LeBron James came home to Cleveland as much because the Miami Heat wouldn’t spend to win as much as Dan Gilbert and the Cavs promised they would. However, buying a championship caliber roster doesn’t come cheap and at some point, the question of affordability has to be asked. That was the whole point of the dramatically higher luxury tax rates the NBA instituted in the previous CBA.
The reality is that owner Dan Gilbert has spent money at almost an unprecedented level. Last season’s $115 million payroll triggered a $54 million luxury tax bill. Add in benefits, (etc) and Gilbert spent roughly $185 million last season on his roster.
Gilbert’s massive commitment to spend whatever’s necessary to win a title led to a loss of $40 million last season
Gilbert spent the second most in NBA history (to the Nets) to put together his NBA Champion Cavs last season and he upped the amount committed to players’ salaries this year and next.
Thanks to another rise in the NBA’s Luxury Tax line, last year’s $169 million in player’s salaries plus tax is expected to drop by about $5 million this year even with the dreaded repeater tax of an extra dollar per dollar over the tax line added in. But if Gilbert lost $40 million last season, he could easily lose that much or more again this year.
Not much is going change in 2017-18. The Cavs are already committed to $126 million in players salaries for next year and that’s estimated to be $5 million into the tax with up to seven open roster spots to fill.
James isn’t about to let Gilbert cheap out either. He has a player option for 2018-19 and can keep the pressure on Gilbert to re-sign the team’s free agents and use the team’s exceptions to keep/add the talent James believes is necessary to get back to the NBA Finals again.
Keeping James happy is expensive and that, by the way, was the whole point of changing the luxury tax rules. It’s supposed to be hard to keep “super teams” together.
It isn’t hard to imagine Gilbert’s loses exceeding $100 million over a three year period with no end in sight and even a billionaire notices when that much cash disappears.
To all those finding the inevitability of a Cavaliers/Warriors NBA Final unfulfilling, how long this billionaire can afford to keep buying championship contending rosters is a important issue.