2023 NBA Free Agency is less than a month away, and with it all of the wheeling and dealing that comes with the NBA offseason. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be wading into free-agent waters hoping to find an upgrade at small forward and depth for their bench.
As they take stock and review their options, it’s important to understand where they stand in relation to the NBA salary cap. In other wars, what is their spending power? Let’s ask a couple of key questions to flesh out where things stand heading into free agency.
How much cap space do the Cavaliers have?
The NBA Salary Cap for the 2023-24 season is projected to be $134 million. Teams whose combination of salaries and cap holds total less than the salary cap can sign new players using that remaining “cap space.”
The Cavaliers have seven players on fully-guaranteed contracts for next season. Those players are:
- Darius Garland
- Donovan Mitchell
- Isaac Okoro
- Evan Mobley
- Jarrett Allen
- Ricky Rubio
- Dean Wade
They also have three players with partially or non-guaranteed contracts for next season:
- Cedi Osman
- Sam Merrill
- Lamar Stevens
Those contracts all add together for a total of $126.97 million, which would check in at just over seven million under the salary cap. Does that mean they will have $7 million in cap space? Not exactly.
What is a cap hold?
NBA teams retain an advantage in re-signing their own players; they can often offer more money or can bring a player back without using an exception (one of a limited few “loopholes” to sign a new player when you don’t have cap space). To retain these rights for a player, a team has a “cap hold” that takes up space and counts towards their salary total when calculating cap space.
That means that their team salary total of $126.97 million is actually much higher while the Cavs decide whether or not to bring back their outgoing free agents. When you add in those cap holds, the Cavaliers actually stand at $186.56 million, well over the salary cap.
Those outgoing free agents:
- Caris LeVert
- Danny Green
- Raul Neto
- Robin Lopez
- Dylan Windler
- Mamadi Diakite
- Isaiah Mobley
What is the maximum cap space the Cavaliers can have?
If the Cavaliers were to renounce all of those free agent cap holds, that would take them back under the salary cap line. They can also waive the contracts of Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens and Sam Merrill. That would give them a maximum of $12.16 million in cap space.
They could technically lower that even further by trading a player with a guaranteed salary to another team with cap space, allowing the Cavs to “get off” salary without taking any back. The problem is that every one of their guaranteed contracts are from rotation players, so they would be digging themselves a hole that they would need to fill back later.
When you also add in that the exception available to the Cavaliers if they stay over the salary cap, the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, starts at $12.2 million for this season, there really is no reason to clear cap space as they can sign a player for the same amount just by staying “over the cap.”
The primary conclusions from a quick look at the Cleveland Cavaliers salary cap situation: they have an expensive core, they are unlikely to have cap space, and they need to upgrade the roster using the Mid-Level Exception.