat can still resign bosh and wade at discounted prices to pick up a pair of players like Dion/Andy? Or even signing and moving Hayward (has there ever been a double sign and trade?)

  • J R

    The Cavs should have a hard deadline for the James camp to sort out things. After that time has come and gone, you proceed full speed on making this team better, sans Lebron. If he has any interest, Rich Paul will at least notify Griffin.

  • architrance

    WHY? He’s a free agent – just sign him, without giving anything (except $$) up. Why drain more talent from the roster??

  • Samuel Barrick

    I am probably wrong, but I thought the NBA had a rule against trading a player that signed with your team from somewhere else while the ink on the contract is still wet.

  • WFNYKirk

    Correct. The only team that could S&T Hayward is Utah. No double sign and trades!

  • Mookie

    They should be doing this already. Lebron James isn’t coming back to Cleveland. Not this summer at least.