NBA Free Agency is the true Midnight Madness. And when it lights up in the early morning hours Saturday night through Sunday morning, LeBron James – who has given up his deal in Cleveland – will be the puppeteer who runs the show.
Like the Machiavellian mastermind Ford on "Westworld" King James will have the entire NBA world under his command.
As a former kink on the red carpet for the "Uncle Drew" premiere said, "He just has to get it over for the rest of us to become real life again."
James had until midnight on Friday's time to decline his $ 35.6 million player option and did exactly this Friday afternoon. But James ̵
After the Lakers were rejected, Wednesday rebuilt, and ESPN said the Lakers and Spurs expect every trade to lead to James Los Angeles. James decided to eliminate Houston as a landing site and likely narrowed his choice to the Lakers, 76ers, or stayed with the Cavaliers, either with a five-year contract or a one-plus-one deal that will bring us back here next summer
Based on the current projection of a $ 101 million salary cap, the Cavaliers can offer James a $ 207.4 million five-year contract. Other teams are limited to four years and $ 152.3 million.
But whatever James decides will determine the direction of the NBA. He will radiate control, both visible and invisible, as Ford rides his robots.
Who are the Lakers landing?
You're in the middle of everything, with the cap area to land two Max players. James is the grand prize, with the thunder Paul George also a target. But maybe they need to get Leonard to pave the way for King James. It was not easy.
As much as Leonard wants out of San Antonio, the Spurs are not there to build another's super team. If Gregg Popovich – national treasure he is – can be short on the media, one can only imagine his reaction when the Lakers first called Leonard.
According to ESPN, Los Angeles was ready to pick Brandon Ingram and a first round pick, but the Spurs demanded a "far wider haul" from picks and young players. Kyle Kuzma? Lonzoball? Who knows.
With James, who wants to decide early on the free agency, the Lakers are on a watch, even if San Antonio is not. Would he go to LA alone, King James without a knight – at least until Leonard could be with him as a free agent next summer?
Will George, who has been going to Hollywood for two years, stay in Oklahoma City? He told The Thunder that he opted but could still make a five-year extension of $ 176 million or a one-plus-one and return to the market in 2019.
And if the Lakers landed only one – or none – they would stamp and re-sign limited free agent Julius Randle, who could possibly get a bid from Brooklyn if the Nets placed caps? Or would L.A. be patient enough to wait until 2019? After all, Johnson vowed to stop if he can not bring stars until next summer.
Ainge's Fortune and Philly's Process
Boston General Manager Danny Ainge could probably get a cup of coffee and a half-used MetroCard for an unprotected first-rounder. But with trader Danny, who still holds a wealth of assets, will he eventually redeem them? After the Lakers were rejected for Leonard, would the Celtics go all-in to land a top five player?
The Celtics are engaged to the Spurs, but they have not discussed abandoning Jaylen Brown, according to the Boston Globe, and are tentative because of Leonard's health and unwillingness to commit to Boston more than a single season to stay.
Philadelphia has almost as many assets and even more cap space, enough to sign James directly. If the Sixers are up, they must go through Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and the former Nets goal J.J. Redick. If you can not get James or any other elite free agent, you would not be surprised how much the ex-GM Twitter scandal cost her, Bryan Colangelo.
Bad luck for boogie?
There was a time when DeMarcus's cousins had been barred from a $ 188 million five-year contract. Then came a devastating Achilles tendon injury that raises questions about his fitness for the next season. Now the worry is not just how explosive his temper is (he fought with coach George Karl, fought with his teammate Donte Greene and infiltrated the Instagram of his own team), but about how explosive his body becomes.
ESPN cap expert Bobby Marks speculated cousins might have to settle for a two-year make-good deal. Given that his probable landing site in Dallas could be taken by DeAndre Jordan, who will it be?
The Buyout Boys?
When George screws OKC, it seems inconceivable that the thunder would not then buy out Carmelo Anthony. And it is expected that the Nets will sign a buyout agreement with Dwight Howard, who will then enter the center pool. A veteran who can not play as he is and another who can not play well with others.
Give the Mavericks so much: They're out of the tank
After throwing away a first-rounder in 2019 to raise and Euro prodigy Luka Doncic on draft -Night, they still have a hole at the 4/5 spot, which stands for the free-agent route (Cousins, Randle, Derrick Favors). But now, after several reports, they look into the Jordan of the Clippers, who said goodbye to his deal on Friday.
Guess they talked about the 2015 fiasco and hugged it.
The (not so) restricted
High-end restricted-free agents are not only rare, they rarely produce a drama. This summer could be different.
No, teams do not have to stick to their pearls, fearing Nets GM Sean Marks, who come in with a huge offer sheet in their RFAs: Brooklyn does not have much to give away and will likely lie low by 2019. But under Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, Randle and Marcus Smart, will surely get at least one of them an offer sheet, big enough to blanch their team.
Gordon expects to get a maximum offer and would like to stay in Orlando, but could get a great deal from Indiana. Parker's situation coming back from another ripped ACL could have some intrigue. Randle's waiting game – and all sorts of Nets interests – were discussed. It's just one of countless moving pieces manipulated by King James.