Clearing cap space for LeBron James is very risky

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers have made a lot of moves to clear $22 million in cap space, and their intentions are clear. But what happens if LeBron James doesn't sign there?

By agreeing to a cap-clearing trade on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers' total cap space has reached $22 million, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger. By moving forward and targeting veteran free agents Ray AllenMike Miller and James Jones (according to Chris Broussard and David Aldridge) there's no doubt what the Cavs intend to do with all that financial freedom. Cleveland has gone all-in on the LeBron James sweepstakes.

But if they don't sign James, they must move to alternative options. One such plan, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, is for the Cavs to sign Washington Wizards free agent Trevor Ariza. Houston Rockets free agent Chandler Parsons is also a strong possibility, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that the Cavaliers' trade on Wednesday -- they shipped Jarrett Jack, Tyler ZellerSergey Karasev and a 2016 top-10-protected pick off in a three-team trade with Brooklyn and Boston -- wasn't a move made specifically to target James. They were going to shed salaries either way. Still, there is no getting over the fact that Cleveland would disappoint its fans if it didn't land the Akron native.

Consider what the Cavs have chosen to give up in order to reach the point where chasing James is a realistic thing to do.

Cleveland traded soured center Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng last season. The more painful part of that deal saw the Cavs give the Bulls a Sacramento Kings' first-round pick (top-10 protected in 2015), two second-round choices originally from Portland and the right to swap their own 2015 pick with Cleveland if it is not in the lottery. The Cavaliers will seemingly allow Deng, a free agent, to walk despite being in the market for a small forward. They also dealt second-round picks for center Spencer Hawes, who already left to join the Clippers.

And even though the Cavs met with Utah Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward, there was no offer sheet on the table. Hayward has since signed a max offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets. Cleveland's hesitancy was linked to the hopes of signing James.

The Heat have made sacrifices in this courting as well. Miami has agreed to sign forward Josh McRoberts to the mid-level exception despite the team potentially being well under the salary cap; that comes with the expectation Miami will re-sign James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The Heat used their bi-annual exception to ink Danny Granger, which also is done under the assumption that James will return and there won't be any cap space to work with.

All of this points to each of Cleveland and Miami having faith in landing the biggest free agent. It doesn't mean James is leaning any which way.

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