LeBron James declines player option with Cavaliers, set to become free agent

He could be there longer than usual. Los Angeles has yet to sign 25th overall pick Mo Wagner, meaning his rights can potentially be included in a trade; the Lakers are also willing to offer ex-No.

"If the Lakers can close the deal in that meeting, they have a great chance of stealing LeBron James away from the Cavaliers".

LeBron James is opting out of the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and officially becoming an unrestricted free agent, according to multiple reports on Friday.

James and Paul spoke with Cavs general manager Koby Altman when free agency started at 12:01 a.m. Sources said James has strong interest in joining the Lakers, but it is unclear if Paul will take any other meetings today.

The 33-year-old superstar has spent the last four seasons with the Cavs, with whom he reached four straight NBA Finals and won a championship in 2016.

James' decision to opt out of his contract shrinks the number of teams that could be potentially pursuing him. James may still re-sign with the Cavaliers because they can present him with a five-year, $205-million contact, more years and money than any other team can offer. Teams that can't afford a marquee free agent can try to entice the Spurs with a trade package for the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.

The 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers are seen as the favorites to sign James on the NBA's free-agent market.

Should James re-sign with a shortened one-plus-one deal in Cleveland, his compensation for 2018-19 would be $35.4 million, and 2019-20 would jump to $38.2 million as the option year.

The fact that he didn't pick up his option could be good news for anxious Cavs fans, who fear James may leave them for the second time in his career. That's made it tough for Cleveland to upgrade its roster, but the Cavs remain committed to bringing back James even for just one more year.

LeBron James was seemingly at the top of their wish list for the better part of the past year, with Paul George presumed to be checking in second.

What this signals more than anything else is that there could be much shifting around with the Lakers in their attempt to present a more feasible team with their pursuit of All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard.

Philadelphia would offer the chance to play alongside National Basketball Association top rookie Ben Simmons of Australia as well as young star Joel Embiid while a Houston deal could see him join James Harden and Chris Paul.

  • Rosalie Stanley