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If LeBron James returns to Cleveland, salary plus tax could top $300 million

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I know what Dan Gilbert is going to do with his money from the recent tax cut…

The current highest payroll in NBA history is the 2013-14 “we’re moving into a new building so spend like mad” Brooklyn Nets at $193 million. Next season a couple NBA teams could blow that out of the water — to the tune of $300 million in salary and tax. One is the Oklahoma City Thunder if Paul George returns on a max deal and if, as expected, Carmelo Anthony opts into the $28 million he is owed on his current contract (remember the Thunder already gave Russell Westbrook a max extension).

The other is the Cleveland Cavaliers if LeBron James returns.

A couple of weeks ago that seemed as likely as a Nigerian bobsled gold medal, but after the roster shakeup at the trade deadline, LeBron is playing with a renewed energy and the Cavaliers look like they again are the team to beat in the East (it’s just two games, I’m not fully buying yet, but they’re improved). There’s a chance LeBron stays in Cleveland. How big a chance depends right now on who you ask, and at the end of the day will depend on how the new-look Cavaliers fare in the playoffs, but there is a chance again.

But if he stays, it gets crazy expensive, as Brian Windhorst laid out at ESPN.

Focusing on the future, if James remains and accepts a new max contract or picks up his option and the Cavs re-sign Hood — who will be a restricted free agent — they will break all current records.

It is hard to predict the market for restricted free agents. This summer is especially challenging because teams are expected to tighten spending. If James stays and Rodney Hood remains with Cleveland and lands a long-term deal that starts at $12 million or more, the Cavs would likely crest $300 million in total spending based on the contracts they have on their books. That would include roughly $150 million in luxury tax alone.

Gilbert has said he will pay it — and it’s worth it to him. With that level of expense the Cavaliers might lose money on the balance sheet for the year, but the franchise valuation will remain high (Forbes just estimated it at $1.3 billion). If LeBron leaves the franchise worth will drop down to one of the lower numbers in the league (around $1 billion), so a small loss year-over-year is worth it. Especially if Gilbert decides to get out and sell.

It’s something to watch this summer — two middle-to-small market teams may have the highest payrolls in NBA history. All in the pursuit of a title (and higher franchise values).

PBT Extra: One last mock draft of NBA lottery

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DeAndre Ayton will go No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. Marvin Bagley III probably goes second to Sacramento (but that’s not a lock).

After that, things get wide open in the 2018 NBA Draft. Teams value different players at very different levels this year, and there are going to be a number of trades.

Which makes putting together a mock draft for this year more random than a roulette wheel. Not that it stopped me. Here is my final mock draft for the 14 lottery picks. I present it without much confidence, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.

Report: Dewayne Dedmon opts in for $6.3 million with Hawks

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The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.

And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.

He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $6.3 million.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.

Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.

If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.

Nick Young says ‘everybody needs to do cocaine,’ later insists he was joking

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Nick Young will say and do nearly anything for attention.

Empowered by the Warriors’ championship, he swung for the fences when asked about Canada passing marijuana legalization.

Young, via TMZ:

“I want people to pass cocaine,” the NBA star told TMZ Sports outside 1 OAK on Tuesday night … “Everybody needs to do cocaine!”

Predictably, that caused a bit of an uproar. Then, Young backtracked:

Chill. You know I was just joking

A post shared by Nick Young (@swaggyp1) on

Too late, Nick. People are already asking questions you don’t want asked.

Report: 76ers trade No. 39 pick to Lakers

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The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.

Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.

So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.

Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.