One drastic change that could make James' decision look brilliant: the elimination of the max contract. As I outlined last week, the max contract has shorted James tens of millions of dollars over his career while also encouraging other stars to link up and build superteams. If limits on player salaries disappear or become more lenient, it's not unreasonable to suggest that James' salary in 2017-18 could range anywhere from $40 to $80 million, depending where the salary cap lands in 2017-18.
However, it's unlikely the players union goes for that. For every million that James adds to his annual paycheck, that's a million that another player doesn't see. And the union doesn't exist just to serve MVP candidates; it represents hundreds of players who could see their salaries plummet with the elimination of max contracts.
This is way down the road, but as you can see with the shorter deals, players and teams are paying close attention to the horizon now. If you thought James played hard-to-get in 2014, just imagine if his salary doubles in a few years.