The following piece is fundamentally driven by carrying out an idea that was brought into the limelight in the middle of the 2016 season. The article I am referring to is more of a quote in which LeBron James made this statement, “I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together. At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that. […] I’ve definitely had thoughts about it. We’ll see.” That statement by LeBron has even more weight and legitimacy when you see him partying in the offseason with Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and their significant others on a boat. While Carmelo Anthony has yet to appear in any such social media videos, his absence is most likely attributed to his participation with Team USA in the Olympics. LeBron’s statement becomes increasingly more interesting when you take a look at the way each of the respective contracts are structured and how they could impact the future
I am writing to uncover the possibility that such a scenario could come to fruition, rather than reporting it will in fact happen because as you will soon see there are major variables.
To start, let’s begin with the players’ contracts:
He has become notorious for signing flexible two-year deals with the option to exercise the second year in his contract. For example, LeBron just recently decided not to exercise his $24-million player option for the 2016-17 season in order to maximize his earnings and sign for a more a lucrative contract being that Cleveland holds his early-Bird rights (meaning the organization can offer him slightly more since he has been with the team for multiple years). Assuming James continues his trend of maximizing flexibility and earnings, he would again sign a two-year deal this summer with the ability to opt out after only one season meaning he would again be a free agent in 2017.
Wade is similar to LeBron in that he has signed recent contracts that have allowed him slight flexibility. In 2010, he along with Bosh and James signed five-year contracts with player options after the four season. So, when the Heat lost to the Spurs in the 2014 Finals, all three member of the Heat’s “Big 3” opted out of their fifth year to explore their options. After the free agency period was all said and done LeBron James returned home to Cleveland and Dwyane Wade ended up opting out of two years left of his contract worth $41.6 million only to re-sign with the Heat for two year worth about $10 million less than original contract. So, when LeBron dismantled the “Big 3,” Wade felt as though he had taken an unnecessary pay cut, which has caused him to take flexible one to two year deals that allow for maximum earning potential as the salary cap increases. So, again following the pattern of what he has previously done in the past two summers, he will again sign another flexible contract where he has ability to control future on an annual basis.
CP3’s deal is unique in that he is only one of a couple players in the league that hold the right to terminate their contract a year early, as his contracts obtains a Early Termination Option (ETO) clause. The difference between a player option and an ETO is that a player option, the athlete is deciding to extend the length of the contract, whereas in Paul’s case the life of his contract is five years and he has the ability to terminate it after only four season have been completed. simple to understand in that he simply is contractually bound to play for the Clippers this upcoming 2016-17 season and has the ability, if he so chooses, to terminate his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017. He along with LeBron and Wade will likely all be free agents come next summer with the ability to decide on their future.
The last and final piece of the equation is Carmelo, who is the only player of the four to be fully locked in thru the 2017-18 season. Carmelo signed a five-year contract during the 2014 summer which now has him under contract until 2019 with the fifth and final year being a player option. However, him being under contract in New York, a marquee city with big bright lights playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena could be a good enough attraction for the three other players to decide to team up in the Big Apple with Carmelo for “maybe one or two seasons”
New York Knicks
The Knicks currently only have three players under contract for the 2017-18 season (see graphic below). The transaction that made this theory even possible was the one Phil Jackson made when he traded for Derrick Rose. He shipped Robin Lopez to Chicago who has $14 million salary on the books for the 2017-18 season and another $14.5 million owed to him for the 2018-19 season. Furthermore, the trade not only provided the Knicks with a notable name at the point guard position but Rose’s contract ($21,323,252) ends after next season.
The NBA salary cap is projected to increase to $107 million for the 2017-18 season, which would be a historic mark for the league. With New York currently not having much financial obligations come the 2017-18 season and IF LeBron is speaking truthfully when he says, “I would actually take a pay cut to do that,” then there could be the opportunity to do it from a financial point of view. A lot can obviously change in matter of hours, as the 2016 free agency period is under way, but right now as it stands there is potential for a “BIG 4” in New York.
Not PROBABLE, but POSSIBLE.