LeBron James Open To Talking To Warriors In Free Agency

If the Warriors could make a maximum salary contract work within the NBA’s cap rules, LeBron James would be open to meeting with the team as a free agent this summer, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN. Haynes cautions that there’s no indication at this point that Golden State is exploring ways to land James, but suggests that the four-time MVP would listen to a Warriors pitch out of respect for the team’s “winning culture.”

As Haynes observes, James and his business team are known to “covet structure,” and the Warriors’ management group – from head coach Steve Kerr to GM Bob Myers to Joe Lacob‘s ownership group – epitomize that sort of structure. It also goes without saying that no other NBA team would provide a better opportunity to win multiple more titles over the next few years.

While no one knows where James will end up playing in 2018/19, the idea that he would make the leap to his already-stacked rivals in the Bay Area seems awfully far-fetched. Of course, the thought of Kevin Durant doing the same seemed just as unbelievable when those rumors first started surfacing two years ago.

Still, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), the summer of 2016 posed a unique opportunity for the Warriors to create maximum salary space due to an unprecedented cap spike and the fact that Stephen Curry was still on a very team-friendly contract. Creating a path for James to get to Golden State this offseason wouldn’t be nearly as simple.

Within his article, Haynes suggests that a sign-and-trade deal, perhaps built around Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, would be the most realistic scenario to get James to the Warriors. However, even that would be a challenge, since Durant would have to take another discount and the club would likely need to move Shaun Livingston, filling its bench with minimum salary players.

In Marks’ view (Twitter links), the only realistic scenario would be having James go the Chris Paul route, exercising his player option for 2018/19. That way, Durant’s free agency wouldn’t be affected and the Warriors wouldn’t be hard-capped as a result of completing a sign-and-trade. LeBron would also be in line to earn the same amount in ’18/19 that he’s expected to on a new contract, and he could sign an extension six months later that could essentially mirror a free agent deal (Twitter link via Marks).

I suspect any debate over the cap machinations of such a deal will ultimately be moot. While Haynes’ report confirms that James isn’t ruling out Golden State out of hand, the odds of LeBron ever donning a Warriors uniform still seem very low.

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