The Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers have something in common. These teams possess either a significant cap space or sizable trade exception that could be crucial in the Houston Rockets’ pursuit of LeBron James this summer.

In his latest article on, NBA analyst Kevin Pelton enumerated three steps on how the Rockets can clear enough space and absorb James without gutting out the core of the team that came one win away from beating the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Speculations are growing each passing day, but no one in the world knows where the best basketball player on the planet will end up.

No one except LeBron.

How to get the King in three steps

Pelton believed the first step towards attaining that goal is for LeBron to opt-in on the final year of his current deal with the Cavaliers, which is worth $35.6 million. James, exercising his player’s option, would allow the Rockets to pull off a sign-and-trade maneuver and retain their key free agents (Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza), despite going over the luxury tax threshold.

Finding a taker for Ryan Anderson’s albatross contract ($19 million per year) would be the next step in the process. The Rockets attempted several times to trade for Carmelo Anthony last year, but the Knicks’ unwillingness to absorb Anderson’s cumbersome deal essentially killed the deal.

Pelton thinks it would require a third party to absorb Anderson’s contract and three first-round picks from the Rockets to make a three-team trade work.

Finally, the other option for Houston would be to match LeBron’s salary using the contracts of Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Nene Hilario, Chinanu Onuaku, Aaron Jackson and Zhou Qi.

Pelton said this route would be a bit painful for the Rockets since they would be giving up Tucker and Gordon, who played huge roles in their recent postseason run.

The Cavs wouldn’t be getting a superstar in return but they could flip these proven veterans for future trade assets if the opportunity arises.

The third party

As Pelton stressed, the Rockets would need to pull off a series of moves in order to pave the way for the King.

The Jazz will have at least $10 million in cap space this summer with the outgoing contracts of Derrick Favors and Dante Exum. The Blazers and Raptors, on the other hand, both have sizable trade exceptions after completing separate salary-dump moves last year.

For the Jazz, Tucker could be a realistic target since his salary for the 2018-19 season ($7 million) fits within their $10 million wiggle room. The Blazers could use the $13 million trade exceptions they received after sending Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors also have a trade exception of $11.8 million after trading DeMarre Carroll also to the Nets. Eric Gordon’s salary stands at $13.5 million, so Portland and Toronto would have to make another minor salary-shedding move to get the veteran.

Pelton’s proposition, though, isn’t one without flaws. It’s very unlikely for the Blazers and Raptors to use their trade exceptions considering that both teams are projected to be over the salary cap. Absorbing the contract of Tucker or Gordon would only put them over the luxury tax threshold.

Then again, this is the NBA and crazier things happened in the past offseason. The Rockets look very determined to bring the King to Houston and settle their unfinished business with the Warriors.