Brian Windhorst: I think LeBron James intends to become a free agent for the first time since 2018

Peter Dewey
5 Min Read
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James plans to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this coming offseason.

James, who has a player option for the 2024-25 season, could look to sign a longer deal – potentially with Los Angeles – if he does decide to opt out.

“I do think that LeBron intends to opt out of his contract and become a free agent for the first time since 2018,” Windhorst said. “And I think that that will apply a little bit of pressure to the Lakers. I think he’s doing it for three reasons. No. 1, because I think he wants to see what the Lakers do around the draft.

“They have potentially three first-round picks that they can trade, couple of contracts they can package with it to upgrade the team. You remember that they did not make any significant upgrades to this team at the trade deadline. LeBron did not forget that. And I do think he likes to have that pressure on them.

“No. 2, as you may have heard, his son Bronny may be – and I expect to be – in this draft. The Lakers, I think, will keep their draft pick.”

Windhorst explained that the New Orleans Pelicans can defer L.A.’s 2024 pick (acquired by New Orleans in the Anthony Davis trade) to next season, and he believes that will happen.

The younger James played at the University of Southern California (USC) this past season and averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

“LeBron has expressed an interest in possibly playing with his son,” Windhorst said. “The Lakers will have potentially two chances to draft him.

“And No. 3, I think that there’s some features that he can put in a new contract. No. 1, if he opts in, he only gets one year and $50 million. He could potentially get multi years. And also, he does not have a no-trade clause in his contract. There’s only one out there in the NBA – it belongs to Bradley Beal – I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d like to lock that in as well.”

It would make sense for the elder James to not only push to play with his son, but also have complete control over his NBA future.

A longer deal would not only earn the elder James more money, but a no-trade clause would keep him out of any unwanted destination – or from being moved at all once he signs a new deal.

Even though the elder James is aging, he showed in the 2023-24 season that he is still one of the best players in the NBA. The 20-time All-Star averaged 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from 3 during the regular season.

In the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, the four-time champion scored at least 26 points in every game, averaging 27.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists per contest across five games. Unfortunately, Los Angeles came up short, losing to Denver in the first round.

While the elder James could walk away from the game now and still be considered one of the greatest players ever, he may be looking to stick around longer, especially for a chance to play with his son.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers approach the potential free agency of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this coming offseason.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball, football and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.