As a result, the 4-time MVP will become a free agent able to sign with any team as early as July 1. Houston could still try to acquire James in a sign and trade, but that triggers all kind of salary cap ramifications and would still necessitate losing important pieces to the point where LeBron wouldn't really be joining last year's version of the Rockets.
James' decision to opt out of his contract shrinks the number of teams that could be potentially pursuing him. Even that was a remote possibility.
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James drives against the Indiana Pacers during Game 7 of a first-round playoff series. But before you start going insane and reconstructing each team's roster in the hopes of adding James, let's just examine the realistic options.
Of course, the move could also be simply seen as a way for James to protect himself and family members from unwanted intrusions by media outlets.
James already has some shallow roots on the West Coast with two homes in the Los Angeles area and a film production company.
LeBron James has reportedly declined the player option on the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Cleveland's roster is in need of an overhaul, and the Cavaliers are in the hard situation of having to convince James they will continue to improve without knowing if he will be back. That guy, who spent the last two years beating LeBron James in the NBA Finals. James is close friends with Houston's Chris Paul, and forming a trio with Paul and James Harden would have been one of his most realistic paths toward competing with the Golden State Warriors over the next few seasons. Los Angeles is probably the favorite right now for reasons that have as much to do with his post-playing career as they do on-court things, but nothing should be considered set in stone.
"My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I'm from". But with James declining that option, Houston doesn't have a logical route to create a sizeable amount of cap space.
There has been talk James is intrigued by the thought of going out west to play for the Lakers, if he can get another All-Star like Paul George or Kawhi Leonard to join him. It will likely continue up until the time that James makes his decision.