They say money can’t buy happiness, but the Cleveland Cavaliers appear willing to try.
The Cavs’ total payroll, including luxury tax, could balloon to a record $300 million next season if all goes to plan, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday. That plan, of course, would center on LeBron James staying with the franchise, and team owner Dan Gilbert constructing a roster that would convince James not to decline his 2018-19 player option and sign elsewhere in free agency.
What would a $300 million roster look like?
Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and George Hill all are under contract for next season after joining the team at the NBA trade deadline. The fourth newcomer, Rodney Hood, will be a restricted free agent, but if he re-signs with the Cavs on a deal worth $12 million annually and James picks up his $35.6 million player option, the team will roll into 2018-19 with $158.9 million on its books in base salary, highest in the NBA.
Cleveland would be hit with a whopping $149.2 million luxury tax in that scenario, per Windhorst, bringing its total spending up to $308.1 million.
It’s still unclear whether James will stay, as some league executives have speculated the Cavs were hedging for a future without LeBron by bringing in young talent and keeping their 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick at the deadline. But Cleveland’s executives reportedly insist that’s not the plan, and that “Gilbert continues to offer unwavering support and is focused on winning more than on the team’s bottom line,” per Windhorst.
How well this new team performs down the stretch likely will determine whether James decides to stick around. But if he buys in, the Cavs seem willing to open up the checkbook.