How the NBA’s new CBA impacts the Cleveland Cavaliers

The league’s new 7-year CBA starts with the 2023-24 season and has major ramifications for Cleveland’s future.
cba evan mobley cavaliers
CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 26: Evan Mobley #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers runs down court during the first half against the Houston Rockets at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 26, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Early Saturday morning, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association, or NBPA, agreed on a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement, aka a CBA, promising labor peace through the remainder of the twenty-twenties. The tentative deal, which starts with the 2023-24 season, was announced by the league and union and is expected to be ratified by league governors and players in the coming weeks. According to ESPN, the deal includes a mutual opt-out after the sixth year.

There’s a lot to digest with new details about the CBA entering the ether every second of every day. Frankly, it’s a ton to digest. But, there are a lot of good, and bad, things about the new CBA between the NBA and NBPA that’ll impact the Cleveland Cavaliers going forward. Today, Right Down Euclid will hold your hand and walk you through what could alter the future’s course for the Cavaliers.

Good: Evan Mobley can be paid the money he deserves!

According to ESPN, one of the new changes to the CBA agreed to by the league and the players union will allow teams to have more than just the two designated supermax players they currently can have on the books. For the Cavaliers, that’s a really good thing since they have two supermax players, Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, on their roster. The caveat to that, of course, is teams will now have more flexibility in offering designated supermax deals as part of the new CBA, they’ll have less flexibility when it comes to massaging the luxury tax. But, more on that in a bit. Let’s talk about why this is good.

Evan Mobley, who is on a path to making the NBA All-Defensive Team and flirting with Defensive Player of the Year honors this year, is eligible for a contract extension soon. Obviously, Mobley is a no-brainer for a supermax extension since he’s arguably the best young up-and-coming player in the NBA. Multiple executives expressed to Right Down Euclid that Mobley is already Cleveland’s best player and could be the one that leads them to another championship.

But, when the Cavaliers acquired Mitchell over the summer in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, things were muddied on what they could do to keep Mobley in tow. With the new CBA clause coming to light on supermax deals, Cleveland can keep all three superstar players in Garland, Mitchell and Mobley on their roster. It will make things tighter financially since Mobley will likely sign a five-year deal worth roughly 25-30% of Cleveland’s salary cap. But, for as talented as Mobley already is and will be in the future, it’s worth it.

Bad: A lot less room to work within the margins!

When Mobley signs a supermax extension with the Cavaliers, they are going to be top-heavy as shit as franchise legend LeBron James once said. That means teams like Cleveland will cannot do what others have done by running up salary and luxury tax spending while still maintaining mechanisms to add talent to the roster. The league is implementing a second $17.5 million salary cap apron. The teams who pass it will lose several critical team-building mechanisms, including the taxpayer mid-level exception, utilizing cash in trades, moving first-round picks in drafts seven years away, signing free agent players in the buyout market and taking on more money than is being sent out in trades.

Doing basic math on that by combining existing contracts for the 2024-25 season and assuming Mobley makes All-NBA honors all while the salary cap rises by the same percentage means the Cavaliers would be at $139.5 million between Mobley, Mitchell, Garland and Jarret Allen. For those at home, Right Down Euclid‘s math projects the salary cap at $155.5 million and the luxury tax threshold at roughly $188.2 million.

cba okoro three pointer nets
BROOKLYN, NY – MARCH 21: Isaac Okoro #35 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 21, 2023 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cleveland still has some financial wiggle room to sign other players to meaningful long-term deals like Isaac Okoro or Cedi Osman or even Mamadi Diakite, Sam Merrill and Isaiah Mobley. But, having all of them on the roster with the existing expensive bunch only puts the Cavaliers at six bodies overall. With the team having serious championship aspirations sooner rather than later, it means they will need high-quality depth, which will also cost a lot more money, straining the team’s payroll.

This new CBA decision will naturally create parity for all 30 teams across the league. Sure, the league adding a third two-way slot will also give the Cavaliers cost-controlled options in terms of depth. But, two-way players aren’t playoff eligible so that addition becomes moot when the competition matters most. Sure, there’s a ton that can happen between now and then. But, it could possibly hurt Cleveland’s championship opportunities before they can even truly begin.

Good: The midseason tournament is a really fun idea.

A more significant change with the CBA that has been in the works for a while is the idea of a midseason tournament. The tournament’s first round will be part of the regular season schedule, with the top eight teams advancing to a single-elimination event in December. The “Final Four” will be played at a neutral location with Las Vegas reportedly receiving consideration. NBA teams are expected to have 80 regular season games on their schedule initially. The leftover games for the teams that don’t make the single-elimination portion of the in-season tournament would be scheduled later, while the two teams that make the tournament final would end up playing 83 games.

That’s a lot to digest but the NBA is willing to explore a new format that could make the game overall more entertaining. They’ve experimented with it a bit in the NBA G League and over the last several seasons has been an exciting staple of the development league’s season. For those that are unfamiliar with the format, here’s a refresher:

The league’s 29 teams and NBA G League Ignite will be separated into four regional pods and will play 16 games against one another in NBA G League markets. The teams with the best winning percentage in each regional pod, along with the next four teams across the league with the best winning percentages, will play for the Showcase Cup Championship during the Winter Showcase. The remaining teams will each play two games outside of the Showcase Cup Tournament during the event.

Following the Winter Showcase, team records will reset and the 32-game regular season will tip off and the regular season will play out as normal with a team eventually being crowned league champion.

Folks who are upset about this are too big of basketball purists. This is a fun, refreshing concept that makes the games have higher stakes because a $500,000 cash bonus is on the line. If it doesn’t work, the NBA can punt on the format or adjust it to be more exciting. But, if fans can see championship-caliber basketball all throughout the season, it’ll naturally lead to a better product overall. There are still some details to iron out of course. But, for now, this is an excellent idea for any team in the league, the Cavaliers included, to shake things up during a grind of a regular season.

cba donovan mitchell
CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 06: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after the Cavaliers defeated the Boston Celtics in overtime at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 06, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 118-114 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Bad: The player award race ramifications!

The only genuine issue with teams playing championship-level basketball all season long is the possible increased risk of injuries. If players miss time, it can hinder them financially if they can’t win awards or honors at the season’s end. The new rules the proposed CBA put in place could further hamstring things.

Under the new CBA, postseason awards are now tied into a rule requiring at least 65 games during the regular season. Sure, that means teams will rest players less and you won’t see players winning Rookie of the Year as Scottie Barnes did. But, it hurts the long-term product by running players into the ground while hurting the overall product once the postseason, the NBA’s biggest attraction, comes around.

More importantly, it could impact a player like Mitchell who is having an MVP and All-NBA-worthy season this year for the Cavaliers. Mitchell has missed multiple games this season due to various injuries. Sure, no one knows if Mitchell will deal with broken fingers or pulled groins or sprained ankles every year. But, if he’s forced to play through these ailments due to contractual obligations for awards, it will hurt him and Cleveland’s chances of winning something more immediately.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at [email protected] He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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