The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a busy first day of free agency. Right around the same time, news broke that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson were coming back to Cleveland, both on five-year deals. The duo’s new deals combined for about $190 million (Love for $110 million, Thompson for $80 million), and later in the day, guard Iman Shumpert agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.
That’s a whole heck of a lot of coin, but the Cavaliers aren’t done yet. LeBron James still has to sign a new deal, mostly likely another two-year deal with a player option that’ll pay him close to $22 million next season. When you add in James’s salary, Cleveland’s payroll for next season will already be over $100 million, with around $40 million in luxury tax. This isn’t even taking into account possible new deals for J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova. The Cavaliers can also use the mini mid-level exception worth $3.4 million in the first year, and they’re also trying to deal Brendan Haywood‘s $10.5 million non-guaranteed deal for even more help.
When it’s all said and done, Cleveland could be looking at a payroll of around $120 million with an astronomical luxury tax bill to boot. And you know what? It’s totally worth it, especially if the Cavaliers can win their first championship ever and end the long Cleveland championship drought. This is the price of doing business when you have LeBron, and owner Dan Gilbert is showing a willingness to spend that Heat owner Mickey Arison didn’t. Remember, the Heat kind of cheaped out before LeBron left, but Gilbert is going all in on this core.
You can argue all you want about some of these guys getting paid too much, but in the context of this team and rising salary cap, these deals make perfect sense. Love may not have been used optimally this past season, but he’s still a super-talented 26-year-old entering his prime who can take pressure off LeBron and Kyrie Irving. With more time in the system, Love should get more comfortable and fit in more seamlessly.
Thompson shined after Love went down in the postseason, and while the energetic big man doesn’t have much offensive game, his work on the boards and defensive end is invaluable. Investing so much money in the same position may seem foolish, but Love and Thompson can play together and Timofey Mozgov will be a free agent next offseason. The Cavaliers will surely look to bring Mozgov back, but having Love and Thompson in place in the frontcourt would help soften that blow somewhat. If all three are in it for the long haul, they all bring something different to the table and can be used interchangeably depending on the situation.
Shumpert has been a somewhat polarizing player in his young career, but he’s effective when he can just concentrate on hitting open threes and playing lockdown defense. We saw his shortcomings in the Finals when asked to do more, but he was hurt in that series and normally won’t have that kind of burden on him.
The way the Cavaliers are now set up, they should rule the Eastern Conference for years to come given relatively good health. While they won’t have much wiggle room to add moving forward even with the cap moving up, trades could be made to mix it up if things don’t work out. Cleveland is paying exorbitant amounts of money to keep this team together, but in the end, a championship is priceless.