LeBron James‘ list of potential free agent destinations for this summer is believed to only include four teams for now, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. In addition to the Cavaliers, sources tell O’Connor that James is expected to listen to pitches from the Lakers, Sixers and Rockets.
O’Connor’s tidbit comes in a larger story about the Spurs and whether James might consider San Antonio because the mutual admiration between him and coach Gregg Popovich.
James is considered certain to opt out of a $35.6MM salary for next season and enter free agency for the third time since returning to Cleveland. He said earlier this season that he will be seeking a full max contract, which will start at $35MM+ per season, wherever he decides to go.
The Lakers have been trying to clear cap room in anticipation of chasing James and another maximum-salary free agent. Their efforts included last month’s trade of Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland, taking more than $12.7MM off next year’s books.
The Sixers would have approximately $31MM available if they decline their options on Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell and renounce free agents J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli, and Ersan Ilyasova.
The Rockets would require more maneuvering, with nearly $24MM available, but with Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza both heading toward unrestricted free agency and Clint Capela being restricted. A trade like last year’s Paul deal may be Houston’s best chance at landing LeBron.
The cap isn’t a concern in Cleveland with the Cavs’ owning Bird rights on James, but the luxury tax might be. However, owner Dan Gilbert has expressed a willingness to keep making hefty tax payments as long as James remains in town.
Cleveland will have the advantage of being able to offer James a longer contract (by one year), plus 8% annual raises while other teams are limited to 5%. However, money may not be the deciding factor in where he plays next season.