The Cleveland Cavaliers have the most expensive starting lineup in NBA history after the defending NBA Champions signed guard J.R. Smith to a four-year, $57 million contract earlier in the week, according to MyAJC.com.That deal makes Smith the 10th highest paid shooting guard in the league, per Spotrac. J.R. Smith averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 30.7 minutes during the 2015-16 season.
It still took the Cavaliers a few weeks to commit to a long-term contract for Smith. At one point, the two sides were $5 million apart in negotiations, per Slam Magazine.
Last week, Cleveland finally agreed to give him three guaranteed years which ended the stalemate. The last two years of the contract are not fully guaranteed, per MYAJC.com.
This means the Cavs top nine players are under contract for the next two seasons, according to the same article.Hence, Cleveland's starting five will make about $100 million this season, as long as the starting five remains the same. The NBA salary cap is $94 million which means the starting lineup costs as much as some entire rosters.
Further, half the teams in the association are under the $100 million cap, per the same article. The Warriors starting five consisting of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green do not make as much as the Cavs' starters.
For 2016, the Cavs will pay LeBron James $30.96 million, Kevin Love $21.17 million, Kyrie Irving $17.64 million, Tristan Thompson $15.33 million and Smith $12 million via HoopsHype. Plus, they will pay key reserves Iman Shumpert $9.67 million and Channing Frye $7.81 million.
Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue already said he wants to limit the pounding Thompson takes against centers, according to MyAJC.
Even if the Cavs swapped Frye for Thompson or Smith for Shumpert, the starting five salaries would still be historic.
Either way, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will have to pay a luxury tax for a salary totaling about $160 million. Last season's $54 million luxury tax check was already the second-highest ever. It is not yet known how much tax Gilbert will pay after the 2016-17 season, according to AJC.com.
Clearly, Smith's new contract is the latest big deal for a Cavaliers player. When Gilbert acquired the team, he said he would spare no expense to bring a championship to Cleveland. It is clear Gilbert is living up to those expectations with J.R. Smith's new contract.
On the court, Smith said he is starting to shake off the rust via Cleveland.com. The guard said he only missed about two shots in Friday's practice, after showing rust on the first day of practice.
However, Lue said Smith's condition is coming.
"If you're going to get in shape you've got to go hard," Lue said via Cleveland.com. "He was a little winded but he played hard and played through it."
Per the same article, J.R. Smith stayed after practice shooting extra shots. He even had a HORSE game against assistant coach Damon Jones. These are efforts to get the guard into shape, according to Cleveland.com.
Smith also agreed that he is getting into shape. Regardless, he only played 12 minutes in his lone preseason game a few days ago.
"As long as I keep making (shots), I guess I'll stay on the court," Smith said.
Therefore, Lue plans to watch Smith closely in the opener.
"We don't want to try to wear him down or get it all back in one day," Lue said.The Cavaliers open their season at 7:30 p.m. EST. They will receive their NBA Championship rings and banner before the game.
Stay tuned to see if J.R. Smith can earn his contract, and the rest of the Cavaliers can live up to their record-high salaries.
[Featured Image by Winslow Townson/AP Images]