It’s time to cut Houston from the list of teams most likely to get LeBron this summer.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
It’s still technically possible for the Rockets to clear enough cap space to sign LeBron, but that would require gutting their roster. A sign-and-trade is also still technically on the table, but that would hard-cap Houston and also hamper the roster. LeBron is smart enough to know the most viable way to join the Rockets was an opt-in-and-trade, and that’s now unavailable with LeBron opting out. So, he clearly decided he wouldn’t join Houston (or any other team that must dismantle the appeal of its roster to clear max cap space or stay under the sign-and-trade-triggered hard cap).
Where will LeBron go now?
Los Angeles, Cleveland and Philadelphia remain the leading possibilities. The Lakers and 76ers can easily clear max cap space, and the Cavs hold his Bird Rights.
LeBron’s option-year salary would have been $35,607,968. His max starting salary in free agency projects to be about $35.35 million (though that won’t be determined until the salary cap is officially set).
So, returning to Cleveland could mean a slight pay cut. But LeBron can also gain more security by re-signing rather than opting in – whether that be on a 1+1 contract, five-year deal or something in between. Besides, I doubt LeBron is stressing a few hundred thousand dollars.
Plus, opting out keeps the spotlight on LeBron and his NBA-shaping decision.