LeBron James Free Agency: Breaking Down His Best Options

The wheels of a decision that could shape the NBA's landscape for the next decade were put in motion on Friday, when LeBron James announced he will become a free agent this summer.

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LeBron James during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland. It could well prove to be his final game for the Cavs after he opted to become a free agent this summer. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The three-time NBA champ opted out of the final year of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, turning down a $35.6 million salary for next season. He will now speak to other teams.

That means the Cavs will not find themselves in the same position the Los Angeles Clippers were 12 months ago, when Chris Paul opted in for the final year of his deal purely so he could then engineer a trade to Houston, who would have not been able to sign him as a free agent.

Following Paul's example would have allowed LeBron to pick from almost any of the remaining 29 NBA teams as his next destination, while opting out considerably limits his options. Of course, it is perfectly plausible one of the feasible teams was his preferred choice all along.

So, what options does LeBron have?

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are the clear favorites to land LeBron. The best player of his generation and one of the most successful franchises in NBA history could be the perfect marriage, and LeBron's two properties in L.A have long been seen as an indication that he might want to swap his home state for California at some stage.

The Lakers have cleared enough salary cap space for two-max level contracts this summer, which would allow them to sign LeBron and potentially another high-profile free agent such as Paul George—who has also opted out of the final year on his contract with Oklahoma.

In Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball the Lakers have one the most exciting cores of young players in the league—arguably third only to the Sixers and the Celtics—and it would be fascinating to see them develop around LeBron.

However, at least one of the three—possibly more—would have to be included in any trade package the Lakers will offer to San Antonio in a bid to convince them to trade Kawhi Leonard.

Philadelphia 76ers

In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers have arguably the two best young players in the league. Last season, Philly finally began reaping the long-awaited rewards of The Process, winning 52 games and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Even more than with the Lakers, joining the Sixers would give LeBron the chance to play with an incredibly young and talented supporting cast, while he could be the catalyst that brings The Process to its completion.

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LeBron James hugs Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers after the game at the Wells Fargo Center on April 6, 2018 in Philadelphia. Will the two be teammates in Philly next season? Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

However, LeBron might not fit into Philadelphia as smoothly as in other teams. Ben Simmons likes to see a lot of the ball and the Sixers might have to add more perimeter shooters to make the most of LeBron's assists.

At the same time, the prospect of the four-time MVP joining what was the NBA'S third-best defense last season is an intriguing proposition.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Opting out of the final year of his contract doesn't mean LeBron will leave Cleveland for a second time. The Cavs don't have the core of young players the Lakers and Sixers boast, nor do they have enough cap room—over $100 million is already committed for next season—to make wholesale changes to their roster.

That means Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith will still be the Cavs' key players next season, unless Cleveland's front office gets very inventive and succeeds in moving some of them on.

However, the Cavs can give LeBron more money than any other team and Cleveland is home for the Akron native. Whether that will be enough to keep in Ohio, remains to be seen.

What about the rest?

The Boston Celtics are probably the best-equipped team in the Eastern Conference to stop the Warriors' dominance. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are terrific talents and Brad Stevens is a very astute coach, who has shown he can put together a winning team despite having absolutely rotten luck with injuries.

However, the prospect of pairing LeBron with Kyrie Irving again just a year after the latter wanted to be traded away from the Cavs to emerge from the former's shadow might not be very wise.

The Rockets were the best team in the regular season and the prospect of LeBron, James Harden and Chris Paul on the same time is mouth-watering. Unfortunately, Houston needs to re-sign the latter and Clint Capela, and has already $30 million committed to Harden, meaning they would have to dismantle their roster to clear enough cap room for LeBron.

Elsewhere in Texas, Gregg Popovich would love to coach a player he greatly admires, but San Antonio's profile off the court means the Spurs would have to work hard to ensure theirs is the winning pitch.

Teaming up with Kawhi Leonard would go some way in doing just that but with the 2014 NBA Finals MVP desperate to be traded, the Spurs appear to have little chance of uniting the duo.

Still, LeBron and Leonard could end up playing together in LA.

LeBron James Free Agency: Breaking Down His Best Options | Sports