LeBron James is officially eligible for a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers. On the first day of his extension eligibility, James and his agent Rich Paul met with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
Details of the meeting were reported by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, and while talks were reportedly productive, the two sides did not walk away with a deal. The expectation remains that an agreement between James and the Lakers will eventually be reached; however, the terms of such a deal could have significant ramifications across the NBA.
The current possibilities
James is entering the final year of his contract with the Lakers and is now eligible for a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension. Because the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement allows for a maximum of two-year deals for players 38 or older, LeBron’s contract options are somewhat limited.
While the annual value likely won’t be negotiated, with the superstar forward almost certainly set to eclipse $47 million per year, the guaranteed length of his deal could be the current holdup. Rather than signing for the full two years he is eligible to receive, James could choose to sign a one-year extension with a player option for the 2024-25 season.
This additional flexibility would allow James to navigate two major potential developments. With his son, Bronny James, on track to be draft eligible in 2024, LeBron having the ability to become an unrestricted free agent that summer could be of significant interest. Additionally, if the opportunity to team up with his son did not present itself, a player option in 2024 would give LeBron the ability to reconstruct his contract.
Similar to what Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden just did with his contract, reconstructing the terms to provide Philadelphia with additional roster flexibility, a team option in 2024 could open up the same possibility for James and the Lakers.
While there is no way to predict if James would be open to reworking his deal, or if it would even be necessary for the Lakers, a player option would allow for that possibility.
To sign or not to sign
While signing the full two-year extension or negotiating a player option are LeBron’s two extension options, the possibility of him entering unrestricted free agency next summer exists as well.
While this currently feels like the unlikeliest outcome, especially with extension talks being described as positive, the possibility still remains. Should LeBron decide to play out this season, not signing an extension, the superstar forward could enter free agency next summer.
This is the outcome that the Lakers must avoid. Already having failed to significantly upgrade their roster from last year’s disaster, entering the 2022-23 campaign with no future commitment from their franchise star would be dangerous.
Again, it is important to note that the current expectation is that LeBron will sign some iteration of a contract extension with the Lakers this summer. That said, both he and the Lakers have a lot to figure out between now and when pen meets paper.