LeBron James brought the NBA title to Cleveland in 2016 — could he be taking one more run with the Cavs next season?
LeBron James brought the NBA title to Cleveland in 2016 — could he be taking one more run with the Cavs next season?
Screen cap from YouTube

The LeBron James Countdown Is On, Where Will He Go?

It's not really written down anywhere, but the NBA calendar is divided into distinct sub-seasons. From September into mid-October, there's the preseason. Then, for the next six months, there's the regular season, followed by a couple months of the postseason. We get a small break for draft season, about a week or two, then comes the main event season — LeBron season.

And we are smack dab in the middle of it RIGHT NOW. This Friday is the deadline, the date by which LeBron needs to make his intentions known contractually, opt into his deal for another year (at about $35 million) or become an unrestricted free agent (and sign a new deal, either in Cleveland or elsewhere). HIs contractual decision is not necessarily a tell on where he IS going, but it is absolutely a tell on where he WON'T be going. More on this in a minute.

Here are the latest news items on the chase for LeBron. First, courtesy of ESPN.com, LeBron reportedly doesn't want anything to with bells, whistles, billboards, or silly Twitter hashtags:

While James hasn't decided yet whether to pick up his player option, sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

James might meet or speak with a club official or owner at some point, but the elaborate presentations that have become common in NBA free agency over the years are unnecessary after 15 seasons in the league.

Should James become a free agent, league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

Also, here are the latest odds on where LeBron will go. They may have changed slightly, but the gist remains the same — it's probably a two team race between the heavily favored Lakers and the hometown Cavaliers:

First, let's narrow this down to the realistic teams and draw the line underneath the Spurs at 25/1. Anybody with longer odds is stumbling in the dark, hoping to land LeBron. Also, know that, for the Cavaliers, LeBron's decision to opt into or out of his contract can mean he is staying under EITHER scenario. He could be opting into the last year of his deal to take one more run with the Cavs, OR he could be opting in to sign a new, more lucrative contract with the Cavs.

So here are LeBron's two options and how it effects the relevant, non-Cleveland teams listed above.

LeBRON OPTS INTO HIS DEAL
Good News For:
Rockets, Celtics, Spurs
Bad News For: Lakers, Sixers

LeBRON OPTS OUT OF HIS DEAL:
Good News For:
 Lakers, Sixers
Bad News For: Rockets, Celtics, Spurs

The whole thing is pretty simple. The Lakers and the Sixers can create (or have already created) enough cap space to sign LeBron outright without having to trade for him. The Rockets, Celtics, and Spurs are operating above the cap, can likely not create the necessary cap space, and would require the cooperation of the Cavaliers (and likely a third and maybe fourth team) to facilitate a trade (or series of trades) to land LeBron. The latter scenario would be executed similar to how the Rockets acquired Chris Paul last season, where Paul opted into his last year as a Clipper and the two sides worked out a deal that benefitted everybody. Voila, Paul became a Rocket.

For the Rockets, the hardest part of executing this time around would be finding a home for the remaining two seasons left on Ryan Anderson's deal, over $40 million in total salary. The sand seems to be running out of the Rockets' hourglass with respect to LeBron. Meanwhile, the Lakers, without a peep from LeBron or his camp, have become prohibitive favorites to land the future Hall of Famer. AS you can see above, the Lakers are up to -400 to land LeBron in some betting corners of the universe.

I have thought all along that James is staying in Cleveland for at least one more season, even with the roster as jacked up as it is currently, and at +225, I like the value on the Cavaliers. LeBron to the Lakers seems to be predicated on his going there with one other elite, established star. Who would that be? Paul George was always the chalk, but the noise on George staying in OKC is getting louder. Chris Paul will be a Rocket next season, and the Spurs are not trading Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers.

So my prediction — LeBron stays in the East at least one more year, stays in "The Land," makes one more Finals run, and then looks much harder at Los Angeles AFTER next season, when Kawhi Leonard is a free agent.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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