If LeBron James decides to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, most observers believe a sign-and-trade would be the likely way it would happen.
That way, James could sign a six-year, $127 million deal instead of a five-year, $97 million deal. Under the rules of a collective bargaining agreement, teams can re-sign their own free agent to an additional year and offer bigger raises (10.5 percent instead of eight percent) after each year.
Why would the Cavaliers, or any team in that position, reward a departing player by enabling him to earn roughly an extra $30 million? Well, the main reason is it allows a team to get something in return instead of losing a player for nothing.
But according to an ESPN report, the Cavaliers don't intend to do a sign-and-trade with James. If he decides to leave, the report says Cleveland management will simply let him walk, leaving that extra cash on the table.
That's not good for James' bank account, but it's good news for the Bulls. Instead of surrendering assets to the Cavaliers in a trade, they can simply sign James outright. It also would eliminate any team - like the Dallas Mavericks - that doesn't have the necessary room under the salary cap to offer a maximum contract.
Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a radio interview on Monday that he would be willing to work out a sign-and-trade if center/power forward Chris Bosh decides to leave.
Again, that is good news for the Bulls. They can get roughly $33 million under the cap, which is not enough to sign two players to maximum contracts. But the Bulls can still sign both James and Bosh if they can work out a sign-and-trade with Toronto.
The Raptors, no doubt, would ask for center Joakim Noah in a deal for Bosh, but the Bulls wouldn't agree to that. With no real bargaining strength, Toronto probably would settle for a deal involving power forward Taj Gibson and a first-round draft pick.
Small forward Luol Deng is another possibility, but the Raptors probably would pass because Deng has four years and more than $50 million left on his contract.