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Los Angeles Lakers four-time champion LeBron James intends to opt out of his $51.4 million player option for next season, league sources told The Athletic on Saturday. The expectation is James will return to the Lakers on a new deal, which would set him up to play alongside his 19-year-old son Bronny for the first few years of his career.

As James’ deadline to opt out neared, league sources said the Lakers were not given any indication behind the scenes regarding what James would likely do. Meanwhile, as The Athletic reported Tuesday, there were strong indications that James and co-star Anthony Davis were hoping the franchise would pull off the sort of all-in trade during draft week that would bolster the roster after last season’s disappointing finish.

That didn’t happen, though, as the Lakers selected Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht with their No. 17 pick and Bronny out of USC at No. 55. The question now, with James’ return appearing imminent, is whether there might be other trade opportunities this offseason.

While the Lakers were known to have some interest in Dejounte Murray, he was traded to New Orleans on Friday. As had been the case when the Lakers pursued Murray near the February trade deadline, league sources said they didn’t want to give up 26-year-old guard Austin Reaves in a Murray deal and were therefore out of the running for his services.

Even with James’ apparent return, the pressure to improve the team will most certainly remain, in large part, because he is expected to have several seasons left in his legendary career.

The max the Lakers could offer James as a free agent is three years and $160 million based on current cap guidance. The other option to guarantee James’ return to the Lakers would have been for him to opt into his $51.4 million deal for next season and then sign an extension in late August.

The former option of opting out can come with a no-trade clause, which would guarantee James either stays a Laker (and presumably retires one) or controls his next destination.

James, who turns 40 on Dec. 30, had until 5 p.m. ET Saturday to decide whether to opt into his player option for 2024-25.

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LeBron James intends to opt out of Lakers deal, expected to return on new contract: Sources

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