CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers went from playoff pretenders to possible Eastern Conference contenders Wednesday night.
Unrestricted free agent center Andrew Bynum accepted Cleveland’s two-year, $24 million contract offer, turning down more guaranteed money from the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. The decision was first reported by Chris Broussard of ESPN.
The Cavaliers and the 25-year-old Bynum agreed to share the risk in his comeback after he sat out the entire 2012-13 season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Cleveland guaranteed half of his $12 million salary for the upcoming season, while Bynum shockingly accepted a full team option at $12 million for 2014-15. His relationship with Cavaliers coach Mike Brown — and the opportunity to play with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving — led to him taking the leap of faith.
Terms of the contract allow the Cavaliers to preserve their precious salary cap space entering next summer, when Heat small forward LeBron James and several other superstars are eligible to hit the open market.
Despite undergoing surgery on both knees in March, the 7-foot Bynum was one of the top prizes in the league this offseason.
With Brown coaching the Lakers in 2011-12, Bynum had the best season of his seven-year career and played in his lone NBA All-Star Game.
He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting .558 from the field in 60 games.
Bynum’s chronic knee problems are a major concern, and he was not permitted to work out for any teams this summer by his agent. He did, however, provide medical test results to the Cavaliers and his other suitors.
If Bynum is healthy at the start of the regular season, starting center Anderson Varejao will either be traded or moved to power forward.
The latter scenario would give Cleveland one of the best post duos in the East, along with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and David West and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett.
Barring an unexpected delay in Bynum signing his contract, he will be introduced with point guard Jarrett Jack and power forward Earl Clark at a Friday news conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Jack and Clark officially joined the Cavaliers shortly after the NBA’s nine-day moratorium on transactions ended at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Jack inked a four-year, $25 million pact to leave the Golden State Warriors, while former Lakers starter Clark signed a two-year, $9 million deal. The final seasons of their contracts are not guaranteed.
Adding Bynum and Clark gives Cleveland an abundance of big men. Power forwards Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Kevin Jones and center Tyler Zeller are already on the roster. Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick in the recent NBA Draft.
With three free agents coming to the Cavaliers, three others have left the franchise.
Center Marreese Speights accepted a two-year contract (first year guaranteed) with the Warriors, shooting guard Wayne Ellington signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks and small forward Omri Casspi joined the Houston Rockets on a two-year contract for the veteran minimum.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.