Tech mistake |A little over a week ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed restricted free agent Patrick McCaw to a two-year, $6 million offer sheet with the contract becoming fully guaranteed if McCaw remained on a roster past January 7. The Golden State Warriors, McCaw’s former team, had 48 hours to match Cleveland’s offer to McCaw but if they were to do so, it would have cost the Warriors $11 million in luxury taxes, a stiff penalty for the defending champions. Naturally, the Warriors elected not to match and McCaw joined the Cavaliers, as Cleveland attempt to stick it to their old rival one more time went down in infamy.
Now, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Cavaliers have waived McCaw, showing that the team never intended to keep him after prying him from Oakland. The whole plan with the deal was to allow McCaw to showcase to the NBA that he still is a viable player in his games with Cleveland. Now, McCaw is free to sign with a team that can use his skillset as a traditional three and D wing properly, and according to Charania, multiple playoff teams and the Cavaliers are interested in signing him long-term.
Even if Cleveland has expressed interest in bringing back McCaw but the feelings may not be mutual. On one hand, McCaw was being given guaranteed minutes in Cleveland’s rotation. On the other, McCaw will likely not want to sign with the worst team in the league and instead try and position himself to make his minutes worth something. No matter what happens, the Cavaliers ultimately did McCaw and his agent a favor by allowing him to be free to sign with whomever he wants, and also may have found a place as a spoiler in free agency.
By that, the Cavaliers could enter the role as a spoiler for teams that were in similar situations to the Warriors with McCaw. The Detroit Pistons could be facing a similar situation to Golden State when it comes to their upcoming restricted free agent Stanley Johnson. Next season, the Pistons have to pay Blake Griffin ($34.2 million), Andre Drummond ($27.1 million), Reggie Jackson ($18.1 million), Jon Leuer ($9.5 million) and Langston Galloway ($7.3 million). They might be hard-pressed to afford Johnson, who may be also looking for a better opportunity after becoming an afterthought on the Pistons’ roster.
Cleveland could step in and play the role of free agent freebooter to Detroit’s dilemma. The Cavaliers could offer Johnson a contract situation similar to what they recently gave McCaw, just as long as it puts the Pistons in a position where they cannot afford to match. Johnson could get the same opportunities with the Cavaliers just like McCaw and showcase to the league what made him draw comparisons to Ron Artest during his time at Arizona. If Johnson wants to stay with Cleveland long-term to further showcase his talents, the Cavaliers could waive him like McCaw and sign him to a minimum contract for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
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All of these hypotheticals are well and good, but, by doing this, Cleveland may have put themselves in an awkward position and may face ramifications from the NBA if McCaw were to return to the Cavaliers. While technically not illegal, it certainly looks suspect for the Cavaliers to sign McCaw to a massive offer sheet, just to circumvent restricted free agency. Cleveland clearly had no intentions in paying McCaw $6 million over the next two seasons and only had to pay McCaw $323,529 for the three games he played. Golden State will likely not force a league investigation, but Cleveland should tread lightly if they try this again with someone like Johnson.
If Cleveland were not to be reprimanded by the NBA, then they should actively employ this strategy to poach young assets from cap-strapped teams. It may be unfair to teams who want to hold on to their younger players, but that might be the price they have to pay after mismanaging their finances. Cleveland general manager Koby Altman said that the team was in the “player development business” over the summer and using tactics like this will only allow the Cavaliers to keep finding more players to develop during their rebuild.
I am a contributor at Forbes covering the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am a diehard Cavaliers fan who has seen it all. From the lowest point when the team lost 26 in a row to when the team won the 2016 NBA Championship. I can be found on Twitter @AmNotEvan.
Evan Dammarell has been a diehard Cleveland Cavaliers fan for almost his entire life through their highest point in 2016 to every low point in between. Follow him on Twitter: @AmNotEvan.
The article was originally published here.