The Lakers are considered an early favorite to land James because they have created enough cap space to sign him and another young player, like Oklahoma City's Paul George, to a max contract.
The Cavs, whom James led to the NBA Finals the last four years, can offer him a five-year deal worth $205 million, which is a year longer and worth more money than anyone else can give him. They'd be far more likely to acquire one who chose to pick up a player option instead of decline it. The Lakers and 76ers are both pressing for the San Antonio Spurs to trade franchise player Kawhi Leonard as they jockey for position in James' eyes, according to The New York Times.
James told the Cleveland Cavaliers that he is not exercising his $35.6 million contract option for next season and will hit the free-agent market, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. James owns a home in Los Angeles and has spoken openly about his desire to be involved in Hollywood after his career his over.
It's also worth noting that Leonard is one of the few players in the National Basketball Association who can contain James, another reason why James would potentially want to play with Leonard instead of against him. The Cavaliers still advanced to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season, but the Warriors swept James, who turned in a Herculean effort.
LeBron James is approaching a deadline that may be little more than a starting line. James is good friends with Rockets' point guard Chris Paul, and Houston came one victory away from eliminating the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. He could still re-sign with Cleveland, although the strong current from national media is James appears ready to move again.
Those unknowns remain, but James is closer to solving them.
All fans of the Cavaliers and the team's front office are hoping that such introspection won't be necessary and he'll simply choose to return to the team.