Entering the 2018 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers must operate without knowing the status of LeBron James, who can opt out of his contract before the end of the month.
James, Cleveland.com reported, has been in touch with the team through his representatives. However, James himself is not certain whether he will return to Cleveland, according to the report, and therefore cannot share his intentions with the franchise.
Speculation James is leaving Cleveland built throughout the season, rooted primarily in the divide between the face of the team and owner Dan Gilbert.
James is being linked to teams who might be better equipped to build a contender to challenge the Golden State Warriors, but has given no indication where he might be headed next.
When James last faced a similar opt out in his contract, he fled Miami to return to Cleveland, and informed Heat president Pat Riley before the draft of his decision.
James has until June 29 to exercise the $35.6 million player option on his contract for next season.
Cleveland is well over the luxury tax even without James on the books. Kevin Love is scheduled to make $24.1 million, George Hill’s salary for next season in $19 million, and Tristan Thompson is on the books at $17.5 million, just ahead of JR Smith ($14.7 million).
If the team considers dealing an expiring contract, the best bet is likely sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Korver is guaranteed $7.6 million for the 2018-19 season.
Media reports also link Cleveland to veterans who could be available via trade, including Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, as the team strives to keep a competitive roster intact, with or without James.
The Cavaliers hold the eighth overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
—Field Level Media