It has seemed like a formality, but on Friday LeBron James made it official; he has opted out of the final year of his contract and will test the waters of free agency.
The news was first announced by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
LeBron James’ agent informed the Cavs he will not exercise his $35.6 million option and thus will become an unrestricted free agent, sources told @clevelanddotcom ... Story coming— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) June 29, 2018
This move may not be shocking, but it does provide some clarity on his situation. There were many who believed James would strongly consider joining the Houston Rockets, but with this move that is virtually impossible. Any destination that required an opt-in and trade is now officially off the table.
With Houston out of the race, it seems like the decision has been narrowed down to either the Los Angeles Lakers, or a return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Both teams will likely need to make moves if they want a chance at signing James. The young core of the Lakers is unlikely to move the needle for him on its own, and is a considerably worse basketball situation. But if the Lakers can either trade for or sign other stars, the allure of another superteam is going to be tough for Cleveland to outbid.
The pressure now shifts to Koby Altman. He will need to find a way to show that the team is dedicated to LeBron, while hedging for a possible departure. The reality is that even if he pulls off all of the best moves that are available, it still may not be enough for LeBron.