By Pat Ralph @Pat_Ralph on June 24, 2014
As expected by most, superstar forward LeBron James decided on Tuesday morning to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat to become a free agent this summer. Now having opted out, James has many options to consider over the next few weeks. The Heat may be the front-runners to retain his services, but James will have many other teams calling him on July 1 when NBA free agency officially kicks off.
The Phoenix Suns have plenty of cap space to bring in James. Phoenix is young, talented, and well-coached. Not only would Phoenix give James the money he wants and the opportunity to take the franchise back to championship contender status, but it would also team James up with one his good friends Eric Bledsoe. A trio of James, Bledsoe, and Most Improved Player Goran Dragic would make the Suns a fun and intriguing team to watch.
Another potential landing spot for James could be with the Los Angeles Clippers. The thought of James, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin together on a championship contender is just, well, scary. Most importantly, both James and head coach Doc Rivers share a mutual respect and admiration for each other. Move a few contracts off the Clippers' payroll to get under the salary cap, and James to Hollywood is very possible.
The Houston Rockets have publicly stated their interest in James. Houston needs to improve on the defensive end this offseason, and James would no doubt bring that to Houston. In order to bring in James and form a Big 3 of James Harden, Dwight Howard and LeBron, the Rockets would need to get under the salary cap as well. Adding James would solidify Houston as a top team in the Western Conference and a title contender.
Another option could be the Chicago Bulls, who came up short in the James sweepstakes back in 2010. The Bulls are looking for an explosive scorer this summer, so James would be a perfect fit. James would also strengthen Chicago's already-solid defense and would not require James to cover the best opposing player every night. Likewise, Chicago would need to get under the salary cap, but it would make the Bulls championship contenders immediately.
In the end, James is most likely to stay in South Beach. The move to opt out was to put pressure on Miami to improve this team and keep all of his options open if things do not go according to plan. It will be interesting to see if fellow stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh follow suit and opt out as well. James has given Miami the financial resources to retool this team; now it is time for the Heat to show James that Miami is still the place to be.
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