1. Opt-in and trade
The complicated entity that is the NBA salary cap prohibits the Cavs’ from signing James to a five-year deal and then trading him. Cleveland can ink James to a four-year contract and move him, though, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who made the comments on TheLandonDemand.com (subscription).
However, if James wants money close to what he could get by signing a five-year extension here, he’ll opt-in (35 million) to his contract and then sign the extension with his new team.
It gets complicated, but keep in mind that the Cavs are in the repeater tax, meaning they can’t accept a player in a sign and trade.
But if LeBron chooses a team that doesn’t have $35.6 million on hand to sign him, such as the 76ers, would the Cavs take players in return?
It will be interesting to see how Dan Gilbert would treat this scenario, because taking on salary means the Cavs will be in salary cap trouble, again. It’s one thing to be in the tax with James, it’s another to be there without him.
Gilbert gets credited for spending whatever it takes to win, but will he spend whatever it takes to set up the future.
This is worth considering because of an idea floated by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. What if Philadelphia offers to send Markelle Fultz back in a trade? His rookie year was a disaster, but he’s far from being ruled a bust. Would it be worth it to Gilbert to take on additional salaries and some second-round picks to accommodate James and his new team?
James, of course, could just sign a four-year deal with a team who has the space, like the Lakers, and leave Cleveland high and dry.