Another stated goal is to dump off some salary and reduce the luxury tax bill.
The Cavs – who reportedly lost more than $40 million last season – are on track to become the second team in NBA history to pay the luxury-tax repeater rate. They’ve led the league in payroll, racking up big luxury-tax bills, the last two seasons. They even pulled the rare feat of carving out max cap space (used on LeBron James) then getting about the luxury-tax line in the same season three years ago, finishing second to the Nets in spending that season.
Cleveland now faces a luxury-tax bill north of $78 million – which would eclipse its 2015-16 mark ($54 million) as the second highest tax payment ever, trailing just 2013-14 Brooklyn (nearly $91 million).
Most teams would never spend as much as the Cavaliers have the previous three seasons. Most teams would never approach Cleveland’s costs this year, which include $142 million in player salaries.
But most teams don’t have LeBron.
Is cutting costs the message the Cavaliers want to send as LeBron enters a contract year?
If so, they have a few candidates for shedding:
- Tristan Thompson – three years, $52,408,695 remaining
- J.R. Smith – three years, $44,160,000 remaining (just $3.87 million of $15.68 million guaranteed final year)
- Iman Shumpert – two years, $21,348,313 remaining
- Channing Frye – one year, $7,420,912 remaining
All those players, roughly in order of salary, contribute to winning.
The Cavs should have little trouble unloading those contracts in an Irving trade. He’s so valuable, teams will incur a lopsided financial deal to get him. They’ll just send Cleveland less talent to compensate.
It’s the classic dilemma – money vs. on-court success. Teams evaluate this tradeoff every day.
For the Cavaliers, there’s just the additional pressure of LeBron’s looming free agency.