Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the impossible by coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the defending champs. Now that they have delivered a championship what’s next for the Cavaliers?
Lebron James says he is already starting to focus on next year and defending his title, but the Cavaliers have already tested fate once. So, after doing what no team has ever done, can the Cavaliers actually repeat as champs next season? The answer is, probably not.
Salary cap explosion
If you have been following basketball even passively this season, you likely have heard of the salary cap explosion that is set to take place this upcoming season and beyond. The salary cap is set to go up to $94 million next season, which is the biggest one-year increase the league has ever seen. The cap was $70 million this past season, and even after this next season, it's going to go up again to $107 million in 2017-2018.
This means that most teams are going to have a ton of money to spend this offseason. Teams that have some guys becoming free agents have 30 or 40 million dollars to spend this offseason, and guys who were flirting with a max contract might suddenly find themselves rolling in money in this crazy offseason.
Cavaliers capped out
However, the defending champs have a problem this summer. A year after already having a payroll of $108 million, the Cavaliers have $71 million already committed in contracts next season. What's the problem with that, you ask? Well it's two fold. The first is that $71 million is spread out across only five players. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson's contracts are over $70 million next season, and that isn't even counting the huge contract James is about to sign this summer.
By all accounts, Lebron could be making $30 million next season, which would put the Cavaliers in a tough spot. They could be into the luxury tax with only six guys on payroll next season. That didn't stop them this past season, but you can't field an NBA roster with only six guys.That doesn't even take into account the fact that important championship pieces like JR Smith and Matthew Dellavedova are free agents, and the Cavs are at the very least probably hoping they can resign Smith.
That means the Cavs will have to fill out their roster with cheap veterans next season, which could work, but it could also backfire in their face as betting picks. They might be faced with another year of a payroll that far exceeds $100 million, and a luxury tax bill that's as high as some countries' GDP. In an offseason where teams are going to be overspending, the Cavs are going to have to be very careful how they spend money. James could always take another short-term deal, but his cap number next season is still going to push Cleveland into the luxury tax before they even have a bench put in place.
Here's the other problem Cleveland faces. While the Cavs are going to be focused on just not getting worse next season, the rest of the East and league is about to get a lot better. Take the Warriors for instance. They have enough money to potentially sign Kevin Durant this offseason, and they might be able to add even more than that for their betting odds to work in favor. Almost every contending team from last season is going have in the neighborhood of $20 million or more to spend this offseason, so while the rest of the league will be stockpiling assets this summer, the Cavs are going to have to focus on filling out their roster without having to go crazy into the luxury tax.
The one thing the Cavs have going for them is that the East's top teams all have problems as it currently stands this summer. The Raptors might lose DeMar DeRozan, the Hawks still look like they are one player away, and the Heat are faced with free agency for Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside, plus the health of Chris Bosh. Cleveland will easily still be the best team heading into next season no matter what happens in free agency, but there are teams like the Pistons, Celtics and Pacers that could make huge leaps in free agency this summer if all the pieces fall in place. Combine that with the Western Conference arms race, and the Cavs are going to have an even tougher time next season trying to win a championship with their salary cap restrictions. I doubt it happens and so do sportsbooks.