Rumors linking LeBron James to Los Angeles will not go away, and James recently purchasing his second L.A. home only provided more fuel for those speculating James is headed to the West Coast. Rumors began to emerge James could consider leaving Cleveland as early as June 2016 as Adrian Wojnarowski suggested the Cavs winning a title could give James freedom to leave in 2018 free agency given he brought a title to Cleveland.
The Lakers rumors started to gain steam this past summer after The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported he was hearing Los Angeles was a possible 2018 destination for James, especially if they could attract another marquee free agent like Paul George. James has been public in admitting the Warriors are built for the future, and told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols he “need[s] to sit down, and figure this thing out” after the Warriors won the NBA Finals.
There is also James’ agent Rich Paul sitting with Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss during a recent Lakers game. For all the rumors, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported the Lakers are still viewed as a “longshot” to land James in free agency. ESPN reported James is not prepared to take anything less than a max contract, which is estimated to start with a $35 million salary.
According to Spotrac, the Lakers could have as much as $47 million in cap space. While this is enough to sign James to a max contract, the big allure for the Lakers had been their belief they could attract another marquee free agent to pair with James. Unless they are able to make some moves to clear more space, the Lakers will not have enough space to sign two max players.
James has been public in his praise for rookie Lonzo Ball, but could the Lakers young core be enough to attract James to L.A.? According to ESPN, how the Cavs season ends will likely play a major role in James’ decision on his future.
How the season ends always factors heavily into James’ decision making. This summer should be no different.
If the Cavs are back in the Finals, and the team is still the class of the Eastern Conference with a potential top lottery pick on the way, it’s easy to see LeBron staying in Cleveland.
If the Cavs bow out early, or seem as if they are falling off, it’s easy to see LeBron leaving again and finishing his career elsewhere, having made good on his promise to deliver a title to his hometown in 2016.
If you are a Cavs fan, you are hoping Isaiah Thomas’ Cleveland debut will go smoothly, and can help provide a spark to the team for the playoffs. The Lakers are not the only team the Cavs will be competing with this summer. According to the USA Today’s Sam Amick, there is a belief around the NBA that the Rockets have a chance to land James, pairing him with long-time friend Chris Paul.
While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance.
The Rockets are only projected to have a little over $20 million in cap space, and would need to make some roster moves to be able to sign James. Other teams that have been linked to James include the Sixers, Spurs and Knicks among others.