The Cleveland Cavaliers and small forward LeBron James reportedly agreed to a new two-year contract Thursday, a move that was widely expected around the league.
LeBron James had agreed to re-sign with the Cavs for one-year at $23 million plus a player option, sources told ESPN
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 9, 2015
The 30-year-old four-time MVP is coming off a stupendous playoff run, culminating in his 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving both lost due to injuries, James singlehandedly carried the Cavs to within two wins of their first NBA title.
Yet after the season wrapped up, James sat back and allowed the Cavs time to lock down free agent Love, guards Iman Shumpert and Mo Williams, and to offer power forward Tristan Thompson a max-level $80 million deal.
James can once again opt-out of his contract with the Cavs after next season and be a free agent, but the clause has more to do with the NBA’s rising salary cap than James’ loyalty to Cleveland. The NBA’s new television rights deal with ESPN and Turner Sports begins in 2016, giving teams more space to offer players more lucrative contracts. This year the salary cap rose to over $70 million, the league announced Wednesday, and it’s expected to top as much as $89 million next year.
However, adding James’ contract to the Cavs payroll could result in a hefty luxury tax bill. According to Spotrac, the Cavs are on the hook for more than $87.8 million next season, making them the highest-spending team in the league.
With James and Love back in the fold, the Cavs are once again considered favorites to win the NBA title next season and to come out of the weaker Eastern Conference. After enduring a separated shoulder that required surgery, Love is expected to be healthy once next season begins, and Irving should also be ready once he recovers from surgery to repair his fracture left knee cap.