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Everyone associated with the Cleveland Cavaliers hopes LeBron James returns for a 12th season in wine and gold in 2018-19.
However, if James elects to re-sign with the team that drafted him out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, or to opt in on the $35.6 million player option he owns, and the Cavaliers choose to keep their new core together, it could result in the largest payroll in NBA history.
According to a report by Brian Windhorst of ESPN, if James remains with the franchise after this season, the Cavaliers’ payroll and luxury tax payments could escalate to a staggering $300 million next season. Cleveland majority owner Dan Gilbert promised James he would spend whatever is necessary to keep the Cavaliers a championship-caliber team when James wanted to return home to Cleveland in the summer of 2014 and he has never wavered in that commitment.
By trading for George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland added approximately $10 million in salary and luxury tax costs for this season. In doing so, it will increase their tax payment for this season to around $50 million and the team payroll to almost $190 million. The largest payroll in NBA history is $193, paid by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2013-14 season.
Windhorst’s story says if James chooses to accept a new max contract or simply picks up his option and if the Cavaliers re-sign Hood, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, for a deal which begins at $12 million or more, their payroll, combined with luxury tax payments, would likely reach $300 million in total spending.