LeBron James has decided to reject his player option and opt out of the final year of contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, though the whole ordeal will probably end with him getting a more advantageous contract based on the salary cap raise.
James, coming off a monstrous NBA Finals performance which saw him gather over 35 points, 8 assists and 13 rebounds on average for all the games, is unlikely to want to leave Cleveland just one year after he stunned the Miami Heat, but Cleveland’s uncertain summer might prove a factor in his decision.
The Cavs GM and financial team will have their work cut out for themselves as Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert will all search for better deals starting with Wednesday, when the official free agency period begins.
Love will surely settle for nothing less than a maximum contract, while Tristan Thompson – one of Cleveland’s overachievers in a injury-ridden late play-off run – will certainly want his $5 million contract rise up to better reflect his contribution to the team. He is also massively appreciated by James who, as popular belief has it, is the GM, coach and almighty demigod of the Cavs.
The truth which the Cavaliers have to face is that maintaining the current roster with all the monetary desires of its free agents will probably have it smash its way past the luxury tax, probably even to 2013’s Brooklyn Nets level. For example, it would have one of the best front courts in the NBA, if Love and Thompson return to join Varejao and Mozgov, but at the same time it would be by far the most expensive.
However, if Cleveland doesn’t manage to keep together most of the roster with which it reached 2015’s finals, it might prove to be the impetus necessary for James to move on yet again to a more competitive team. One possible solution, albeit an ugly one, would be the leave Kevin Love go.
Love never reached the apex of his Minnesota performances during his first season with the Cavs, while he and James never seemed to form a lucrative cooperation. At his best Love was chugging series of 3-pointers during close games, a role which JR Smith could more or less reliably accomplish, and missed most of the play-offs after dislocating his shoulder in the last match of the first series against Boston. Given James’ appreciation for Thompson’s game, he wouldn’t probably be that disappointed at the departure of a player with superstar status.
But Cleveland will be haunted in this case by their decision to trade away two no.1 draft picks for Love last summer. Granted, Anthony Bennett is still deadwood and is probably one of the worst no.1 picks in recent history, but Andrew Wiggins showed great promise in his first year which ended in a Rookie of the Year award, and could have been a viable back-up should the financial whims of J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert are unreasonable.
The Cavaliers are also trying to offload what might be one of the worst value for money players last season, veteran player Brendan Haywood. The former Wizard was mostly a bench warmer and scored under 2 points and rebounds per game, while his salary is set to soar up to $5 million next season. For a player who didn’t see one minute of play-off action despite being fit in an injury-riddled team, we can say that it is excessive. Unfortunately for the Cavs, few teams would consider taking on Haywood even if they were paid to do it.
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