LeBron James extension: Six things you need to know

Lebron James

On Thursday, 4th August, LeBron will become eligible for a contract extension. In the lead-up to that date, there are six things you should know about the Lakers star.

In the course of his NBA career, LeBron James has signed eight contracts, all of which have been noteworthy in their own right, while some have greater significance than others.

The Decision and The Letter, two of them, were so monumental that they can both be easily defined in two words, while a number of others continue to be remembered despite requiring a little bit more explanation. 

A masterclass in anti-climax was the press release that announced his signing with the Lakers in 2018. He continued the trend of celebrities requesting one-year contracts when he agreed to a one-year contract in Cleveland in 2015. 

This pact was a follow-up to the similar one that came with The Letter. With a three-year extension after signing his first contract in 2006, he was the one who started that trend.

James has only recently started to get dull, technically speaking. He agreed to a somewhat low-key extension that would keep him with the Lakers through the end of the 2022–23 season after the Lakers won the 2020 title.

Since things were going well at the time, not much was spoken about it. In a glitzy market, a defending Finals MVP returning with his hand-selected championship squad rarely makes the news. Of course, we’re talking about LeBron James here. He can never maintain his dullness for very long.

This week, James will be eligible for contract number nine, and unlike the previous one, there has been a lot of buzz in Los Angeles about this potential extension. 

Here is all you need to know about the extension King James may or may not sign in the coming days before LeBron can formally sign.

1. When does LeBron become eligible for an extension?

Lebron James

On Thursday, 4th August, James may formally agree to a new contract with the Lakers. Veteran renewals of this nature typically can’t be signed until two years after their previous agreement was approved. But because of the pandemic, the 2020 offseason was moved back, and James signed his final contract then. 

The league has utilized a mapping table to identify the corresponding days on a common calendar. James signed his current contract on 2nd December 2020, which corresponds with the 4th of August in the following year.

2. How much money can LeBron earn?

Lebron James

For those of you who aren’t interested in the finer details of capital markets, the quick response is a predicted $97.1 million over two years. James would stand to make about $141.6 million over the following three seasons, if he simply agrees to resign for his maximum, in addition to the $44.5 million he is due next season.

3. LeBron has the ability to sign this extension, but will he?

Lebron James

The conventional belief has held that James wants to stay in Los Angeles and always has. Recently, Marc Stein made this claim, and others have done so repeatedly over the past few years. James doesn’t seem prepared to leave Los Angeles just yet.

However, it does not ensure an extension this offseason. During his second stay with the Cavaliers, James often used his contract status to pressure the team into taking particular actions. 

It’s a strategy he had to use in 2014 after the Miami Heat released valued comrade and close buddy Mike Miller in order to save some money on the luxury tax. He anticipates that his teams will invest in both compensation and, if necessary, draft capital.

Picks are the more recent source of worry. The Lakers have two first-round picks available for trade: 2027 and 2029. They have not yet been known to have been presented to anyone, as far as is known. 

Offering both would at the very least result in Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. It might succeed in luring Kyrie Irving. James apparently prefers to play with those players, and maybe more significantly, a deal like that would remove Russell Westbrook from the squad.

James can use free agency as leverage to try to persuade the Lakers to part up the picks required to execute a Westbrook trade if he believes that it is the only way to get back into the title conversation. Once he re-signs, that choice is no longer an option, and the Lakers are suddenly free to waste another season without repercussions.

4. The Lakers must be extending this contract, right?

Lebron James

All signs point to the Lakers actually intending to extend James a maximum contract. Honestly, regardless of their long-term objectives, doing so makes sense. Only one of the Lakers’ remaining three first-round picks is under their possession.

Whether James stays or leaves, their draft capital will be constrained. They can’t rebuild in the conventional sense, but keeping James ensures at least some level of box office appeal and relevancy. But even if James chose to turn down an offer of an extension, the Lakers most likely wouldn’t be too upset about it.

Allowing James to leave in 2023 may require moving Davis before his 2024 free agency and putting up with a few tough years, but that bill will eventually be paid.

If the Lakers aren’t going to take the required action to compete with James, they might not mind getting a head start on the dismantling that will definitely come. The immediate aftermath of the James era is going to be ugly for the Lakers.

This is all academic at this point. The Lakers are anticipated to give James their best offer. However, if he declines, it will have an impact on the entire league.

5. Is anyone else keeping an eye on things?

Lebron James

The Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers are the two clubs attentively following everything that is going on. Both of them gain a little amount of negotiating power if James doesn’t use his option to force the Lakers into a win-now move.

Neither of them are in a very advantageous position, but nevertheless, it helps to have LeBron James informing the general manager you’re negotiating with that he wants the deal to go through when you want to make a trade.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are now set up to have roughly $25 million in cap space in 2023. If they waive Cedi Osman, that figure could easily rise past $30 million. Additionally, if they need to free up a starting place at small forward, Lauri Markkanen and his $17.3 million contract for the 2023–24 season should be reasonably tradeable.

The Cavaliers might provide James with a contender if the Lakers won’t. The Cavaliers could not have asked for a greater mentor for their new talents than James, despite Cleveland taking some joy in developing their first championship team without James in decades.

6. In the event that James extends, how will the coming several years be?

Lebron James and Anthony Davis

A James extension would simply start the countdown to the summer of 2024, which is its most evident effect. James and Davis would presumably have player options at that point. James has made it clear that he intends to join whichever team selects his son Bronny in the draft. 

In the event that James left the Lakers, Davis would probably think about his own exit plan. The conclusion of this Lakers basketball era is most likely around July 2024.

The New Orleans Pelicans began popping champagne bottles if it occurs. They presently possess a Lakers first-round pick that will transfer in 2024 or 2025.

When Davis and James depart, the Pelicans get to choose, and an unprotected Lakers pick would almost probably come up towards the top of the lottery. The Lakers would be forced to accept their punishment and the bounty they have given the Pelicans.

LeBron’s future virtually doesn’t matter until we know what happens with Westbrook. All we can reasonably predict is that James’ ninth contract, like the eight he has already signed, will be one of the more momentous agreements in basketball history.

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