There has been growing buzz LeBron James could leave the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2018 NBA free agency. According to Spotrac, James has a player-option allowing him to opt out of his contract after the 2017-18 season. If James chooses to exercise his option, he would forego his $35,607,968 salary for the 2018-19 season.
The rumors are about to heat up after James, and the Cavs were dominated in the series. While it is just conjecture at this point, the Warriors are the new measuring stick, and James has to ensure he is on a team that can compete with Golden State.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons discussed James future free agency on the last two episodes of The Bill Simmons Podcast. Simmons noted there is growing sentiment around the league that James could head to California after next season. The rumors have both the Clippers and Lakers in play.
Remember team Banana Boat? James has had a history of looking to assemble the team around him that he wants. The Banana Boat crew includes Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul.
Carmelo Anthony has the same opt-out clause as James in his contract giving Anthony the option of free agency next off-season.
Chris Paul is a free agent this summer, but has an opportunity to re-sign with the Clippers. Could Paul lure James to LA this time next year? Dwyane Wade could opt out of his contract this offseason, but Wade also has the option to time his free agency with James next season. Wade is set to make $23.8 million next season. There is no guarantee he would command that number again this off-season on the open market.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote a lengthy piece breaking down several different scenarios for James in 2018. O’Connor noted that if George heads to the Lakers like many expect, James could be enticed to join forces with George.
You should buy stock in George heading to L.A. The vibe I’ve gotten from talking to NBA executives and agents over the past few weeks is that teams aren’t willing to sell the farm for George because of the possibility that he’ll sign with the Lakers is so strong. George is better than both Irving and Love — he’s a rare two-way superstar. He’s also a player whom LeBron respects. If George does indeed go to L.A., the Lakers would have to move their two albatross contracts in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov in order to also add LeBron.
O’Connor uses Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck’s 2016 interview with LeBron James to strengthen his argument.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together. At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that. It would be pretty cool. I’ve definitely had thoughts about it,” James told Bleacher Report in 2016.
This is not the first time we have heard about James trying to form a team with his friends. So far, it has not come to fruition, but his signing with the Miami Heat could be considered a form of that. There are a lot of moving parts outside James’ control to allow all four players to end up on the same squad.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski speculated prior to James winning last year’s Game 7 (which James would go on to do) would give him a “golden ticket” to allow James to leave Cleveland again if he chose to do so.
These  Finals could change everything for LeBron James, liberate him to honor his restless heart and pick up and leave again. Victory changes everything for a superstar, a third NBA title promising to be James’ ticket to immortality here – and a ticket to leave again without consequence, without guilt. One more game, one unprecedented comeback and no one can ever touch LeBron James again.
James brought one championship to Cleveland which begs the question as to whether this could help him feel freedom to leave again.
He spoke with Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy after the Cavs lost to the Warriors in the Finals.
“They’re [Warriors] going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20’s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20’s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. There’s going to be a lot of teams trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try to match that…both Eastern Conference and Western Conference. From my eyes, they’re built to last a few years. So, we’ll see,” James told Hoops Hype.
James clearly understands the NBA has shifted with just how good the Warriors are, and it looks like their trajectory is pointing up. He admitted to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he has to come up with some sort of plan to combat the Warriors.
“I need to sit down, and figure this thing out,” James told ESPN.
Cleveland fans will be watching to see if that plan includes the Cavs. What do you think James should do? Share your thoughts in the comments section, or reach out to me on Twitter @JonDAdams.