Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James reportedly declines player option with Cavaliers, which is good news for Sixers

LeBron James reportedly declines player option with Cavaliers, which is good news for Sixers

After months of anticipation, LeBron James declined his $35.6 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon reports. He’ll become a free agent Sunday at midnight.

James had until Friday at 11:59 p.m. to make a decision on his player option. He still could ultimately re-sign with the Cavaliers in free agency.

From a Sixers perspective, this is a positive development. Because the Sixers and Lakers are the only teams vying for James with easy paths to make room to sign James outright, they're in a much better position with teams such as the Rockets and Celtics effectively eliminated from the sweepstakes. 

This time around, James reportedly does not want any big pitches in free agency (see story). However, Kawhi Leonard has reportedly made his own personal pitch for why James should play with him (see story).

The Lakers are the current favorites to land James. The Sixers have the fourth-best odds, at 10/1.

One implication of James opting out is that it likely removes Houston as a possible destination. The Rockets’ most feasible path to acquiring James was through a trade, as the team would have to free up substantial cap space to sign him in free agency. 

Interim GM Brett Brown has said the Sixers are “star hunting,” and there’s obviously no bigger star in basketball than James. After James, Paul George is the highest-profile free agent. 

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Kawhi Leonard is reportedly interested in teaming up with LeBron James

Kawhi Leonard is reportedly interested in teaming up with LeBron James

If LeBron James opts out of his contract, general managers can start making their pitches to him on Sunday, when free agency officially beings. But one star player apparently got an early start. 

Kawhi Leonard has reached out to James, expressing interest in playing together, according to a report from Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz.

Schultz reports that, according to a source, Leonard "pitched James on his incredible defensive ability and how it would alleviate the pressure on James."

James, who has until Friday to opt out of his contract with the Cavaliers, reportedly doesn't want any big team pitches in free agency (see story), but there's no word yet on how he feels about players making their own pitches. There's no denying that James and Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, would be an incredible combination. 

Could the two stars team up on the Sixers? The Lakers, who Leonard reportedly wants to play for, are the most likely destination, but it's not impossible the Sixers could land both stars (see story). They'd obviously have to get rid of players like Dario Saric and Robert Covington, both of whom were included in a possible reported trade package for Leonard (see story), to have the cap space necessary to acquire Leonard and James. According to an ESPN report, the Spurs expect that trading Leonard to the Lakers would result in James and Leonard coming to Los Angeles

Superteams are the norm nowadays in the NBA, but Leonard, James, Embiid and Simmons in the same lineup is an absolutely ridiculous proposition, albeit an unilkely one. We'll have to wait and see how James felt about Leonard's pitch.

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LeBron James rumors: Lakers still favorite but feasible for LeBron, Kawhi Leonard to team up on Sixers

LeBron James rumors: Lakers still favorite but feasible for LeBron, Kawhi Leonard to team up on Sixers

As we inch closer to NBA free agency, LeBron Watch is approaching its peak.

The Lakers and Cavaliers are still considered James’ most likely destinations, but the Sixers are still a wild card that could step in and ruin things.

“I think it’s Philly, Cleveland or L.A. with Cleveland or L.A. being the two real choices and Philly sort of being there,” Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on The Lowe Post podcast Friday. Windhorst wanted to make clear that he's not reporting these things, but is giving his "informed opinion."

Another interesting nugget from Windhorst, who knows James just about as well as any media personality, is that he believes a decision will be made by July 3. It is worth noting that in the past, it’s taken James 10 and nine days to reach his free-agent decisions.

The Sixers have two young franchise cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Clearly Embiid and Simmons are more talented than anyone on the Lakers’ or Cavs’ rosters.

If the Sixers were to acquire Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, it’s possible that could be enough to entice James. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wrote a piece Tuesday outlining that exact possibility. O’Connor mentions the possible trade scenarios and the cost cutting it would take to acquire both James and Leonard.

It’s certainly feasible, though the Sixers would have to lose players like Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz and maybe even their most-recently acquired assets in first-round pick Zhaire Smith and the unprotected Heat pick in 2021. O’Connor even mentions a scenario where the Sixers snag James and Leonard and still re-sign JJ Redick.

As far as current roster and future roster flexibility goes, the Sixers seem to offer the most.

But what matters most to James as he nears his decision? Windhorst believes that James being “happy” and close to his family, currently living in L.A., takes precedence over how a team’s roster is constructed.

When pressed, Windhorst believes the Lakers have a 51 percent chance to sign James, while the Cavs come in at 40, leaving the Sixers at just nine percent.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance!

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