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LeBron's next team odds: Can anyone pry him away from Lakers?

Adam Pantozzi / National Basketball Association / Getty

Teams don't usually run to sign declining 39-year-olds to lucrative contracts. However, if LeBron James makes himself available this free agency, organizations with the necessary cap space will line up to enter the James sweepstakes.

James has until June 29 to decide if he will pick up his $51-million player option with the Lakers or opt out and become a free agent. There's little doubt James will choose the latter to restructure his deal and earn more money.

Here's where oddsmakers at theScore Bet project James will play next season and the most likely landing spots if he doesn't re-sign with the Lakers.

James' next team odds

Team Odds
Lakers -700
Cavs +1200
Sixers +1600
Heat +1600
Knicks +1600
Warriors +2000
Mavs +2200
Suns +2200
Spurs +2200

As the odds indicate, James will likely stay in Los Angeles, where he's resided for the last six years. Part of the appeal for James to sign with the Lakers in 2018 was the opportunities away from basketball in L.A. That's even more prevalent as James approaches the end of his playing career.

Staying with the Lakers would be foolish if this was strictly a basketball decision and he was still chasing championships. Only James knows if his priority is to win a fifth ring.

The Lakers are a dysfunctional organization and have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs twice in James' six years despite employing two of the league's top 15 players in James and Anthony Davis. Although they won the 2020 NBA Finals in the Orlando bubble, there have been more disappointing seasons than successful ones.

L.A. finished seventh in the West last season and has few avenues to significantly improve its roster unless it makes a huge splash in the trade market. Davis and James each played 70-plus games last season for the first time since they joined forces, and the Lakers still ended up in the play-in tournament. That durability likely won't persist with Davis' injury history and James' age. Plus, the West is only getting better and deeper, creating an even more arduous path to contention.

Los Angeles reportedly hired JJ Redick as its new coach Thursday, James' fourth coach in six years. If that doesn't scream dysfunction, then what does? Redick is James' friend and podcast co-host but has no prior coaching experience.

Lifestyle and familial happiness might trump the basketball situation at James' age. However, there won't be a shortage of opportunities if the four-time MVP wants to explore better basketball options.

James isn't a typical 39-year-old. While he can't carry the load he did a decade ago, he's still one of the NBA's best players. He averaged 25 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds in 35 minutes a night. More impressively, he shot a career-best 41% from three.

Many teams would benefit from his services and could offer a situation where he wouldn't have to be the focal point like he is with the Lakers, potentially extending his career.

The 76ers and Cavaliers are the obvious choices. Both already have playoff-caliber rosters and Philadelphia has the cap room for a max contract. Joining Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey - one of the league's best duos - is a no-brainer from a basketball standpoint. Philadelphia would immediately become the Celtics' biggest competitor next season. Daryl Morey will pursue James, but selling Philadelphia over Los Angeles is difficult for even the best salesman.

James had multiple stints with the Cavs, but re-opening that chapter seems like a long shot. Cleveland and Philly are both in the East, where there's an easier path to the championship, even with the Celtics returning their core.

The Warriors and James were linked last season, and the four-time champion's relationship with Steph Curry is well known, which is why Golden State would theoretically be in the mix.

There is, of course, the Bronny James factor. LeBron's son declared for the draft this spring. Although LeBron stated that his dream is to play with his son, agent Rich Paul told ESPN that LeBron is "off this idea."

It remains to be seen if that's true or just a ploy to scare teams away from drafting Bronny in hope of acquiring LeBron. Regardless, it's plausible LeBron still wants to play with Bronny at some point before he retires. The Lakers are the favorite to draft Bronny, and many mock drafts have him falling to Los Angeles with the No. 55 pick. If the Lakers draft Bronny, it's very hard to imagine LeBron leaving. Los Angeles could pull that stunt to secure the elder James' commitment.

Bronny has only worked out for two teams - the Lakers and the Suns, which is why Phoenix is on the oddsboard to land LeBron. Could a team like the Sixers swoop in and draft Bronny? It's a reasonable recruiting tool in a lackluster draft, but who knows whether that would influence LeBron's decision.

LeBron's on-court performance doesn't suggest he's ready to retire. He can still be a top player on a championship contender in the right environment. However, he's undoubtedly mulling retirement as he enters his 22nd season. The length of his next contract may give us a clearer picture of James' timeline, but it's probable he stays where he is.

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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