CLEVELAND, Ohio — It’s doubtful LeBron James will pick up his $35.6 million option for the 2018-19 season.
The Cavs star has to make the decision by Friday. As I wrote in a recent column explaining his various contract choices, the option for next year makes very little sense and comparatively few dollars for James.
Especially when he can make so many other moves.
Once upon a time, I believed James and his advisors were positioning him to have the choice of taking the full-maximum, 5-year contract from the Cavs this summer.
The Cavs can offer him about $205 million over five years — more money and years than any other team can deliver.
It’s also the last time James can sign a contract like that. NBA rules require the 5-year maximum deals end when a player is 38 years old.
James is 33 now.
He’ll be 38 in five years.
So it’s now or never for that enticing long-term deal.
I believe James is at least thinking about that. But the fact he has stayed injury free and is coming off perhaps the best season of his career makes it tempting to not play it safe, at least in terms of the contract.
Does that mean he’ll leave the Cavs?
There always can be something bubbling up under the NBA radar in terms of stars combining.
At this a point a year ago, who knew Chris Paul would join James Harden in Houston?
Or that Paul George and Carmelo Anthony would end up in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook?
Or that Kyrie Irving would be part of a deal for Isaiah Thomas and end up in Boston?
I don’t recall any of that being rumored in late June.
So, something probably will come out of nowhere to change the NBA.
In the end, Boston made it to the Eastern Conference Finals without Irving, who was recovering from knee surgery.
The Cave made it to the NBA Finals without Irving or Thomas.
Oklahoma City and its three stars lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston was up, 3-2, on Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. Then Paul was injured. The Warriors won the last two games, then swept the Cavs in the NBA Finals.
When he traded for Paul, Houston General Manager Daryl Morey called it “a weapons race.”
I doubt that will end this summer.
No matter if James stays or goes, he has the same problem — the Warriors.
There probably are five different teams in the Eastern Conference where James could go and have an excellent chance to reach the NBA Finals for the ninth year in a row: Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Indiana, Washington, Philadelphia…
Wait a minute, that’s six…
And there probably are more.
But you get the point. James swings the power in the NBA, especially in the Eastern Conference.
For all the rumors of him going to the Lakers or other team in the Western Conference, the Warriors loom and rule.
Kwahi Leonard wants to be traded to the Lakers. Good luck trying to pull a power play on San Antonio General Manager Gregg Popovich,
Leonard has a year left on his contract. Popovich will trade his star when and where he wants — not based on Leonard’s wishes.
We also don’t know if Leonard is healthy. A quad injury limited him to nine games last season.
Obviously, James loves Northeast Ohio. He is emotionally invested here, and this remains home.
He has an owner willing to spend. He has a comfort level with the Cavs.
And no matter where he goes, he still has to deal with a Warriors team not likely to enter into a sudden decline.
That’s why I don’t know if James will leave — and maybe he doesn’t, either.