As teams prepare to make their best pitches to prospective free agents, one player who could get basically anything he wants is LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar almost singlehandedly ended the city’s 52-year pro championship drought, helping the Cavs become the first team in Finals history to erase a 3-1 series deficit. James has the city — and more specifically the Cavaliers — wrapped around his little finger.
So a maximum contract is all but assured for King James, right? That might not necessarily be the case.
James opted out of the final year of his two-year deal late Tuesday. If he were to sign a one-year contract this offseason with the idea of signing a five-year max contract next summer when the salary cap is projected to rise from $94 million to $107 million, he could get a rude awakening.
Three league executives told USA Today that under the current collective bargaining agreement, the Cavs are not allowed to sign James to a five-year deal worth $200 million in the summer of 2017.
According to the report, there’s an "over 36 rule" in the CBA that doesn’t allow teams to give four- or five-year contracts to players who will turn 36 during the lifetime of the deal, because they aren’t likely to play out the remaining years with no salary cap repercussions. A player who is 36 and in the last year of a max deal would have his annual salary applied proportionately to the previous seasons and would count against the cap.
If James signed a five-year contract with the Cavs next offseason, he’d be 36 in the final year.
There’s a possible loophole to this issue. The union or the league could opt out of the collective bargaining agreement Dec. 15 and possibly alter this rule. James could lead the charge, considering he’s the vice president of the NBPA.
With free agency commencing Friday, this will be just another subplot in the NBA’s offseason drama.