LeBron James will opt out of his Cleveland Cavaliers contract and become an unrestricted free agent, according to reports. The news, first reported by Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon, means James, a four-time NBA MVP, can sign with any team for next season.
This is what everyone assumed would happen, as it gives James the freedom to go wherever he wants this summer. It shouldn't, however, be viewed as proof that he will definitely leave the Cavaliers.
James likely cannot make quite as much money -- he opted out of $35.6 million for next season, but the estimated maximum contract for this offseason starts at $35.4 million. That small financial blow could be more than offset by a long-term contract, with the Cavaliers or another team.
So who might those other teams be? While James opting out of his contract doesn't eliminate the Cavaliers, it does pretty much eliminate the Houston Rockets. They would have been hoping for James to opt in to the final year of his deal and then force a sign-and-trade, just like Chris Paul did last summer. Now, they won't have the cap space to just sign James.
Along with the Cavaliers, James' other options appear to be the Los Angeles Lakers or the Philadelphia 76ers. Those are the only two teams he was linked to who have the requisite cap space to ink him to a max contract. At this point, however, all the buzz is pointing to L.A., and it seems the decision may come down to whether James wants to remain with the Cavs or join the Lakers.
Adding to the intrigue, is the fact that the Lakers are going hard in the pursuit of other stars in order to entice "The King" to take his talents to Staples Center. Both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have been linked to the Lakers, but according to reports earlier this week from Adrian Wojnarowski, to be the first superstar to join up with the Lake Show.
Of course, the other stars don't want to go there by themselves either, which leaves things in a bit of a stalemate. There are probably only a few people on earth who actually have a solid understanding of what's going to happen in the next week or so, but one thing that's clear to everyone is this summer's free agency period is going to be thrilling.