Any team that courts LeBron James this offseason will be told the four-time MVP wants a new contract that pays him the maximum amount next season, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that James likely wouldn't take a discount this time around.
The max salary amount for James next season is about $22.2 million. There's some speculation James may not take a full max contract, instead opting for a deal shorter than four or five years.
NBA Free Agency
NBA Free Agency
James' free agency won't be anything like it was in 2010. That summer, James scheduled meetings with six teams in Cleveland at the beginning of July. As of now, the 29-year-old won't be meeting any teams, instead opting to have agent Rich Paul hold discussions with the suitors.
There are seven teams currently set to have the cap space to offer James a max salary, including Miami. The Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks are a part of this group, although Mavs owner Mark Cuban said the team doesn't plan on offering any max deals to free agents.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls also have interest in chasing James, but none of those teams have max cap space. All three teams would have to make cap-clearing moves to create that space, otherwise they'd have to rely on a sign-and-trade.
While plenty of teams want James, the most likely scenario is him returning to Miami. However, if James has little interest in taking any type of discount, there will be more onus on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to take a pay cut to help increase flexibility.
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The Heat will certainly try to structure the new contracts in a way that allows them to have enough cap space for another impact player. However, if that can't be done, it may be better for Miami to wind up above the cap after re-signing its own free agents. This would allow the Heat to use the $5.305 million mid-level exception, the $2.077 million bi-annual exception and a $2.2 million trade exception to help fill out the supporting cast around the Big Three.