Chris HaynesESPN Staff Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. — If the Golden State Warriors can create a max salary slot this offseason, the defending NBA champions could position themselves to secure a meeting with LeBron James, league sources told ESPN.
There is no indication that Golden State is evaluating such options to acquire the Cleveland Cavaliers star at this time.
Out of respect for the Warriors’ winning culture, James would listen if Golden State explored ways to clear the necessary cap space, sources said.
This offseason, James is expected to decline his $35.6 million player option and become an unrestricted free agent for the third time in his career, although re-signing with Cleveland is not out of the question.
James’ distant relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is well-chronicled, and the instability in Cleveland’s front office has been of concern to him, but the Warriors’ strong organizational structure and the prospect of more championships would be an enticement that most veteran players would consider.
James and his business team have been known to covet structure, if he were to leave his hometown team. With Golden State, an ultra-aggressive general manager in Bob Myers, the ownership group as a whole and coach Steve Kerr are the epitome of that.
A sign-and-trade scenario would be the most realistic way for Golden State to acquire James. The Warriors could build an offer around Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala to match salary and tempt the Cavaliers into making a deal, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.
To make a sign-and-trade possible, Golden State also would need Kevin Durant to decline his player option and take even less than his current annual salary of $25 million, in addition to moving Shaun Livingston‘s salary to a team with cap space. Golden State probably would have to fill out its bench with players making the league minimum.
The Warriors have approximately $135 million tied up in payroll, the highest in the league.