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LeBron's best free agency options include Thunder, Warriors


LeBron James has changed teams three times in his career. Could he make it a fourth? 

King James has been coy on whether or not he plans to exercise his $51.4 million player option for next season, telling reporters during the season that he doesn’t know what he will do. He tweeted out an hourglass emoji before the trade deadline, furthering speculation that he was unhappy with the direction of the Lakers. 

If James does indeed decline his option, that would also open up the door to other teams pursuing him. Obviously, he would draw a ton of interest throughout the league. There aren’t a lot of teams with the cap space to sign him outright, but he could try to facilitate some sort of sign-and-trade so that the Lakers at least would get something back for him.

Here are the most likely landing spots for James this summer, ranked in order of most to least likely. 

MORE LAKERS: Will LeBron leave LA? | LeBron to OKC? | How LA can get third star

James loves living in Los Angeles and he has a pretty good team around him. The most likely course of action is that he renegotiates another short-term deal at the max that will give him the flexibility to leave if things go awry. 

The Lakers might not have enough in the tank to beat the Nuggets, but they have avenues to get better next season. They will have their 2029 and 2031 picks available to trade, along with their 2024 pick on draft night. They’ve already been linked to many different stars. It will be a long summer full of Trae Young, Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell rumors.

Adding an All-Star talent to this already-good roster could help the Lakers break through to the inner circle of true contenders. The Lakers can offer LeBron the most money, he’s the most comfortable there and they have a pretty good team. That makes them the favorite to re-sign The King.

MORE: LeBron James cryptic tweets timeline: What history of social media posts mean

There is certainly interest in James. Golden State tried to trade for him at the deadline but was rebuffed by both the Lakers and LeBron himself. 

Maybe that changes this offseason. James has previously stated that he’d love to play with Stephen Curry. He also has a good relationship with fellow Klutch Sports client Draymond Green. 

The Warriors don’t have cap space to sign James outright. They would have to get the Lakers’ cooperation in a sign-and-trade to make a deal happen.

Would Chris Paul, Andrew Wiggins, one of their young players, and their 2026 and 2028 draft picks be enough to get a deal done? That is the best offer that the Warriors can make. 

MORE: How Golden State can acquire LeBron in 2024 offseason

If James wants to prioritize winning his fifth ring, then going to Oklahoma City is his best bet.

While the Thunder are undoubtedly very young, they are a great team that will be in championship contention next year without James. With him, they might be considered Finals favorites. 

James has had to carry too much of the offensive burden in Los Angeles. He could take a backseat to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and be more selective about conserving his energy in his age 40 season. He’d also have the shooting lasers that he’s complained about missing with the Lakers. Chet Holmgren would give him a stretch five that he hasn’t had since Kevin Love, Jalen Williams is a career 40 percent shooter from deep and Lu Dort has quietly turned into a deadly 3-and-D weapon. 

The Thunder have a couple of different ways to offer James a max deal. They have about $35 million in cap space. They could do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, giving up Dort, Josh Giddey and picks (of which they have too many to count).

If Los Angeles did lose James, then this would give them the quickest possible avenue to rebuild. They could get some good young prospects and a ton of picks, keeping their team competitive in the interim and dropping their payroll below the tax. 

The Cavaliers are a good team whose pieces don’t quite fit together. Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland have too much overlap. The same goes for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. They may be looking to break up their core four. 

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