LeBron James carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to their fourth straight Eastern Conference championship Sunday night, but a different club has emerged as the new betting favorite to employ the three-time champion when the 2018-19 season gets underway.
According to updated odds at BetOnline (via OddsShark), the Philadelphia 76ers are listed as a plus-150 (bet $100 to win $150) favorite to land James, assuming he declines his player option and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.
In March, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported those four teams were the only ones James had "on his list" as potential free-agent landing spots this summer.
As far as the favorite is concerned, it isn't surprising to see Philadelphia leading the way.
The Sixers have a pair of budding franchise cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and the team's financial flexibility would make it relatively easy to squeeze James in. After factoring in their two first-round draft picks, the Sixers could create $25 million in salary-cap space by renouncing all of their free agents, according to Bleacher Report's Dan Favale.
Contrast that situation to those in Cleveland and Houston, and it's evident Philadelphia has the most flexibility.
The Cavaliers already have more than $102 million in guaranteed salary on their books for 2018-19, and that doesn't include James. Add his $35.35 million max starting salary to the mix, and Cleveland will again be in luxury-tax territory with a supporting cast that consists of Kevin Love, George Hill, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith.
Since James is presumably looking for his teammates to shoulder more of the burden as he moves into his mid-30s, Cleveland's roster may not be as appealing moving forward.
Teaming up with James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston could be intriguing. However, the Rockets will have to perform serious salary-cap gymnastics to bring James into the fold, as Ryan Anderson is eating up more than $20 million per year through the 2019-20 season.
The Lakers can enter the fray with a compelling pitch to James and another max free agent thanks to their available cap space. However, James would have to move to the Western Conference and battle with the Rockets and Golden State Warriors earlier in the playoffs as opposed to continuing to dominate the East.