Cleveland Cavaliers

’13-14 Salary CapCurrently SortaGuaranteed

’13-14 Payroll

Projected AmountUnder Salary CapCap HoldsKey Free Agents
$58,500,000$41,459,580$17,040,420$6,640,460Daniel GibsonWayne Ellington

Omri Casspi

Cleveland owns the Nos. 1, 19, 31 and 33 picks in this year’s Draft, and they have a ton of cap space. I’ll focus on the cap space part.

The projections above assume that they will not extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents Omri Casspi (~$3.3 million) and Wayne Ellington (~3.1 million) but pick up the team option on CJ Miles ($2.225 million). After that, if they want to sign a pricy free agent, they can. If they want to trade for an overpriced star and give nothing in return (Paul Pierce?), they can do that and absorb the incoming salary into their cap room. If they want to sign an expensive free agent and make a trade, they can do that, too. Since my Hypothetical Offseason Moves juices are still flowing at extremely high levels after the Rockets and Hawks sections, here’s my idea for Cleveland:

Step 1: Overpay for likely-to-be free agent Andre Iguodala because he’d fit in perfectly on both sides of the ball. Give him $15 million in the first year because he probably won’t get more than that elsewhere.

Step 2, Option A: Trade Varejao, one of Marreese Speights or Alonzo Gee, and multiple picks (hold the first overall) for Pau Gasol. ’13-14 starters: Kyrie-Waiters-Iguodala-Gasol-Thompson. Bench: No. 1 overall pick, Tyler Zeller, Speights/Gee, CJ Miles and Mid-level Exception Guy, Bi-annual Exception Guy.

Step 2, Option B: Forget the Gasol thing. Trade Thompson, Speights and Nos. 1 and 19 picks for LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. ’13-14 starters: Kyrie-Waiters-Iguodala-LMA/Love-Varejao. Bench: Zeller, Gee, Miles, Mid-level Exception Guy, Bi-annual Exception Guy and Nos. 31 and 33 picks. They could actually still easily pull off a Gasol trade, but I won’t go there. (OK, I sort of will—Varejao and Gee gets it done financially. Add a future protected pick or the two second-rounders and L.A. probably accepts that, as none of the incoming money is guaranteed past next season and the Lakers desperately need depth and draft picks.)

The two- (or three-) step plan would easily work from a money standpoint, and could quickly skyrocket Cleveland into one of the best four-or-five best teams in the East. If they get one of the younger power forwards and/or hit on their draft pick(s), they could be a real title contender in a year or two.

Dallas Mavericks

’13-14 Salary CapCurrently SortaGuaranteed

’13-14 Payroll

Projected AmountUnder Salary CapCap HoldsKey Free Agents
$58,500,000$42,302,009$16,197,991$5,086,560OJ MayoChris Kaman

Roddy Beaubois

Darren Collison

Elton Brand

Considering how hard Mark Cuban tried to shed salary post-2011 Finals run, you’d think Dallas would be much better off this summer. But thanks to Shawn Marion (~$9.3 million) and Vince Carter ($3.18 million), they’re not in that great of a position to upgrade this summer. Essentially, here’s the Mavericks breakdown:

—Assuming they renounce RFAs Darren Collison ($3.42 million) and Roddy Beaubois (~$3.3 million), they have room for one max or near-max contract, depending on who they sign.

—They have no assets to pull off a sign-and-trade. Their 2013 pick is 13th in a bad Draft, and their 2014 pick is owed to OKC (but 1-20 protected through 2017). They have only hit on one of their own first-round picks since the turn of the century, so they have no young talent to offer in a deal (unless you count Jae Crowder, who won’t be a centerpiece in anything substantial). They could re-sign the to-be free agents and use them in a sign-and-trade, but then they’ll lose their initial cap space. They’ll only have the $16+ million by renouncing everyone and not re-signing them.

—They have Dirk, who was injured for two months, then looked like B-minus-Dirk for two months, then looked like B-plus-Dirk for one month before settling on B-Dirk for the final month of the ’12-13 season. He’s 35 years old now, and will be Marcus Camby’s age by the time a prospective max free agent’s deal expires in Dallas.

—They have an owner who’s not afraid to spend money, but doesn’t have a way to spend it. A team can’t go over the salary cap to sign a big-name free agent (Mid-level and other exceptions allow teams to go over the cap for lesser guys).

The key to their offseason will be getting a team to bite on Shawn Marion’s expiring contract. If Dallas packages him with the first-round pick, they could send Marion to a team with lots of cap space not looking to make a big signing this summer. If the Mavs pull that off, and it seems fairly likely that they will, it will open up enough room to potentially sign two max guys, or at least sign one max player and another serious piece.

