If LeBron James decides to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers after this season, the team could be shelling out a record-breaking $300 million in salary.

As most hoops fans know, James can become a free agent at the end of this season. He has a $35.6 million player option for 2018-19 and as of right now, no one knows his true intentions.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has never been shy about spending to improve his team’s roster, and it seems as though that ideology is alive and well. The Cavs made several trades just hours before this season’s trade deadline, sending out six players. In return, Cleveland received George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood — a move that added roughly $10 million in salary and luxury tax to their books. The trade will increase Cleveland’s tax bill to about $50 million, and their overall payroll will climb to nearly $190 million, which is good for the second-highest in league history after the Nets’ $193 million in 2013-14.

As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst points out in his recent article, the Cavs have paid a combined total of $86 million in luxury tax over the past three seasons, which places the team in what the NBA calls a repeater luxury tax zone. All in all, Cleveland’s total tax payments since James returned in 2014 could reach $140 million.

“Focusing on the future, if James remains and accepts a new max contract or picks up his option and the Cavs re-sign restricted free agent-to-be Hood, they will break all current records,” Windhorst writes.

“If James stays and Hood remains with Cleveland and lands a long-term deal that starts at $12 million or more, the Cavs would likely crest $300 million in total spending based on the contracts they have on their books,” Windhorst continues. “That would include roughly $150 million in luxury tax alone.”

2018-19 Cavaliers Payroll + Tax Projection via ESPN:


LeBron James: $35,607,968
Kevin Love: $24,119,025
George Hill: $19,000,000
Tristan Thompson: $17,469,565
JR Smith: $14,720,000
Jordan Clarkson: $12,500,000
Rodney Hood: $12,000,000*
Kyle Korver: $7,560,000
Cedi Osman: $2,775,000
Larry Nance Jr: $2,272,391
Ante Zizic: $1,952,760
First-round pick-BKN: $4,403,280
Free agent: minimum: $1,499,698
Free agent: minimum: $1,499,698
Free agent: minimum: $1,499,698
Salaries: $158.9 million
Luxury tax: $149.2 million
Total: $308.1 million

*Projected salary

The pick that the Cavs acquired from the Brooklyn Nets is currently a No. 7 selection, which would set the team back roughly $4 million in new salary. If the pick rises into the top-five, the new player would set Cleveland back somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million next season.

All things considered, Gilbert’s moves have paid off. He is committed to a winning culture, even more so than the team’s financial concerns. Three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals should speak for itself.