Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James To Decline Player Option

Although LeBron James has indicated he’ll return to the Cavaliers for the 2016/17 season, he won’t do so on his current contract. Agent Rich Paul tells Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com that his client will decline his player option and sign a new deal.

James’ decision doesn’t come as a real surprise, since opting out and re-upping with the Cavs ensures that he’ll get a larger raise than he otherwise would have. LeBron’s player option for 2016/17 was worth just over $24MM. Depending on what type of deal he signs, the reigning Finals MVP figures to earn a salary closer to $30MM on a new contract.

According to Haynes, Paul says no decision has been made on what type of contract James will sign, and there’s no timetable for when that new deal will be made official. The situation is a little complicated, since Cleveland only holds Early Bird rights on LeBron. An Early Bird deal would allow for a 30% raise on his 2015/16 salary, but the contract would have to be for at least two years, with no options. A Non-Bird agreement would allow him to opt out again in 2017, but would mean accepting a more modest raise.

With the salary cap set to rise again in 2017/18, and James earning Bird Rights with the Cavaliers at that point, it makes sense for him to wait one more year to sign a longer-term contract, since Cleveland doesn’t have the cap room to accommodate a long-term, max contract at this point. No matter what type of contract LeBron signs, he intends to sign it with the Cavs — he and Kyrie Irving and the rest of his Cleveland teammates will look to defend the first title in franchise history.

“I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates,””James said on the day of the Cavs’ championship parade through downtown Cleveland. “Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I’m happy. I’ve got no plans to go nowhere at this point.”

Cavs To Pick Up Team Option On Jordan McRae

The Cavaliers will exercise their team option for 2016/17 on guard Jordan McRae, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. The team’s decision, which was due later this week, will ensure McRae remains on the roster for now, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee him a roster spot for the regular season. According to Haynes, McRae’s ’16/17 salary isn’t fully guaranteed.

After initially signing McRae to a 10-day contract earlier in the year, the Cavs liked what they saw from the  Tennessee product, ultimately inking him to a two-year deal. McRae didn’t see much action for the champs in the regular season or the playoffs — he briefly appeared in garbage time in two postseason games, and averaged 7.5 minutes in 15 regular-season contests.

Still, one of those in which McRae appeared was the regular-season finale, when the Cavs rested their regulars and gave their bench players an opportunity to start. McRae went off for 36 points in that game, easily a new career high.

Unlike most teams around the NBA, Cleveland doesn’t expect to have or use any room under the cap this summer. As such, turning down McRae’s option wouldn’t have freed up any cap space to sign a replacement, particularly since it’s only a minimum-salary option, worth about $875K. So it makes sense that the Cavs picked it up.

With McRae’s option set to be exercised, there are only a couple more team option decisions remaining, as our free agent list shows. NBA clubs typically don’t use team options in free agent contracts too often, since non-guaranteed salaries have a similar function, and give teams more flexibility, since they aren’t limited to a June decision deadline.

Richard Jefferson Expected To Continue Career

Richard Jefferson has reconsidered his post-Finals retirement declaration, tweets Chris Mannix of The Vertical. According to Mannix, not only is Jefferson not retiring, but he’s now planning to play for two or three more seasons.

Jefferson’s retirement “announcement” came just minutes after Cleveland’s Game 7 win over Golden State, when he told reporters that his career was done, adding that it was a “hell of a way to go out.” A few days later, the veteran forward admitted that his decision to retire was hardly set in stone, adding that his Cavaliers teammates were trying to talk him out of it, and that it was “still up for debate.”

A Finals win with the Cavs would indeed have been a storybook ending for Jefferson, who turned 36 last Tuesday and hadn’t previously won a championship over the course of his 15-year NBA career. Still, he played a crucial role in Cleveland’s victory, playing key minutes in the postseason, including in the Finals. Coming off a season in which he appeared in 95 total regular-season and playoff games, Jefferson – a pending free agent – still looks to have something left in the tank.

While he inked a minimum-salary contract with the Cavaliers last year, Jefferson could very well receive larger offers this time around, with the salary cap set to increase by nearly $25MM per team. Of course, if his number one goal is to win a second title, he could also be happy settling for another minimum-salary deal for a contender. Either way, it appears Jefferson won’t be calling it a career quite yet after all.

