There it is. NBA free agency starts on Sunday, July 1 at 12:01 AM, but the news that we all knew was coming just became official. LeBron James will not opt into his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will become a free agent.
Sources: Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has declined his $35.6M player option for 2018-19 and will enter free agency.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2018
LeBron is the key to this year’s free agency. Wherever he signs will have a domino effect on the status of superstars such as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Will LeBron stay in Cleveland or leave to form a potential super team?
LeBron James has officially entered free agency.
Let the madness begin. pic.twitter.com/1m8BVdzPId
— Cycle (@bycycle) June 29, 2018
Right off the bat, the opt out news is a win for the Lakers and the Sixers. Both of these teams have the cap room to sign LeBron outright. Behind those teams are the Cavs. Opting into the deal would have meant LeBron would have probably requested a sign and trade. With LeBron becoming a free agent, the Cavs can offer the King more money and more years than any other team in the NBA. In turn, this LeBron news hurts the Rockets because the likeliest path for LeBron to Houston would have been through a sign and trade. It’s still possible, but unlikely to happen.
For my money, there are two teams in the LeBron sweepstakes: the Lakers and Cavs. Both teams have the most to offer. LeBron to LA has been a rumor for a few years now, and it gets stronger and stronger each day.
LeBron James’ interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers is ‘strong’, per @joevardon.
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) June 29, 2018
LeBron to LA makes a lot of sense. The Lakers have the ability to clear enough cap room to not just sign one, but two players to max contracts. That means if LeBron becomes a Laker, Paul George might be right behind him, who opted out of his deal the other day. Like the Cavs, the Thunder can offer Paul George the most money and teaming up with Russell Westbrook is not a bad consolation prize. That being said, if George stays in OKC or takes his talents elsewhere, the Lakers could still sign LeBron and trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly wants out of San Antonio. This would require a lot of moving parts and the deal would in all likelihood be packaged around Brandon Ingram, but the Lakers would be willing to part ways with their young talent for the rights to the best two-way player in the game in Leonard.
Do the Cavs have any chance at resigning King James? Hypothetically, they do, but if I’m a betting man, I’m putting my money on the field to sign LeBron. There’s too much tension between LeBron and Dan Gilbert. LeBron did what he promised he would do, which is win the city of Cleveland a championship. Now, it’s time to win more championships and the best place for him to do that would be in LA, Philly, or Houston.
The NBA offseason is full of rumors and they will only heat up as the days go by. Who knows, maybe LeBron will only sign a one year deal to stay in Cleveland and then play the free agency game again next year. I don’t expect LeBron to drag this decision out. I would bet that he makes his decision by July 4th.
So where will LeBron James end up? Your guess is as good as mine.
Just kidding. He’s going to the Lakers.