McCaw was a restricted free agent sitting under Warriors team control through most of the season as he sat out and waited for an offer from a rival club. The Cavaliers presented him with a two-year, $6MM offer sheet, which was non-guaranteed, and Golden State chose not to match it, leaving McCaw to join Cleveland.
The swingman was with the team less than a week before he was released, and some around the league suspect the move was designed to help McCaw get out from under the Warriors’ control rather than the Cavaliers actually wanting him on the team. Stein adds that the Warriors requested the investigation.
Stein notes that NBA teams are not allowed to make “unauthorized agreements” based on “expressed or implied” deals or include “promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind” with respect to player contracts. Penalties can include fines in the $3-6MM range and could cost a team draft picks.
However, unless the Cavs or agent Bill Duffy tell the NBA that the two sides intentionally entered their agreement in an effort to eventually get McCaw to free agency, it seems unlikely that the league will come down hard on Cleveland. As Joe Vardon of The Athletic observes, the Cavs have a good alibi for taking a flier on McCaw, in the form of a “roster in shambles.”
The Cavs have expressed interest in re-signing McCaw to a cheaper deal if he clears waivers. He made roughly $323K during his brief stint in Cleveland.