Kay Felder Has Good Chance To Stick

  • Point guard Kay Felder‘s chances of making the Cavaliers roster next season are enhanced by the fact that they paid the Hawks $2.4MM to draft him, Lev Facher of USA Today reports. The 5’9” Felder out of Oakland University was selected with the No. 54 overall pick. “That means a lot to give up all that money for one pick,” Felder told Facher. “Man — I owe them.” Felder’s would have an even better shot at making the opening-night roster if restricted free agent Matthew Dellavedova receives an offer sheet that Cleveland won’t match.

Griffin Intends To Keep Team Together

  • Former NBA head coach Mike Brown is a “strong contender” to become an assistant coach with the Warriors, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Brown and Tyrone Corbin were believed to be the finalists for the position, but Corbin will join Earl Watson’s staff in Phoenix. Brown has a 347-216 record as head coach of the Cavaliers and Lakers.
  • Cavaliers GM David Griffin doesn’t expect to make any major changes to the NBA champs this summer, Stein tweets. “We intend to keep this group together and see what we’re capable of,” Griffin said today during an appearance on ESPN Radio.

Love Won't Play In Olympics; Could James Jones Be Retiring?

  • Kevin Love received an invitation to play in the Olympics this summer, but he has declined, opting to rest after the Cavs‘ long playoff run, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Love took to Instagram earlier today to write an open letter thanking Cavs teammate James Jones for teaching him how to be a better teammate and how to put the team first. Such a sentiment could be foreshadowing Jones’ potential retirement, although that is merely my speculation. Jones and Love both arrived in Cleveland during the 2014 offseason.

Cavs Called Pistons About No. 49 Pick

  • The Cavaliers, Grizzlies, and Celtics all called the Pistons about acquiring the No. 49 pick, according to Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers (via Twitter). As we heard earlier on Thursday, Cleveland was looking to land Kay Felder, and was eventually able to grab the No. 54 selection to nab him.

Cavs Acquire No. 54 From Hawks, Draft Kay Felder

The Cavaliers, who entered the night without a draft pick, have moved into the second round, buying the No. 54 overall selection from the Hawks, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link), who reports that Cleveland is using the pick to draft Oakland point guard Kay Felder.

According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net (via Twitter), the Cavaliers made an effort to buy the Pistons’ pick at No. 49 in an effort to land Felder there. Cleveland ultimately landed the No. 54 pick for $2.4MM, per Amico.

Charania adds (via Twitter) that LeBron James was a major proponent of the move to get into the draft to select Felder.

Draft Rumors: Celtics, Bender, Ingram, Valentine

The Celtics weren’t able to find “realistic deals” for the No. 3 pick, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There was speculation that several teams, most notably the Sixers, were trying to acquire the pick to get their hands on Providence point guard Kris Dunn, but the Celtics never found an offer they liked. Instead, Boston used the pick to grab California power forward Jaylen Brown, whom the team intends to keep, according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said the team never came close to making a deal, tweets Adam Kauffman of WBZ News Radio in Boston. “We did not sniff a trade today,” Grousbeck said. “It was a collection of rip-off attempts, and we laughed at them.”

There’s more as draft night heats up:

  • French power forward Guerschon Yabusele, the Celtics’ pick at No. 16, will probably be a draft-and-stash player, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical.
  • The NBA opt-out clause for Dragan Bender is $1.2MM, according to international basketball journalist David Pick (Twitter link). The Croatian big man, who was selected fourth overall by the Suns tonight, will contribute to his release, says Pick.
  • Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said his team received a lot of trade interest in the No. 2 pick, but was’t offered anything compelling enough to give up the rights to Brandon Ingram, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
  • The Bulls will keep Denzel Valentine, who was their choice at No. 14, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Chicago had him ranked second on its draft board behind Dunn.
  • Before they made their pick at No. 13, the Kings called the Pistons about the possibility of moving back to No. 18, but Detroit turned down the offer, reports Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers, who currently don’t have a pick in either round, are trying to obtain a second-round choice, tweets Chris Haynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Offseason Outlook: Cleveland Cavaliers

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.

State Of The Franchise

Forgive the Cavaliers and their fans if they’re not quite ready for the offseason to get underway quite yet. It has been four days since Cleveland won its first major sports championship in more than 50 years, and Cavs fans probably aren’t prepared to end the party quite yet. Given the quick turnaround between Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the 2016 draft, however, it’s time for the franchise to start looking ahead to 2016/17 and re-evaluating its roster.

What A Difference A Game Makes

Perhaps it’s more accurate to call this section “What A Difference Three Games Make,” since heading into Game 5, speculation surrounding the Cavaliers’ offseason centered around the team retooling the roster around LeBron James. Kevin Love was the most obvious bad fit on the roster, but he likely wouldn’t have been the only player shopped this summer if the Cavs had gone down quietly in the Finals.

