As is typical ahead of an offseason in which Lebron James can exercise his player option and hit free agency, the buzz surrounding his looming decision continues to grow louder and louder. There has been a myriad of teams brought up in the LeBron sweepstakes already, but two teams highlight the group as more intriguing options: the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, something that has unsurprisingly remained consistent is James seeking a deal with max contract money:
The middle of the regular season is not the time for final decisions, but James’ position on maximum contracts hasn’t changed, sources said.
Here’s what that means: Teams who hope to pitch James next July ought to plan to have the max to offer, which is projected to be about $35 million. For now, there are no plans for James to grant a Kevin Durant-esque discount to any team so that friends can get paid or a better roster can be constructed.
As the best player on earth, it’s obviously not unfair of LeBron James to command max money, something he will surely do this coming summer. ESPN also reports that though James and Rockets point guard Chris Paul are close friends, the idea of the two wanting to play together is overstated:
The Rockets have also been added to the James futures market with their new star duo of James Harden and Chris Paul looking awesome. But three key players — Paul, Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza — will be free agents next summer, and there isn’t enough room for all of them if James gets his max…[James and Paul] are in position to be free agents at the same time for the first time in their careers next summer. However, league sources called the concept that James and Paul want to spend their golden years as teammates an overstated assumption.
Though the Rockets would have payroll issues if James decided to join James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, the Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of their salary cap to play with. They have a raw, inexperienced roster but not a ton of money committed. However, James heading to LA largely remains a pipe dream:
Imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.
With the salary cap issues that would arise with the Houston Rockets and the general youth of the Los Angeles Lakers, James joining either of these teams looks unlikely. From the surface, it looks as if Cleveland may be his best shot to compete for a championship, for this year and beyond.
The Cavs already have quality, experienced, established pieces in place, something that could make it hard for LeBron James to take his talents elsewhere for the second time in his career this upcoming summer.
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