Caris LeVert is overpaid
When an NBA team is over the salary cap, letting a player walk in free agency is rarely a zero-sum move. The team can’t simply sign a new player to replace the one who walked, as losing them doesn’t open up cap space in an equal amount. That forces the team to strongly consider re-signing their own player, even overpaying to retain them, because they can’t directly replace them.
This is known as the “Bird Rights Trap” because having Bird Rights on one of your own free agents allows you to re-sign them even if you’re over the cap. The Cavaliers faced such a trap this summer, with Caris LeVert hitting the open market.
Caris LeVert is a relatively poor fit with this team, as his best skills are as an on-ball player, but he isn’t as good of an on-ball player as Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. His value as a player is underutilized on the Cavaliers, and he is forced to fill off-ball roles that he is ill-equipped to do.
LeVert may be worth something close to $16 million per season, which is what he signed for on a new two-year deal to return to Cleveland. He certainly isn’t worth that to the Cavs, where he is best deployed in a small bench role. He could give another team much more production and value, and perhaps the Cavs can find a way to trade him to such a team this year.
To the Cavs? That’s a lot of money to be paying LeVert. They had to do it, to retain a useful player and try to recoup assets by trading him later. Keeping the deal at just two seasons is valuable and may have slightly inflated the per-year value. Even so, when valuing what LeVert will bring to the Cavs next season, he is overpaid.