LeBron James exercised his option to opt-out of his contract with the Miami Heat and become a free agent on July 1. The two-time NBA Finals MVP could remain in Miami or he could move to another team, his third in five years, to pursue more championship rings.
Here’s where James could land by next season:
1. The Miami Heat
James has two years remaining on his contract with the Heat and stands to make $43 million in that time. Since his arrival in South Beach four years ago, James has led his team to the finals each year and captured two NBA championships.
Team owner Pat Riley made a public appeal to his big three — James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh — last week to finish out their contracts with the Heat.
2. The Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls can only afford to pay James $15 million next season, a cut from the $20 million the Heat will pay him (plus $23 million for the 2015-16 season), according to ESPN. But if James only cares about winning rings, joining the Bulls lineup with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson is the better option, according to Zach Lowe at Grantland.
3. The Cleveland Cavaliers
In 2010, LeBron James went on national television to announce his decision to “take his talents to South Beach” and leave his hometown of Cleveland. King James played seven seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers and gave the team five playoff appearances, including a trip to the finals in 2007 (Cavs lost to the Spurs in four games).
The Cavs have All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to pair with James, but little else before making their picks in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
According to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, a majority of Cleveland fans (73.77 percent) would be willing to welcome LeBron back to the Cavaliers. James’ wife Savannah Brinson also posted the Instagram pic below with the caption “Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330” on June 22.
4. The Houston Rockets
Bleacher Report reports that the Rockets are making an “all-out push to land James,” but if he signs elsewhere they will turn its sites on the other big free agent making waves this summer — Carmelo Anthony who opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks on June 23.
James could build a new “Big Three” in Houston with Dwight Howard and James Harden. Howard’s tendency to stay near the paint could interrupt James’ style to drive toward the hole with “another behemoth standing (along with his defender) just across the paint,” according to Lowe at Grantland.
5. The Los Angeles Lakers
Again, money plays a big part in the Los Angeles Lakers signing James. The Lakers have already committed $23.5 million to Kobe Bryant and $9.7 million to Steve Nash next season, according to the Los Angeles Times.
James and Bryant played together on the USA Olympics basketball team in 2012.