If they don’t move Marion, Dallas could break up the available money and bring in a few different players, but that’s basically what they did last summer and it flopped. It’s hard to successfully bargain hunt in the NBA (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I don’t love the outlook here, but a Marion trade would be a big step in the right direction.

Portland Trail Blazers

’13-14 Salary CapCurrently SortaGuaranteed

’13-14 Payroll

Projected AmountUnder Salary CapCap HoldsKey Free Agents
$58,500,000$45,795,385$12,704,615$3,401,140JJ HicksonEric Maynor (RFA)

Luke Babbit

Nolan Smith

Damian Lillard has changed the Blazers franchise. They have their star point guard, and he’s only making $3.2 million next season. That will allow Portland to maximize on its $12.5+ million in cap space this summer, which they’ll get by renouncing all of their free agents.

With JJ Hickson hitting unrestricted free agency and the team apparently not particularly interested in re-signing him, they have a glaring hole at center, and their bench is also terrible. Dwight Howard won’t be taking a discount to fix the first problem (though the more I think about the pairing the more I like it), so let’s focus on some other options.

They could go the route of a Jefferson (having two bigs who can routinely get 20+ would be amazing to watch) or Marcin Gortat, or roll the dice on Andrew Bynum, but I don’t like either of those choices here. Jefferson or Gortat will suck up all of their money (if they could even afford one) and the team needs money to help the bench, too. Bynum isn’t worth the headache, and the team really needs to improve its bench. Did I mention the thing about their bench?

I think the smartest play would be to split the cap space between two players while developing center Meyers Leonard, who the Blazers selected 11th overall a year ago. They could bring in one instant-offense guy like OJ Mayo, JR Smith, Will Bynum, JJ Redick, Mo Williams, Kevin Martin or Nick Young, and one big man like Carl Landry, Chris Kaman or their own Hickson and probably squeeze it under $12 million. One more of those guys could be had for the Mid-level Exception.

Signing any trio from that list to add to a core of Lillard, Aldridge, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum would allow the team to go at least seven guys deep, and maybe eight, nine or 10 Leonard, Victor Claver and/or Will Barton contribute. That would be great since, you know, the bench was pretty bad last year. (Any time a rookie leads the whole League in minutes played, you know your bench needs some work.)

Portland was in the thick of the Playoff race for the first 70 games last season, and a successful offseason should land them back in the postseason. I expect to see them there in ’13-14.

PS: If you think I’m picking on the team unnecessarily, here are all of their ’12-13 reserves, with their points and minutes per game in parentheses:

Eric Maynor (6.9, 21+), Meyers Leonard (5.5, 17.5), Will Barton (4.0, 12+), Luke Babbitt (3.9, 12), Victor Claver (3.8, 16.5), Nolan Smith (2.8, 7+), Ronnie Price (2.7, 13), Sasha Pavlovic (2.6, 13.5), Joel Freeland (2.6, 9.5), Jared Jeffries (1.2, 9+).

Utah Jazz

’13-14 Salary CapCurrently SortaGuaranteed

’13-14 Payroll

Projected AmountUnder Salary CapCap HoldsKey Free Agents
$58,500,000$30,357,329$28,142,671$4,660,520Al JeffersonPaul Millsap

Mo Williams

Randy Foye

Raja Bell

This is a huge offseason for the Jazz. They’ve been good-but-not-good-enough for a few years now (err, decades), and need to decide whether to keep trying with the same group or shift to a youth movement (I always vote blow it up/youth movement. It’s so much more fun.)

Their roughly $30 million payroll unfortunately includes Marvin Williams’ $7.5 million salary, but it also features a gifted, young front line of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. They also have former Slam Dunk champ Jeremy Evans and Alec Burks, who seems destined to be the eighth guy on a pretty good team, under contract. Nice roster for a team about $28 million under the salary cap.

Utah’s first move this summer will be figuring out what to do with unrestricted free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Lots of ways they can go here.

Option 1: Let both leave. Simple enough. The Jazz can just let the duo walk in free agency, clearing loads of cap space while ushering in a new era in Utah. Of course, they’d lose them for nothing…sort of.

The big-time cap relief is almost like acquiring a player in a trade. The Jazz backcourt is terrible, and with the $28 million they could target free-agent point guards Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon or their own Mo Williams.  The shooting guard market is pretty deep, with Andre Iguodala and Ellis at the top among unrestricted guys. Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Gerald Henderson will be restricted free agents.

