Although LeBron James has indicated he’ll return to the Cavaliers for the 2016/17 season, he won’t do so on his current contract. Agent Rich Paul tells Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com that his client will decline his player option and sign a new deal.
James’ decision doesn’t come as a real surprise, since opting out and re-upping with the Cavs ensures that he’ll get a larger raise than he otherwise would have. LeBron’s player option for 2016/17 was worth just over $24MM. Depending on what type of deal he signs, the reigning Finals MVP figures to earn a salary closer to $30MM on a new contract.
According to Haynes, Paul says no decision has been made on what type of contract James will sign, and there’s no timetable for when that new deal will be made official. The situation is a little complicated, since Cleveland only holds Early Bird rights on LeBron. An Early Bird deal would allow for a 30% raise on his 2015/16 salary, but the contract would have to be for at least two years, with no options. A Non-Bird agreement would allow him to opt out again in 2017, but would mean accepting a more modest raise.
With the salary cap set to rise again in 2017/18, and James earning Bird Rights with the Cavaliers at that point, it makes sense for him to wait one more year to sign a longer-term contract, since Cleveland doesn’t have the cap room to accommodate a long-term, max contract at this point. No matter what type of contract LeBron signs, he intends to sign it with the Cavs — he and Kyrie Irving and the rest of his Cleveland teammates will look to defend the first title in franchise history.
“I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates,””James said on the day of the Cavs’ championship parade through downtown Cleveland. “Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I’m happy. I’ve got no plans to go nowhere at this point.”