James can opt out and join the open market, where he is sure to have plenty of suitors, which apparently includes some of the league's contenders. Meanwhile, there looks to be some possible deja vu with another NBA star in DeAndre Jordan, as a familiar franchise could look to swing a trade for the big man.
James is obviously the bigger fish, but the movement of both players would create major waves throughout the NBA. Recent buzz suggests it could come to fruition.
LeBron Looking Around
Not much definitive information has been reported regarding where James is leaning in his latest "decision," but he does seem to be checking in around the league to gather information.
James has friends around the NBA, and he is performing his due diligence before he takes the next step this offseason, which would be deciding whether to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. At least this is according to one Eastern Conference general manager, per Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Daily News.
"Meanwhile, LeBron is doing what we does—calling players on other teams he wants to play with," said the general manager.
James has every right to check in with fellow players and obviously has done so in the past when he spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers to play with good friend Dwyane Wade in Miami. With whom he might be discussing this time around is much more of mystery, as Wade was also a free agent back in 2010.
Chris Paul is another good friend of James, and he happens to play on the team that just finished with the best record in basketball and a game away from taking out the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Houston Rockets are certainly an intriguing option, and they have made James a priority this offseason, per USA Today's Sam Amick.
As with adding a big-time player and contract in James to any team, there are obstacles. First, newly named MVP James Harden did not seem overly enthused with the idea, saying at the NBA Awards that Rockets do not need to make any changes to their current team to win a championship.
Secondly, Houston would need some serious maneuvering to accommodate James' contract. Clint Capela needs a new deal after his breakout season, and the team would likely have to give up a first-round pick or two for a team to take on the roughly $41 million Ryan Anderson is owed over the next two seasons.
The Rockets would be glad to do so since they are clearly looking to win now, but this would set back their rebuild even more when their championship window eventually closes.
Of course, the Lakers have constantly been linked to James, but they are not in a spot to win right now like the Rockets are, and James is already 33 years old. In addition, Amick reported last week that word is the odds of another star like Paul George or Kawhi Leonard landing in Los Angeles are not strong.
If they can make it work, the Rockets are the best spot for James to get past the Warriors for at least one more title before he hits the twilight of his career. They have a proven head coach who provides his players with creative freedom on the court, which James covets. He has scorers around him, including a Kyrie Irving-like option in Harden that can get buckets in one-on-one matchups with the defense focused on James.
Simply put, Houston would be a powerhouse with James, and you better believe he heard that when checking around the NBA.
Jordan-Dallas Part 2?
Jordan created an all-time free-agency moment in 2015, when he agreed to a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks before pulling out and coming back to the Los Angeles Clippers following a meeting with Doc Rivers and teammates Blake Griffin and Paul.
Well, now it is 2018, and the core of that group is gone with Griffin being shipped to the Detroit Pistons and Paul in Houston. Now, Jordan also seems to be warming up to the idea of going back to Dallas, as the New York Times' Marc Stein reports:
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
One source described a Jordan-to-Dallas trade as a "long shot" ... but the fact it's on the board is the strongest indication yet that the sides are willing to engage again after Jordan's about-face in 2015 free agency when he committed to the Mavs and then went back to the Clips https://t.co/RtYuckP40H
It makes sense that Jordan would want out of Los Angeles. The team he agreed to come back to had Jamal Crawford, Griffin, Paul and JJ Redick, among others. It was a Western Conference contender. Now, the cupboard is pretty bare with hardly any young players to get excited about as the team seems to be headed for a full rebuild. It also just brought in another aging center in Marcin Gortat on Tuesday night in exchange for Austin Rivers.
Jordan can opt out of the final year of his deal that would pay him over $24 million and become a free agent, but the Clippers would much rather get something for him instead of him walking away for nothing. If he were to facilitate a trade to Dallas, Jordan could make sure he is getting the full value of the last year of his contract while having ample time to work out a new agreement in his home state.
The Mavericks would rather not give up anything for Jordan, but trading for him now might be the best move. They have leverage in the fact that Jordan is on an expiring contract, which lessens his trade value. It might only take a future first-round pick to get a player that averaged 12.0 points and 15.2 rebounds a year ago. Not bad.
This would eliminate the immediate risk of losing Jordan on the free-agency market while adding him to a core of Harrison Barnes, Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. that is far superior to what the Clippers currently have.
Although Stein cited one source calling it unlikely, the circumstances surrounding this situation seem to indicate it could very well happen, especially with the Gortat trade. Be prepared for Jordan to become a Maverick.