Andrew Bynum couldn’t miss another entire season could he? Is that even possible? Oh wait, Greg Oden did it. And with the way Bynum’s knees seem to be at this point, $12 million is certainly a big gamble even though only half of it is guaranteed. It’s certainly a lot less than the $20+ million he earned last year for doing basically nothing, but it doesn’t come without its risks. But one has to question: what was the real reason for signing Bynum if they already had Anderson Varejao on the roster at center? This isn’t just a random signing, there must be more to it. At this point, there’s one main thing that it points to: LeBron James.
After next year, LeBron James has an early termination option, meaning he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent. There have already been rumors as to where James will end up after next season, and many of them have pointed to a Cleveland return. It will be obvious that the Heat will be getting very old after next season, with basically all of their top players in their thirties. Chris Bosh will be 30. Dwayne Wade will be 32. Ray Allen will be 38. Chris Andersen will be 36. That team will be nearing the end of their dominance, and James mind want to move on and attempt to win championships elsewhere. At this point, giving him anything other than a max deal would be ridiculous, so the money isn’t an issue. It’s just if he’ll actually do it. But the Cavs are really coming along and could be a huge force even next year.
Think about this lineup: Bynum at C, Tristan Thompson at PF, James at SF, Waiters at SG, and Irving at PG. Now THAT sounds like an all-star team to me that could win a championship at any point. And if they choose, they can probably still keep Varejao and Anthony Bennett on the team if they wanted to. Plus they have Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. I’d be scared of that team if I were the rest of the NBA. Now there is a chance that they won’t be able to keep all of those guys. In fact, it would be very likely if they got rid of Varejao after this season since he has a non-guaranteed option. He would be great trade bait for picks later on.
If they were to stay under the cap, which doesn’t sound like a necessity for any team at this point, then they’d have to make a couple of adjustments. Let’s say that they don’t sign any new free agents this year, and if they were to get James, he would make the same amount that he’d be set to make if he stayed with the Heat. Transferring James’ contract over, along with the signing of Anthony Bennett, their team salary for next year would be about $80.97 million (I assumed that the raise in Bennett’s contract is about equal to the raise in the cap, and made the cap about $60 million). So at this rate, they’d have to remove about $20 million of their payroll to stay under the cap. Half of that can be eliminated if they trade Varejao and dump his whole salary, which would put them at $71.27 million, still over $11 million over the cap. They could also dump the $4.5 million of Clark’s contract, which is also non-guaranteed, and be less than $7 million over the cap.
But then there’s the problem of making sure they have enough players on the roster and actually keeping everyone who has team options (which is five people), which will likely raise the team salary even more. This means they would never be able to stay under the cap with the James addition. But at this point, who cares? Teams pay the luxury tax all the time and don’t even blink an eye, and I’m sure the Cavs would be willing to do it if it meant a very likely chance at a championship. That team would be even better than the Heat are now. That’s scary to think about, especially knowing that among all the star players that would make up this team, only Jarrett Jack would be in his 30s, and he would be exactly 30, which means they could win many championships in a row if everyone stays healthy and they can keep everyone.
But this entire set of calculations is purely fantasy and unlikely to completely happen. Injuries happen and things change, and everything could be screwed up if Bynum gets hurt even more. But just remember, even without James and Bynum, the Cavs look scary. With a lineup of Varejao, Thompson, Bennett, Waiters, and Irving, with Jack as the sixth man, they could make a run in the playoffs on their own.