Instead, Cleveland completed a comeback for the record books, storming back to win the next three games against the Warriors, and now the idea of blowing up the roster around LeBron doesn’t look quite so necessary.

Will the Cavaliers still consider moving Love? Probably. Despite the team’s championship victory, and Love’s contributions to that title, he was never a perfect fit with LeBron and Kyrie Irving, and it could make sense for Cleveland to move him if it helps the club add some help on the wing, a shooter, and/or a little spending flexibility.

Still, winning the championship means the Cavaliers are playing with house money in 2016/17. The team doesn’t have to move Love, and likely won’t be aggressive about trying to find deals that shake up the roster. There’s no harm in listening, since there’s still room for improvement, but the Cavs won’t be under nearly as much pressure to sell Love – or anyone else – for 50 cents on the dollar.

Trade Possibilities

What sort of offers would make Cleveland listen on Love? I’ve always viewed the Celtics as the best match, and a hypothetical trade sending Love to Boston has been the subject of plenty of speculation. The C’s have a ton of draft picks at their disposal, and veteran players like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder could be appealing to Cleveland.

The Rockets could also make sense as a potential trade partner. If Dwight Howard doesn’t return to Houston, GM Daryl Morey will be on the lookout for a second star to pair with James Harden. The Rockets don’t have a first-round pick to offer this year, but have been gauging trade interest in players like Patrick Beverley, K.J. McDaniels and Trevor Ariza, all of whom would make some amount of sense for the Cavs.

Outside of Love, there are some other potential trade candidates on the roster. Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and Channing Frye don’t necessarily need to be moved, but they wouldn’t be untouchable either. Irving, on the other hand, has probably cemented his spot on the roster after his performance in the Finals.

The Cavaliers also have several trade exceptions that could be used to accommodate incoming players without sending out any salary, including one worth nearly $10MM that doesn’t expire until next February. The Cavs’ cap situation may prevent them from taking on too much salary without getting rid of some, but the team certainly has plenty of options when it comes to making roster adjustments.

LeBron: Not Going Anywhere

While LeBron’s contract features a player option for 2016/17, and he’s expected to decline that option, there has never been much real suspense about whether or not he’ll leave Cleveland this summer. There has been a tacit understanding that his contract is structured in a way that will allow him to re-up for more money as the cap increases and the CBA gets renegotiated. James confirmed as much prior to the club’s victory parade on Wednesday.

“I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates,” James told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I’m happy. I’ve got no plans to go nowhere at this point.”

Those “logistical things” LeBron alludes to are somewhat complicated, since the Cavaliers only have Early Bird rights on their superstar, and don’t have any cap room. That could prevent LeBron from signing a maximum-salary contract this offseason, but he’ll be in line for a raise on his player option, and can get the max a year from now, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical explained in his breakdown of the situation.

Free Agent Outlook

Assuming James opts out of his contract and signs a new deal, his salary figures to increase to at least $27.5MM, which would put the Cavaliers’ total guaranteed salary commitments over $102MM for the 2016/17 season. Even with a projected $94MM cap and $113MM tax threshold, that’s a lot of money for eight players.

That $102MM+ figure doesn’t take into account J.R. Smith, who turned down his player option and will hit the open market in line for a raise. It also doesn’t include Matthew Dellavedova, who is eligible for restricted free agency, or Timofey Mozgov, an unrestricted free agent.

Replacing a couple of those veterans with young prospects would be one option to save a little money, but the Cavaliers have traded away both of their 2016 draft picks. As such, filling out the bench probably won’t be cheap, and with the cap on the rise, the mini mid-level exception and minimum-salary exception may not attract the caliber of player they once did.

With their flexibility somewhat limited, the Cavs may either have to rely on signing their own free agents or counting on an outside veteran to take a discount to join a championship contender, like David West did last year with the Spurs. If they can’t find free agents willing to do that, the trade market could be the Cavs’ most logical route for an upgrade.

Final Take

The Cavaliers’ NBA Finals win took away much of the urgency from their offseason. The roster, as constructed, is still a favorite to win the East, so there’s no pressure on the franchise to make major changes this summer. That doesn’t mean Cleveland won’t make a few noteworthy moves in the next few weeks, but it could open the door for the club to wait until the trade deadline to address potential holes in its roster, rather than agreeing to a deal it’s not 100% sold on this offseason.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Other Cap Holds

Projected Salary Cap: $94,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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