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An investigation into which mystery NBA teams think LeBron will take a paycut to play with Bronny

Two teams reportedly believe LeBron James would take a paycut to play with for them alongside son Bronny, so we look at who might be crazy enough to believe that.

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New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LeBron James’ future is going to come into greater and greater focus as this season ticks to it’s conclusion. That noise will only grow if the Lakers continue floundering as they have for much of the season so far.

With a player option for the 2024-25 season and his desire to play with his son Bronny already stated multiple times over, the Lakers are going to have some legitimate options that could pull him away from Southern California.

The rumors, then, are going to fly in the coming months. One of the more outrageous ones, though, came on Monday when Marc Stein, longtime NBA beat writer, revealed that he knows of multiple teams who think LeBron would take a discount to sign with them. The caveat involved is that this is under the assumption Bronny James both enters the draft and is selected by one of these teams.

I know of at least two teams on the NBA map that believe LeBron James would consider signing with them at far less than $51.4 million if Bronny James is on the roster. There might be more.

First, it bears mentioning that the latest report regarding LeBron’s future is that he wants to retire in Los Angeles with the Lakers. It still seems like that is the most likely outcome.

If he does leave, it’s hard to imagine he’s doing it at a discount at this point in his career. He’s still very capable of playing at a high, high level and since leaving the Heat, LeBron has never taken a discount. In fact, LeBron spent time as the vice president of the player’s union when they focused on expanding the league’s over-36 rule to an over-38 rule, something that is now particularly relevant to him.

In short, he’s not someone who takes discounts anymore. He wants his money. As he should.

But that makes the idea that he’s taking less money to sign with a team this summer even more hilarious. It means some team has talked themselves into this wild notion. So, who could it be?

The first answer is obviously the Cavs. It’s a franchise that LeBron has gifted twice already simply because he was born there. They have done little else to warrant him playing so long there until recent years. Owner Dan Gilbert is absolutely capable of believing, even after how LeBron left last time, he would still sign him back on a discount.

LeBron’s comments two years ago probably only strengthened his belief. During All-Star weekend in Cleveland, he spoke quite highly of the Cavs and the roster they had built.

That one has at least some logic to it, no matter how ultimately flawed it may be.

It is more difficult to figure out what the second team talked themselves into because no one else makes sense.

The Sixers make a lot of sense here. When LeBron entered free agency in 2018, the Sixers were among the teams that met with his reps.

Daryl Morey is also crazy enough to believe Philly has a chance. And they also are going to have cap space this summer, but not $51 million-plus worth or anything close to that.

What other big market team would be delusional enough to think being a big market is enough to draw in LeBron?

Well, isn’t it the New York Knicks!

Granted, the Knicks this year have been actually good finally this season, so maybe this doesn’t entirely apply. But if there’s a franchise that thinks just being who they are is enough to land top free agents, it’s the Lak...err I mean Knicks.

They have basically no chance of offering LeBron any sort of reasonable salary near $51 million.

The Nuggets might fit here as they, too, got a media with his reps in 2018. But LeBron admitted he never gave much thought there and Denver is a second apron team that can’t offer basically anything to LeBron. The way he left Pat Riley and the Heat probably means they’re not in the running either.

I don’t suspect any of this will matter as I’d be surprised if he left the Lakers right now. And even if he did, it won’t the for a discounted price.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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