By trading the No. 7 overall pick and dumping Steve Nash and his $9.7 million expiring contract, the Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly one of the teams ramping up for a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
The All-Stars are opting out of their current contracts to hit free agency July 1. Contracts can be signed with other teams as of July 8.
ESPN reported the Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks are making plans to take a shot at bringing in one or both marquee free agents.
James could be back in Miami, and the Heat remain ahead of the rest of the crowded pack to re-sign him. If James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opt out as expected and Udonis Haslem declines a one-year option, Miami would free up more than $50 million. Only backup point guard Norris Cole would be under contract.
The Lakers are trying to clear about $33 million, enough to bring in James and Anthony at $16.5 million annually to team them with Kobe Bryant. Many criticized Bryant for not taking less money when he signed a two-year, $48 million contract
Atlanta and Cleveland would need to manuever their team-friendly contracts to accomodate multiple big-money signings, but Brian Windhorst of ESPN said the Cavaliers have one offseason model in which the team could keep point guard Kyrie Irving plus the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft and still have in excess of $30 million to spend in free agency.
James and Anthony are two of the top scorers in the NBA and at 30, Anthony has not experienced the level of team success James realized in Miami, going to four consecutive NBA Finals with the formation of the Big Three.