The cost cutting of the Cleveland Cavaliers payroll for the 2017-18 season began on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reported the team dealt away Richard Jefferson, Kay Felder, a pair of second round picks and $3 million in cash for the draft rights to Dimitrios Agravanis and guard Sergey Gladyr, two guys who will never see the light of day in the NBA. The move was the first of a number of payroll reduction moves that are on the horizon for a contender that’s set to deal with an ugly tax bill again this year.
On the surface, the trade isn’t much to get worked up over. The Cavs obviously had to dump a few guaranteed contracts in October to get down to the 15-man roster limit ahead of opening night. However, most teams around the league would simply cut a player outright when they have an extra guaranteed deal on the books like the Celtics did with R.J. Hunter last October. Danny Ainge tried to shop Hunter around to other teams before he was cut, but he was not going to sweeten the pot with an asset (like a second-round pick) just to get rid of Hunter’s salary off Boston’s books. Instead, the Celtics swallowed the dead money and cut Hunter while also maintaining their draft assets.
That wasn’t the case in Cleveland this week. The Cavs were far more motivated to get the salaries of Jefferson and Felder off their books entirely and that’s for good reason. Cleveland is dealing with a monster payroll this year and is also facing repeater tax penalties for the first time since re-signing LeBron James. The Cavs triggered those repeater penalties by going over the luxury tax threshold in at least three of the past four seasons.