James informed the Miami Heat on Tuesday morning that he will opt out of his current contract with the team to test the free agent market. While team president Pat Riley stated that the four-time league MVP’s decision does not come as much of surprise, James will certainly have a slew of options in front of him come July 1.
Along with the Lakers and Heat, the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to join the field of teams that will look to acquire the two-time NBA champion. The Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers are also said to be contemplating whether or not to pursue the 10-time All-Star.
In conjunction with James and Anthony both choosing to opt out of their contract, the Lakers have reportedly been notifying teams around the league that their seventh overall pick in this year’s draft is available. Los Angeles is also hoping to pair the pick with Steve Nash‘s $9.7 million contract in order to free up more cap space to sign both James and Anthony. If they are able to move Nash, it would give them over $33 million to use this offseason to fill out their roster.
However, the consensus assumption is that both James and Anthony will not seriously consider signing with the Lakers until they build some essence of a roster that currently has three players under contract in Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Robert Sacre.
In the case of the Rockets and Clippers, they will need to make roster moves to acquire one of the two All-Star forwards. Houston has started to look to trade both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to free up enough cap space to make a legitimate contract offer. The Rockets had already begun to position themselves to make a run at a high-caliber forward when they declined their team option on Chandler Parsons on April 30.
The Clippers on the other hand will have a more difficult route to take to add James to their roster. Even with Danny Granger, Darren Collison, and Glen Davis all opting out of their deals, it leaves Los Angeles at just under $8 million over the salary cap threshold. This subsequently means the only way they can acquire James is via sign-and-trade in a deal that will likely involve moving DeAndre Jordan ($11.4 million), Jared Dudley ($4.25 million) and Matt Barnes ($3.4 million).
Although there will be plenty of options available to James, he could end up re-signing with the Heat with the hopes that the front office retools the roster to make another run at a championship next season. This is also a tricky situation given that both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have tough decisions on their hands with each player due to make over $40 million in the next two seasons. Bosh and Wade will have until next Monday to opt out of their current deals.
With much of the situation in a state of influx, as the draft is just days away and the free agency period is set to begin next Tuesday, plenty could change within that time frame.
Bob Garcia IV
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