If they land, say, Calderon and Ellis, they could still have $6-8 million remaining to target another player, as well as the $5+ million Mid-level Exception for yet another guy. They could build a balanced team—both in positional talent and experience—this way, but they wouldn’t be that much better for it.

Option 2: Bring both back. The Jazz can use up all of their spending money to bring Jefferson and Millsap back, but with Favors and Kanter waiting in the wings, it would be a horrible decision. Highly unlikely.

Option 3: Sign one, let the other leave. Jefferson and Millsap will probably get roughly the same amount of money in the open market. Since Nene got about $13.5 million annually two summers ago, I’ll estimate that each of the Jazz guys will be offered a similar number in free agency. Re-signing one would eat up about half of Utah’s cap space, and, again, they’d lose the other for nothing (except for some cap room). If they went this route, which seems most likely of all to me (though I disagree with it), re-signing Millsap over Jefferson would be wise, as Millsap would be a better fit in a big lineup alongside Favors and Kanter.

This decision would leave them with about $13 million in cap space to figure out the backcourt problem. For a team that’s had unstable guard play since the Deron Williams trade in February of 2011, it would be disappointing to see them try to piece a backcourt together yet again.

If they sign, say, Millsap, they could also try to move Jefferson in a sign-and-trade so they can get some value in return for him. Or…

Option 4: Sign-and-trade one, let the other leave. Now we’re talkin’. If the Jazz can find a trade partner interested in one of their star free agents (shouldn’t be difficult) they can orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal.

Just remember that sign-and-trades are tricky for two reasons. First, a team with enough cap room to simply sign a guy likely won’t be interested in a sign-and-trade for that player. Why give up assets when the team could sign him outright? Additionally, a new rule in the CBA prevents teams with payrolls above the tax apron (about $74.3 million this summer) from acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade—that DQs teams like Brooklyn and New York.

Utah could look to teams like the Rockets (for Lin/Asik plus picks/young players), Celtics (for Green and Lee) or Bucks (for Jennings or Ellis in a double-sign-and-trade (OR BOTH FOR BOTH OF UTAH’S GUYS IN A QUADRUPLE SIGN-AND-TRADE!!!)) for a possible deal. But sign-and-trades usually don’t go down like that—it’s tough to land a good player when you’re the team trading away the free agent.

A nice route for Utah would be to sign-and-trade one player, let’s say it’s Jefferson, for short-term money and draft picks. For instance, they could move him to Dallas for Marion’s expiring contract and picks. Marion’s upcoming $9 million salary would cut into Utah’s cap space, but the Jazz would still have a lot of money left to fill out the rest of the team for ’13-14. More importantly, it would allow them to stockpile picks and shoot for the summer of 2014, when Marvin Williams comes off the books, too, and Utah will have an unbelievably clean payroll. I like this option.

Option 5: Sign-and-trade both. This is my favorite possibility. Basically, they should double-down on a trade like the Matrix/Jefferson one I just proposed. For instance, they could send Millsap to Toronto for the expiring contracts of Amir Johnson and Linas Kleiza as well as future picks.

That would position their 2014 summer to look like this: Favors (22 next summer), Kanter (ditto), Hayward (24), Burks (22), Evans (26) and at least the Nos. 14 and 21 picks in the 2013 draft on the roster. This summer’s hypothetical sign-and-trades could give them multiple first-round picks in both 2014 and 2015, and they’ll have at least $25 million in cap room to attack a massively talented 2014 free agent class.

Option 5 essentially tanks this season, but for good reason. The young guys would get huge minutes, and the focus would be on their development. Utah could also sign stopgap guys to one-year deals, much like Dallas did last season, to stay relatively competitive in the upcoming season. Or they could be horrible and land a top-5 pick in what should be a strong draft. Utah has a great fan base which won’t abandon the team if the Jazz are mediocre for one season in the name of building a powerhouse for years to come.

Given their young core up front, the Jazz are in a rare position to build a contender for the short- and long-term, and keeping Jefferson and/or Millsap will limit their ceiling. Investing max-or-near-max money in guys you don’t really need would be idiotic and shortsighted. Take a chance on the young budding stars, explore sign-and-trade possibilities, keep adding on through the draft and look to next summer as the golden chance to take huge steps forward. The Jazz have a chance to finally get over the hump, but they need to handle this offseason properly.

This is Part 1 of a three-part Summer Preview running on SLAMonline this week. Read Part 2—Keep It Together—here. Read Part 3—Major Trouble—here.