The madness that is NBA free agency is set to kick off on Sunday, and LeBron James will be at the center of the it all.
Many expect that James will leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, but as James has shown us in the past, he can be very unpredictable. James will have until Friday to decide whether or not he will opt-out of his contract for the 2018-2019 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and many across the league do think James will hit the open market as unrestricted free agent.
However, there is the possibility that James could opt-in for the 2018-2019 season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is signing up to be a Cavalier for another season. By opting-in for $35.6 million, James could agree to orchestrate a sign-and-trade scenario with whichever team he decides to join, similar to what he did in 2010 when he agreed to join the Miami Heat.
In-order to land James in Miami, Heat president Pat Riley had to part ways with two first-round draft picks and two-second round draft picks. It would likely be a similar trade package to acquire James’ services this time around, but the Cavaliers would likely wanted to be compensate with a player in-addition to picks.
It’s also important to note that James can opt-out and still create a sign-and-trade scenario, he just might not want to miss out on his $35.6 million that could very well not be available this summer due to a a salary cap crunch. There seems to be only three realistic options for James this summer in-addition to the Cavaliers:
The Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and the Philadelphia 76ers are said to be the teams James has significant interest in joining, with the Lakers being the over-whelming favorite to land the superstar. James already has two separate homes in Los Angeles, and could very well look to market himself in one of the biggest media markets in the world.
Los Angeles already has cleared out significant cap space, as Spotrac estimates that the Lakers currently have $61 million available in cap space. That number will only grow if the Lakers have find a taker for Luol Deng‘s contract, but there is already enough money present there to add both James and Paul George if George chooses to leave the Thunder for the Lakers, which is a very real possibility.
Houston can sell James on playing with one of his best friends in point guard Chris Paul and the reigning MVP of the league in James Harden. The Rockets also potentially provide James with the best shot at knocking off the Golden State Warriors, but the Rockets will have to liquidize other assets like the contracts of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in-order to sign James. The good news for the Rockets is that they already have $21 million in cap space, per another Spotrac estimate.
Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers are expected to be the future of the Eastern Conference alongside Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics, and Simmons already has a strong relationship with James. The two share the same agent at James’ sports agency in Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Current Cavaliers players J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson also share Paul as an agent, and various different media reports say James helped to get Smith and Thompson their respective contracts.
It would also be enticing for James to have a center like Joel Embiid who already has a strong game inside and out, and the 76ers could add extra shooting around Simmons and James if needed, although sharpshooter J.J. Redick might not be on the 76ers next season unless he took a massive pay cut.
Spotrac estimates that the 76ers have the third most cap space in the league at $30.5 million, which only trails the Chicago Bulls ($39.4 million) and the previously mentioned Lakers. If any other team would realistically like to join the sweepstakes for James, they would have to do a significant amount of salary shedding.
Only seven NBA teams are projected to have $20 million+ in cap space this summer, and that can be attributed to the overspending that occurred during the 2016 and 2017 free agent periods. There appears to be a significant amount of buyer’s remorse across the league, which could make this a very big off-season trade wise, and less significant signing wise.
Obviously speaking, everyone will be following James’ decision closely, even though James himself won’t hear pitches from other teams, per an ESPN report. Tell us what you think James’ will decide to do in our poll:
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