The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the more flexible futures in the NBA. Expected to have significant cap space next summer, the team has positioned themselves to have legitimate financial flexibility. Could this make a third stint in Cleveland a possibility for Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James?
In a recent edition of ESPN Daily, analyst and insider Brian Windhorst acknowledged the current developments that make a LeBron to Cleveland reunion possible. While he admitted that he does not see the superstar forward wanting to leave the Lakers, Windhorst said, “I would be remiss to not point out that the Cavs have positioned themselves to have huge salary cap space next summer when LeBron could potentially be a free agent.”
Are the Lakers in trouble?
While Windhorst does not see LeBron seeking a departure from Los Angeles, the possibility seems much more likely now than it did just two years ago. With the Lakers winning the 2020 championship, accomplishing the goal they set when signing LeBron, all seemed to be right again. Since then, the Lakers have been eliminated in the first-round, missed the playoffs entirely, and struggled to make any significant roster upgrades. All of this makes a LeBron departure at least worth discussing.
In an admittedly “too early” salary cap prediction for next summer, NBA analyst Keith Smith projected the Cleveland the Cleveland Cavaliers to have just under $30M in cap space. In a league that operates with a large majority of their teams over the cap limit, generating a near max slot is certainly significant.
With Kevin Love and Caris LeVert each becoming unrestricted free agents after this season, nearly $50M in salary could theoretically come off the books for Cleveland next summer. While it is currently unclear how the team plans to approach their future roster construction, it is indeed possible for the Cavs to create the cap space needed to make a run at LeBron James.
What does LeBron want?
Another angle of this situation that must be addressed, is LeBron’s desire to play with his son. Bronny James is currently on track to become draft-eligible in 2024, and LeBron has repeatedly expressed his desire to finish his career on whatever team acquires Bronny. When asked recently if that was still the plan, LeBron confirmed that it indeed is.
Using the leverage that only a player of his caliber possesses, LeBron has given the entire NBA an opportunity to acquire him for the last year of his career if they draft his son. While that specific messaging has understandably not been used, it is certainly a factor at play.
While nobody knows if either side of the Cleveland-LeBron dynamic is interested in another reunion, a pathway to one certainly exists. ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst acknowledged the possibility, and now fans can begin speculating on the likelihood.