LeBron James will opt out of his contract and become a free agent next month, agent Rich Paul has told the Heat, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That means he’ll exercise his early termination option to get out of his contract that called for him to make $20.59MM next season and another $22.1125MM in 2015/16. It also opens the possibility that the four-time MVP will change teams and invites suitors to make pitches beginning a week from today.
The chances that he’d opt out appeared better than that he’d opt in, but while James reportedly has some hard feelings about what he perceives as Miami owner Micky Arison’s spending cutbacks this past season, most reports suggest that the Heat will likely retain him. That’s not a given, as the Rockets, Clippers, Cavs and others line up bids for the player in the top spot of the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings, but the decision from James is far from a death knell for his tenure in Miami.
The opt-out decision keeps the alive the notion that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could all re-sign at discounts to allow the Heat to court Carmelo Anthony, or perhaps Kyle Lowry or another top-tier free agent. James is determined to push the Heat to spend money and improve their roster, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Still, Miami’s abillity to do so will have much to do with whether Wade, Bosh and Udonis Haslem follow suit and opt out of their deals, as well as just how much of a discount that trio plus James are willing to take, as I explained when I looked at the offseason ahead for the Heat.
Just how much James can make on his next deal will depend on where the NBA sets the maximum salary for a player of his experience following the July moratorium, as our Luke Adams examined before the season. While it seems likely that he’d be limited to an amount that’s slightly less what he’d have made if he’d exercised his option, it appears as though James is prioritizing the chance to win over gathering every last dollar available. If that’s so, it mitigates the advantage the Heat have to offer a contract with higher raises than other teams can offer. Miami can also offer a fifth year, while other clubs are limited to four.