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Breaking: NBA to investigate the Cavs contract with Pat McCaw

Cleveland signed Patrick McCaw and promptly waived him, raising some questions that the league would like answered.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers contract with former Golden State Warriors wing Patrick McCaw raised a few eyebrows. And, as a result, the NBA is going to investigate the contract, as reported by Marc Stein of The New York Times.

It’s unclear if the “formal review” comes at the request of the Warriors. On Monday, Stein reported that the Warriors were unwilling to comment on the situation.

Here’s what happened: The Cavs signed McCaw, a restricted free agent, to a non-guaranteed two-year, $6 million contract. The price was steep for the Warriors, who, to the surprise of no one, opted not to match the contract.

After just a week with the Cavs, McCaw was released ahead of the contract guarantee date, meaning Cleveland was only on the hook for just over $300,000. McCaw cleared waivers (any team who picked him up would have had to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season), and is now an unrestricted free agent.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like Cleveland had no intention of keeping McCaw to that contract. Instead, they signed him to a price that they knew Golden State wouldn’t match, so that they could let him walk into the unrestricted free agency that he clearly desired.

While signing and releasing a free agent doesn’t technically break any rules, if Cleveland was purposely dealing in bad faith, the league could very easily take action. And there are a lot of incentives for the Cavs to do so. If they wanted to re-sign McCaw (something they’re reportedly interested in doing), this approach allows them to do so at a reasonable price (and a price that Golden State likely would have matched had they done so when McCaw was restricted).

Furthermore, the Cavs could have gone this route to earn goodwill with another team interested in signing the third-year wing, or even goodwill with McCaw’s agent. One week of McCaw’s contract was a relatively low investment for Cleveland to make, if there was reason for them to help get McCaw to unrestricted free agency.

It’s unclear what action the league might take, and whether it would be confined to Cleveland, or also extend to McCaw. It is highly unlikely that the league would restore McCaw’s restricted free agent status to the Warriors (in part because Golden State likely wants no part of this fiasco), but fining the Cavs, or taking draft picks from them is a distinct possibility.

We’ll let you know if the NBA chooses to take action.

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