LeBron James did re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a three-year, $100 million maximum contract, and the three-time NBA champion also pressured the Cavs to finalize a deal to keep free agent J.R. Smith.
James and Smith have the same agent in Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group, and the situation appears reminiscent to Tristan Thompson’s holdout past training camp last year. Thompson eventually signed a five-year, $82 million contract in late October.
James announced the contract on a video posted on social media and added near the end of the video: “Let’s get J.R. done. It’s that time.” Smith and the Cavaliers have remained in discussions on a multi-year agreement, sources said.
James will earn $31 million under the maximum salary for the upcoming season.What does LeBron James’s new Cleveland Cavaliers contract mean?
1. LeBron will be the highest-paid player in the NBA
LeBron will be paid $30.9 million in 2016-17, which will make him the highest-paid player in the league — shockingly, for the first time in his career. James’ $33 million salary in 2017-2018 will be the largest single-season deal in NBA history.
2. The threat of a lockout is real
James is the first vice president of the NBA Players’ Association — putting him on the front lines of the negations between it and the league as the two parties enter the final season of their collective bargaining agreement.
Given the massive increase in league revenue, thanks to new TV deals, and the battle between owners and players over how to handle that money this year and in the future, there are serious concerns that the owners will lock out the players next summer. James, who signed one-year deals with the Cavs in his first two years back in Cleveland, will not have to worry about being a free agent during the possible lockout — he’ll be under contract for 2017-18, whenever that season actually starts.
This is a safe move — it’s not as if James won’t be making record money that season — but it could also be a benevolent one: James’ financial security will allow him to engage in negotiations about topics like star player contracts without having an immediate personal stake. Should star players’ contract values be lowered in the new CBA, James can opt into his third year for $35.6 million. Should the values go up — perhaps to 40 percent or an unlimited amount of the salary cap — James will be poised to cash in on that, albeit on a year delay. He's protected either way.
Before James, only two players made $30 million or more in a season — Michael Jordan (1997, 1998) and Kobe Bryant (2014). Mike Conley, who signed a record contract with the Grizzlies earlier this summer, will join that club starting in 2018.
In his 13th NBA season, James led the Cavaliers to a historic 3-1 series comeback to win the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. James is a four-time NBA MVP, three-time Finals MVP and 12-time All-Star.
The Cavaliers signed veteran James Jones and rookie Kay Felder last week and reached terms with James on Thursday – with the signing of Smith hovering over the franchise’s future. Smith averaged 12.4 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range last season.
James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 2015-16. He stated after the season that he intended to re-sign with the Cavaliers.