Could the Cleveland Cavaliers not have enough money to resign their current roster?
According to Spotrac, the current Cavaliers roster will cost Dan Gilbert $102 million in 2015 to resign. That's $35 million over the salary cap and $20 million over the luxury tax threshold. Just to keep his roster intact, Gilbert will have to pay an estimated $45 million in luxury taxes.
In an interview last October, Gilbert said he had no problem with that:
"That message is unchanged," Gilbert said adamantly. "Clearly the cap will be going up in the next couple of years based on the revenues of the league as well, but that message is still there. I think that when you have so much invested, if you want to look at this financially and take away the other stuff, I almost think it's kind of silly when you invest so much into a franchise and have such high costs already and then at the margin, I know it's a lot of raw dollars when you look at it by itself, but relative to everything that's invested, I was a little bit surprised when our franchise was going to stop right there.
"To me, it's like getting to the two‑yard line, and okay, we're done now. I think it's not even smart business or maybe not even smart financially, because there is obviously risk involved. But when you're willing to do that, theoretically, your revenues can offset part of that as well and increase in revenues. Definitely, when the decisions are ours and they're regarding financial, that should not stop us or be any significant barrier to delivering championship‑caliber basketball here."
When the bill comes due for 2015-16 though, it might go against Gilbert's grain to actually pony up the cash. Earlier he relied on #1 draft picks to stock his teams, e.g. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins. After James decided to come back home, the Cavaliers gave up Bennett and Wiggins to acquire all-star Kevin Love,
Should Gilbert decide to trim the roster to save money, LeBron James might say "Mission Accomplished" if the Cavs can somehow pull out a victory in the NBA Finals. If the Cavs lose again he might think Cleveland is hexed and consider going to another team.
Under the current system free agents are as risky as rookies. Josh McRoberts, played in only 17 games last season: this result was the same as signing a young prospect and having him develop in the NBA D-League. Whether it's McRoberts or Danny Granger, free agents are more expensive gambles than rookies.
A better long-term strategy is to develop young talent (under 25 years-old) who would become "Heat Lifers". The 2015 #10 and #40 draft picks are a great start to build a solid foundation for a Heat team that will be relevant for years to come. The upcoming NBA Summer League is another gold mine of young prospects competing under professional, though not NBA-level, game conditions. The top prospects are under contract, but some of the other standout players could be available for invitations to the Heat's pre-season camp.
The future success of the Heat franchise depends on maintaining a world-class staff of coaches and trainers who have proven records in nurturing young talent. The best part is there is no luxury tax on the development staff salaries. The Heat's upcoming draft picks shouldn't be allowed to become another Michael Beasley disappointment.
The Heat already have Shabazz Napier, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis, Zoran Dragic, Henry Walker, in addition to Khem Birch, Shawn Jones, Larry Drew II, and Andre Dawkins from the Heat's D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce affiliate, who could be groomed as quality role players behind the starting five of Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, and Hassan Whiteside. Counting veterans McRoberts, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem, the Heat would have a team with the depth to go deep into the playoffs.
The prospects allow the Heat to stay under the luxury tax threshold, while providing them with a mix of proven players and exciting young faces. This model is a sustainable one. The key is having a development staff second to none in the NBA.
Which way will the Cavaliers favor as they seek to remain perennial Eastern Conference contenders and which method will the Heat and team president Pat Riley take in their attempt to overtake them?