By now, every NBA fan should know the drill. LeBron James is going to be a free agent this summer once again, so speculation and hysteria is sure to follow.
This is the third time LeBron could potentially leave in free agency since returning to the team in 2014. This tactic has been used to keep the organization honest and focused on putting together a team that can contend on an annual basis.
Winning has, and likely always will be, the top priority for LeBron throughout his career. But while he has prioritized winning, since leaving Miami he has made it clear that he won't take a penny less than the max contract he deserved. In a sourced report by ESPN, it appears as though that stance has not changed:
The middle of the regular season is not the time for final decisions, but James' position on maximum contracts hasn't changed, sources said.
Here's what that means: Teams who hope to pitch James next July ought to plan to have the max to offer, which is projected to be about $35 million. For now, there are no plans for James to grant a Kevin Durant-esque discount to any team so that friends can get paid or a better roster can be constructed.
The rumor de jour seems to have shifted from LeBron going to the Lakers to joining Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston. While the Rockets are clearly one of the three best teams in the league right now, making that trio happen seems far-fetched.
If LeBron isn't taking a pay cut, the Rockets would need to absolutely gut their roster to create that kind of space. In addition to that Chris Paul would need to leave a significant amount of money on the table to help facilitate the move. With both LeBron and Paul as heads of the players union, it would be a bad look for either of them to leave money on the table the same way Kevin Durant did.
The possibility of signing LeBron may cause a dramatic shift in the NBA this summer. Teams that want to pitch him will need to clear max cap space without any assurance he will sign, as Cleveland did in 2014.
Given the strength of the existing roster, positioning in the East, and likely adding a top 10 prospect in this summer's draft, the Cavs should be the favorite to retain the services of LeBron.
The team has shown a willingness to spend, plus they have his bird rights. Even if the Nets pick isn't as high as the team hoped for, a later lottery pick was used for Jimmy Butler last summer. At the very least it'll give an old team some talented young legs.
Nobody knows what LeBron will do, but using history we can figure out what hypothetical situations are even theoretically possible