The biggest fish in the 2018 free agency pool is officially that: A free agent. With today being the deadline to make a decision, LeBron James officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the move, James becomes an unrestricted free agent ahead of July 1, the first official day of free agency.
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
The news is not unexpected, but it certainly has implications.
While no one knows how James is feeling, he’s been heavily linked to six teams: The Cavs, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics.
The Rockets, Celtics, and Spurs do not have the cap space necessary to sign James. And because sign and trades hard cap a team, that’s not an option either. In other words, if James wants to join Houston, Boston, or San Antonio, the team would need to find a way to clear enormous amounts of cap space, or he would have to take a huge discount (spoiler: not going to happen).
So while we can’t rule out those teams, this is bad news for all three of them. If James had his mind made up to head to either of those three teams, he would likely have opted in to his contract, and forced a trade, which wouldn’t have hard-capped the teams involved.
Houston and San Antonio being included on that list means it’s unlikely that James joins one of the Western Conference rivals of the Golden State Warriors. This move has big implications for the Dubs.
If it’s bad news for the Rockets, Celtics, and Spurs, then it’s good news for the Lakers and the Sixers. Both teams have easy paths towards clearing enough space to sign James outright.
Currently the Lakers seem like the favorite. James would have a good chance of pairing up with either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George (or both!), plus he already has a home in Los Angeles, and it’s a great place for his kids to further their burgeoning basketball careers. Not only that, but the Lakers young core is a fun fit with James:
If LeBron signs with the Lakers I hope he can play with Lonzo Ball. A developed Lonzo is LeBron's ideal point guard. Lonzo complements LeBron: He doesn't need to dominate the ball, makes fast decisions, elite passer, active rebounder, defends well. Lonzo's shot just must improve.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) June 29, 2018
While the Lakers and Sixers are surely encouraged by James opting out, one would assume the Cavs are still very much in the running as well. So now we all wait with bated breath for the next Woj bomb...
Where do you think LeBron James signs?
This poll is closed
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors