4 things to watch with start of NBA free agency

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With the NBA free agency period beginning Wednesday, here’s a look at some things to watch:

Why LeBron opted out

For the third time in six years, LeBron James is an unrestricted free agent after he opted out of his $21.6 million option year on his contract, this time with the Cleveland Cavaliers. All indications are that James has no intentions of going anywhere else.

So why did he opt out?

With the salary cap for the 2015-16 season projected to be $67.1 million, James can sign a maximum deal for a player with his experience of $22.1 million. He will get a $500,000 raise.

However, the decision is more about the long term. If James signs a similar two-year deal with the first year guaranteed and the second year as a player option, he can become an unrestricted free agent again in 2016. That is when the salary cap is projected to rise to $89 million with the new television contract. James could get a max deal with the first year worth approximately $29.3 million. In fact, James could continue to negotiate opt out clauses as the salary cap continues to rise. He is after all, the King and self-proclaimed best player on the planet.

Big men on the move

With James staying put, there will be movement with some key players – notably the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and the Pistons’ Greg Monroe. Both big men have made it known they won’t be re-signing and are shopping for greener pastures.

Aldridge will reportedly meet with a list of teams that include the Spurs, Lakers, Rockets, Mavericks, Suns, Raptors and Knicks.

Monroe also has a list of potential suitors that includes the Celtics, Knicks, Bucks, Lakers and Trail Blazers.

The Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol is also an unrestricted free agent and would command major attention. However, he has reportedly said he will only meet with the Grizzlies.

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Team to watch

This will be a most interesting free agency for the Spurs, considering all they have to do.

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli are unrestricted free agents. Despite those names, the biggest offseason priority will be restricted free agent Kawhi Leonard, the former NBA Finals MVP.

As the Spurs look to keep their team intact and look to the future, they are in play for Aldridge, who will be looking for a max deal. That’s a lot to get done for a team with about $29 million in cap space.

For more on the Atlanta Hawks, who went undefeated during the month of January as part of their 22-game win streak and have two of their top players testing the market, click here.

Look back

It’s always fun to look back and see how free agency worked out one year later.

The Cavaliers were the clear winners last year for signing James, who took the team to the NBA Finals. He was one of two of the top-10 available free agents to sign elsewhere as Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe, Monroe and Dwyane Wade all re-signed with their former teams.

The one that did not work out so well was the Hornets’ signing of Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million contract. By the end of his first season with the Hornets, Stephenson was not a part of the rotation. He was traded to the Clippers earlier this month.