Earlier this week, a Las Vegas betting site released odds giving the San Antonio Spurs the 5th best odds of having LeBron James on their team by the start of next season.
Project Spurs’ Stephen Anderson and I discussed the James to Spurs odds in detail on the latest Spurscast.
Immediately after the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the Golden State Warriors Friday evening in the NBA Finals, Spurs starting point guard Dejounte Murray tweeted the following:
— Dejounte Murray (@DejounteMurray) June 9, 2018
Murray wasn’t the only NBA player to start openly recruiting James, as Joel Embiid of the Sixers and Enes Kanter of the Knicks had similar types of tweets.
Saturday, Marc Stein of the New York Times listed several teams that will have interest in James this offseason and he included the Spurs.
I’ve also been advised that the ever-persuasive San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is bound to try to force his way into the conversation to sell James on the merits of South Texas.
Saturday evening, Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell gave his opinion on James’ free agency, by tweeting the following:
Bron to the Spurs #waitonIt
— D’Angelo Russell (@Dloading) June 9, 2018
While some fans, media members, and even players are already creating their predictions of where James will play next season, it’s important to remember that when it comes to the Spurs, they first need to figure everything out with Kawhi Leonard. One would expect San Antonio and Leonard will have an idea of where their future is headed within the next 12 days.
Assuming everything works out well between the Spurs and Leonard, then San Antonio probably would shift their focus toward trying to recruit James. It’s no secret the Spurs have been looking to add star level talent to their team over the last few summers. They were able to get LaMarcus Aldridge to leave Portland and sign with them. They were able to get a meeting with Kevin Durant before he signed with the Warriors, and they were even rumored in the Kyrie Irving trade discussions before he ended up in Boston.
Financially, the Spurs would have two main routes of trying to get James on their team if both sides had mutual interest. First, if James wanted to exercise his $35.6 million player option and get traded to a team (the Chris Paul path), then the players of that team would have to recruit him before June 29 – which is the last day for him to exercise the player option. This recruitment is mostly on the players’ shoulders because team executives and coaches wouldn’t be allowed to speak with James until July 1 due to tampering rules.
If the opt-in and get traded to San Antonio route was the move James and the Spurs wanted to use, then they would need to see what Cleveland is willing to take back in return. The move works with the contracts of Patty Mills and Pau Gasol, but the Cavs would surely want future assets attached as well, such as the Spurs’ 18th pick in this year’s draft and potentially future first round picks. If picks aren’t enough, the Cavs might want a young player like Murray or Derrick White in return.
If James decided to decline his player option and he became an unrestricted free agent July 1, and let’s say he wanted to sign in San Antonio, then the Spurs would need to find ways to open $35.3 million in salary cap space to sign James to a max contract. That again requires trying to find trade partners for both Gasol and Mills, plus what assets would those trade partners want attached? Picks, Murray, or White? From there, the Spurs would most likely have to say goodbye to one of Rudy Gay or Danny Green. Both players have player options that need to be decided on by June 29. In the event James chose San Antonio and both players opted into their deals, the Spurs would need to find a trade partner for one of their deals.
It’s early in the offseason and the draft is still 12 days away. As mentioned above, the Spurs’ priority will be to figure out everything with Leonard and then they can start looking at their chances of acquiring James or other free agents.