The LeBron James sweepstakes starts at 12:01 a.m. ET early Tuesday morning and already a number of teams are scrambling to open up the necessary salary space to offer him a max contract. Even the Heat are looking to make room — forcing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to take a smaller piece of the cap pie. Likewise, Carmelo Anthony will meet with a number of teams as an unrestricted free agent. The only team with the cap flexibility to offer both stars a max deal, also happened to win 48 games in the tougher Western Conference last year, barely missing the playoffs. The Suns will attempt to sign both ‘Melo and James once free agency starts, reports Yahoo! Sports.
Here’s Yahoo’s ubiquitous Adrian Wojnarowski with the latest development in the summer free agency tapestry about to unfurl this week:
Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make — a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender — the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.
Phoenix is determined to emerge as a legitimate destination for James and Anthony, who have privately shared an affinity for playing with each other in the NBA. Salary-cap structures make it prohibitive for teams elsewhere to fit these two stars together without completely gutting a roster, but Phoenix’s general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a far different reality to sell them in potential meetings next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Suns currently have $33.5 million in cap space, and can shed the extra $10 million needed to sign max contracts for both James ($20.7 million) and ‘Melo ($22.4 million) without touching their nucleus of Goran Dragic, Miles Plumlee and Eric Bledsoe — who the Suns recently extended a qualifying offer too, and have said they’ll match whatever deal comes his way.
The Suns are in a much better situation to sign the two stars this summer than most of the other teams in contention. They’re also young, with a lot of room to grow. They acquired T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, and Serbian Bogdan Bogdanovich, in this year’s draft, with three more first-round picks next year. All those cheap rookie deals would pair nicely with the max deals for ‘Melo and James. While owner Robert Sarver has a miserly reputation with some — he dramatically slashed payroll after their 2010 Western Conference Finals berth with Steve Nash — he has paid the luxury tax three times in recent years.
Woj points to the fact LeBron shares an agent, Rich Paul, with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, and Paul is said to be well-versed in the positives that could accentuate Phoenix’s offer. James, as the titan of the league right now — witness all the teams scrambling to get a meeting with him — doesn’t need to go to a major media market to become a global brand. Phoenix’s warm weather and family friendly locale doesn’t hurt either for James, who is expecting his third child some time next year:
Because of Paul’s relationship with Bledsoe and James, the Suns know the agent has a more intimate understanding of Phoenix’s potential appeal than most. Paul knows the Suns are the fifth-winningest franchise in NBA history, that owner Robert Sarver has gone into the luxury tax three times in recent years, that Phoenix has long been a preferred residence of thirtysomething [sic] stars with families.
Most of all, the Suns understand Paul has a keen knowledge of how James’ international brand and marketing appeal transcends media markets. James doesn’t need New York or Los Angeles or Miami to push product – only winning. That’s the sell of the Suns, just as it will be the Rockets and Cavaliers, too.
Just another, though more intriguing, team for James to consider as he looks over the landscape of the NBA and makes a decision that could alter it for the next half decade.