CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers are approximately $22 million under the salary cap as the NBA’s free agency period begins today. They are permitted to negotiate with players now, but cannot officially sign them until July 10.
On Sunday, Cleveland cleared $6.41 million off its books by not extending qualifying offers to shooting guard Wayne Ellington ($3.1 million) and small forward Omri Casspi ($3.31 million). Both players are unrestricted free agents for the first time in their careers.
Ellington averaged 10.4 points in 38 games with the Cavaliers, including 17 starts, while shooting .898 from the foul line and .371 on 3-pointers. He was acquired from Memphis on Jan. 22 along with center Marreese Speights, point guard Josh Selby and a future first-round draft pick in exchange for power forward Jon Leuer.
Cleveland general manager Chris Grant has spoken positively about Ellington, raising the possibility the team could re-sign him once he hits the open market. At this point, however, the extra cap space was more important to the franchise than securing Ellington’s rights.
Casspi spent two very disappointing seasons with the Cavaliers after being traded by Sacramento for power forward J.J. Hickson on June 30, 2011. Cleveland also picked up a heavily protected first-round pick from the Kings that almost certainly will turn into a second-rounder down the road.
The first Israeli to play in the NBA, Casspi seemingly lost his ability to put the ball in the basket once he set foot in Ohio. He shot .394 from the floor, .329 beyond the arc and .537 on free throws in 43 games last winter.
Earlier in the weekend, Speights declined his $4.515 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, putting the Cavaliers’ weekend salary cap savings at $10.915 million.
Cleveland also had until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to pick up or decline the one-year, $2.23 million option on the contract of swingman C.J. Miles, but a team spokesman said the decision would not be announced until today.
The Cavaliers appeared very likely to retain Miles, who made a team-high 126 3-pointers and shot .869 from the foul line in 2012-13. “Mas Fresco” tied the franchise record of eight treys in a game on Dec. 29, 2012 at Brooklyn and became one of the strongest personalities in a very immature locker room.
Miles’ contract is not guaranteed, meaning Cleveland isn’t on the hook for his entire salary unless he remains on their roster in mid-January.
Power forward Kevin Jones and shooting guard Chris Quinn also are under league-minimum, non-guaranteed one-year pacts with the Cavaliers.
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