Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Lakers prepared to offer LeBron James three-year $160 million max contract, per report

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For all the attention new Lakers hire JJ Redick received at his introductory press conference Monday, the biggest bit of Lakers news fell below the fold in ESPN insider Dave McMenamin’s report of the afternoon in L.A.: The Lakers are prepared to offer LeBron James a three-year max contract extension, which would be valued at north of $160 million. 

James has until June 29 to opt in to the final year of his current contract, which would pay him $51.4M for the upcoming season, but the expectation is that he’ll forgo that player option and become a free agent. Should you be wondering about the three-year max, it’s because James is 39 (the over-38 rule stipulates that no player over that age can sign for more than three years. 

Should James opt out and sign the three-year max, the Lakers would be paying him through his age-41 season. Does he have three more years in the tank? Or might LeBron prefer one-year deals, maximizing short-term earning power with annual increases in the salary cap rather than taking the security of what would likely be the final long-term deal of his career? That’s still a question. 

But the Lakers are apparently prepared to facilitate whatever contract structure James prefers, which only makes sense considering how great he still is and the win-now mode in which the Lakers are operating as James’ career clock starts to tick louder and louder. It’s not about three years from now for the Lakers. It’s about this season. 

Plus, the Lakers can’t afford to mess around with James, who will have plenty of suitors. The Philadelphia 76ers have max cap space and, frankly, a more ready-made contender than the Lakers if LeBron came aboard. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who would also be a bigger threat to win the title with LeBron than the currently constructed Lakers, can get to max space pretty easily. So can the Orlando Magic

This is to say nothing of the sign-and-trade possibilities if LeBron starts throwing his weight around and is threatening to leave for nothing. LeBron might be 39, but he still has pretty much all the leverage here. The Lakers can’t hire Redick and then lose LeBron. They need to secure their superstar and then go about their annual hunt for another one to join James and Anthony Davis

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