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 ShamSports.com data, here it is.
— Jacob Rosen (@WFNYJacob) July 2, 2014
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.