As expected, LeBron James has officially opted out of his current contract – worth about $26 million – with the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
It’s a reality that’s certain to raise a few rankles, but if viewed through a wider lens, it’s a course of action that makes a great deal more sense for James, the Cavs organization, and the fan base.
First, it’s highly unlikely that LeBron will skip town again in free agency, not after what happened in 2010 in the brutal aftermath of the “Decision.” He’s curried too much goodwill among the people of Ohio upon his “Return,” and leaving again would absolutely bankrupt him of any political capital he’s amassed and effectively render him a villain for the remainder of his days. You think there are LeBron haters now? It would be a fatal blow to his image and his brand.
Here’s more from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst to help set Cavaliers fans’ minds at ease:
“The move, which was expected, marks the third time in the past six years that James will be an unrestricted free agent. This time is expected to have a different outcome, as James intends to re-sign with his current team, sources said.
James also does not plan to meet with other teams, sources told ESPN’s Chris Broussard.”
No, the likeliest outcome is that LeBron – gasp! – signs yet another short-term deal, probably for two years with an opt-out clause after next season. The rationale behind this is so that he can ostensibly reap the benefits of the windfall of cash coming in 2016 once the mammoth television contracts the league signed go into effect. It’ll cause the salary cap to skyrocket, and LeBron will be able to sign a deal that dwarfs the contracts that are currently available.
However, the fact that LeBron has stated that he will take a “wait and see approach” to free agency raises another red flag that is largely due to semantics. The Cavaliers have a host of other issues to resolve during free agency that in some ways depend directly on LeBron opting out of his current contract. Both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are expecting max contract offers from the Cavs this summer, and without LeBron’s enormous contract on the books, it gives the front office more financial flexibility.
It’s likely that Thompson will cash in on his max offer now with his stock at an all-time high, but Love could take a similar approach to LeBron and sign a shorter-term deal with an opt-out clause that would allow him to reap the financial benefits of the TV money that kicks in in 2016. Cavs brass will also have to address the futures of Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, and J.R. Smith.
Regardless, there is approximately a 99.9 percent chance that LeBron will be back in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform next season.
(Via ESPN’s Brian Windhorst)