State of the Cap: Cleveland Cavaliers
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Cleveland Cavaliers Payroll: $64.3 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $11.3 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=3885|title=Lebron James - AP Photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=313]The Good: For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the good news begins with their star player. Sure, LeBron's numbers were down slightly from the year before, but not that much. He is still the superstar that he is supposed to be and led the Cavs to the second seed in the eastern conference playoffs. LeBron will start his four-year, $60 million dollar contract extension next season. At an average of $15 million per year, that is still a bargain for what King James brings to the court.
Last summer, Cleveland was in danger of losing their rebounding leader, Drew Gooden, to free agency. After the Carlos Boozer fiasco, they weren't about to let another power forward leave town. Surprisingly, the Cavs were able to keep Gooden for a very modest price. He isn't an elite forward by any means, but Gooden gave the team 11 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this year, leading them once again on the glass. At $6.4 and $7.1 million the next two seasons, Cleveland is paying the right amount for his services.
The Bad: Last year, everyone made excuses for Larry Hughes because of his injury and unfamiliarity with his new team. So, what is this year's excuse? Hughes actually played in 70 games this season, his third highest total in a nine-year career. The extra time didn't help him at all since he shot a dismal 40% from the field yet again and his overall numbers were even worse. Hughes was able to put up nice stats playing with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison so there is no reason why he can't do something similar with LeBron. The fact that Hughes will be paid nearly as much as James the next three seasons is laughable.
Big Z used to give the Cavs good value for his contract. Now, he is starting to look his age with three years still left on his deal, each for more than $10 million dollars. His 11.9 points and 27 minutes a game are the lowest he has had in five years. Ilgauskas has stayed healthy, which is a big plus, but if his stats don't improve he won't be earning his paycheck. I don't know many slow, 32-year-old centers that get better as time goes on.
Eric Snow, Damon Jones, and Donyell Marshall continue to be a drain on Cleveland's finances. The trio is signed for the next two years; Snow for an average of $7 million each, Marshall for $5.75, and Jones for $4.25. Snow shoots 41% and averages 4 points and 4 assists per game. Marshall only plays 16 minutes a game and shoots 42% as a forward. Jones was hired to be a shooting specialist, yet he can't seem to get his field goal percentage above 38%. Their contracts aren't grossly inflated; they simply don't reflect the contributions that are being given by each player.
The Future: The Cavs are getting good value out of their bloated payroll as they have won 50 games each of the past two years. They do, however, have a major problem this summer. Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao became key players this season and both are up for a new contract this summer. Considering Cleveland is already well over the cap for next year, new contracts for each player could push them over the luxury tax threshold, something that every owner wants to avoid. But, if they lose those players, the team might not be able to replace them and could suffer because of it. Varejao is a hustling big man, Pavlovic emerged as dependable scoring option and 40% shooter from downtown, and both players are under 25 years old. Keeping them is essential if the Cavs want to contend for a title the next few seasons. If they can keep playing at a high level, the team might be willing to eat the cost. Nobody said winning a championship would be cheap.
One question remains; can this collection of guys really win a title? With LeBron James running the show, anything is possible. What's good for the Cavs is that, despite the loaded cap, four of their medium-sized contracts run out in two years. If they don't perform well in the playoffs, management can quickly dismantle and rebuild the team right before James will be up for another contract extension. Cleveland will always have two goals in mind; winning a championship and keeping the King happy.
Free Throw: If the Cavs do manage to sign Varejao, they will keep intact one of the best rebounding units in the league. Four different players average 6.7 rebounds or more per game and as a team, they are second in the league to the Bulls. They also led the league in offensive rebounds. That kind of dominance on the glass should help Cleveland go deep in the postseason.
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