LeBron James opts out of final year of Lakers contract, but expected to stay on new deal

Written by on June 29, 2024

LeBron James has opted out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the expectation is that he will sign a new deal with the team. So far this offseason, the Lakers have selected his son, Bronny James, with the No. 55 overall pick in the NBA Draft, and they have also hired his Mind the Game podcast co-host, JJ Redick, as their head coach. 

James is eligible for a three-year deal worth a projected $162 million to return to Los Angeles as a free agent. Because he has at least eight total years of NBA experience and has spent at least four years with the Lakers, he is also eligible for a no-trade clause in this deal.

James could have potentially signed an extension with the Lakers for a slightly higher price. The total amount on such an extension would have been roughly $164.3 million over three years. The reason such an extension would have paid James more is that his player option amount, which was based on an 8% raise built into his last contract, was higher than his max on the open market, which would have been a 5% raise on his previous salary. However, had James extended, he would not have been eligible for a no-trade clause, as those can only be added to new deals rather than existing ones.

While James has not taken less than the max since returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014-15 season, Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes is reporting that he is considering paths for the Lakers to open the full mid-level exception to spend in free agency. The advantage of James opting out is that it allows him to tailor his salary to whatever other moves the Lakers make. He can see how much money the Lakers need to add talent elsewhere and then take however much is left if he approves of the moves.

Rich Paul, James’ agent, confirmed to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that James has opted out and will work with the front office on his new deal if it means adding an impact player to the roster.  

“He is prioritizing a roster improvement,” Paul said. “He’s been adamant about exuding all efforts to improve the roster.”

James has spent the past six seasons with the Lakers. If he signs a three-year deal with the Lakers and doesn’t move before it ends, his total Lakers tenure will have lasted nine seasons. That would top his first seven-year tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest stretch with a single team in his career. In total, though, he would need to play 11 seasons with the Lakers to match his overall time with the Cavaliers, as he went on to play four more years in Cleveland later on.

The Lakers won 47 games a year ago and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Denver Nuggets. Reports have indicated that James still hopes to compete for championships, but the Lakers, thus far, have not made significant moves to improve. They landed Dalton Knecht at No. 17 overall in the draft, but they have not made a substantial veteran addition yet this offseason. The Lakers have preached patience and player development so far this offseason, but as James will turn 40 next season, they will have to find a balance between the present and the future.

General manager Rob Pelinka has said in the past that the Lakers need to be “caretakers” of James’ legacy as one of the greatest players in NBA history. That has meant investing in immediate winning, and after losing in the first round, upgrades will be needed to put this team in a position to genuinely compete this season. Only time will tell if the Lakers are able to make those moves, but if James does indeed stay on a new deal, he will be entrusting the team to do so.

The post LeBron James opts out of final year of Lakers contract, but expected to stay on new deal first appeared on CBS Sports.

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