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The Undefeated’s top eight NBA stories to watch in 2018

All eyes will be on LeBron James and The Decision, Part 3

Once the champagne’s poured, the confetti is on the ground and the ball has dropped on 2018, the NBA will be back on the hardwood with stacks of storylines to watch. All eyes will be on LeBron James, who will become a free agent this summer. There are other hot topics for the remainder of the season and beyond.

So here they are … The Undefeated’s top eight NBA stories to keep an eye on in 2018:

The Decision, Part 3

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hangs onto the rim after a slam dunk against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on December 25, 2017 in Oakland, California.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James is expected to opt out of his contract this offseason to become an unrestricted free agent. Could James’ days in “The Land” be coming to an end? James, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma is a trio that would be music to Los Angeles Lakers fans’ ears. Could Chris Paul lure his buddy James to the Houston Rockets with him and NBA All-Star James Harden? Whether it’s Cleveland or elsewhere, James’ decision will be the biggest story of this year.

Change of Address?

DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans dunks against the Orlando Magic on December 22, 2017 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA fans love drama, and James won’t be the only marquee free agent available this summer. Oklahoma City Thunder star guard Paul George is expected to opt out of his contract to become a free agent. New Orleans Pelicans star center DeMarcus Cousins will be a coveted unrestricted free agent. It’s hard to imagine Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors, but he has a player’s option that would allow him to become a free agent. Other notable free agents include Paul, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Cleveland guard Isaiah Thomas.

Donald ducked

The Golden State Warriors display their 2017 NBA Championship rings prior to their NBA game against the Houston Rockets at ORACLE Arena on October 17, 2017 in Oakland, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stephen Curry and the 2017 NBA champion Warriors will not be visiting President Donald J. Trump and the White House when they travel to Washington, D.C., to play the Washington Wizards on Feb. 28. Who could forget Trump snatching away an expected-to-be-declined invite to Curry and his teammates after they expressed a lack of interest in visiting the White House, rejecting the custom of major sports champions in the United States? Perhaps the Warriors will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Here’s an idea: Curry, Durant, head coach Steve Kerr, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and David West could take part in a panel discussion about race and sports at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center in Durant’s hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, which is 11 miles from downtown Washington.

Magic’s summer vacation

Magic Johnson speaks at Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony during halftime of a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

The Lakers have the ability to sign two maximum free agents next offseason by trading Luol Deng, Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle before the trade deadline. James, who has two homes in Los Angeles, is the most coveted target. George, who is from Southern California, and Cousins have long had an interest in playing for the Lakers. There will be a lot of pressure on Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka to add star talent to their intriguing young squad. It’s hard to imagine the Lakers striking out on James, George and Cousins.

Trade Me

Nerlens Noel #3 of the Dallas Mavericks looks to shoot the ball during their game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 30, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

There will be a lot of eyes on George and Cousins when the trade deadline arrives on Feb. 8. Both will likely be unrestricted free agents next offseason. The Lakers also could be making a major move to help clear salary cap space to ensure the ability to land two marquee free agents in the summer. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the Lakers have had conversations about trading Randle to the Dallas Mavericks for center Nerlens Noel, who will be a free agent next offseason.

Pick Me

The Eastern Conference All-Star Team is announced before the 2017 NBA All-Star Game on February 19, 2017 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Get ready for the revamped NBA All-Star Game rosters in Los Angeles. Ten starters, four reserve guards, six reserve big men and four wild cards will be part of a pool in which two teams will be chosen by each conference’s leading vote-getter. But does that ensure the 2018 NBA All-Star Game will be more competitive than it has been in past years? We shall see. Good Hollywood drama for L.A.

The IT guy

Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during game against the Utah Jazz on December 30, 2017 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Isaiah Thomas made his season debut with the Cavaliers on Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 17 points in just under 19 minutes. Thomas will sit out Wednesday when the Cavs visit Boston to play Thomas’ former Celtics team. Thomas, James and the Cavaliers will have to learn to adapt to one another in the middle of the season with little time to practice. Time will tell if Thomas’ addition will work in his replacement of Kyrie Irving. Thomas also wants to show he is back strong from a hip injury as the 2017 NBA All-Star will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Will Celtics get good luck after bad?

Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward meets with the media for a press conference at the team’s practice facility in Waltham, MA on Nov. 2, 2017. It was the first time he has spoken to media since the gruesome injury he suffered early in his first game with the team.

Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury in his first game with the Celtics on opening night that was initially projected to be season-ending. The 2017 NBA All-Star, however, said in mid-December he is open-minded about the possibility of returning this season. The Celtics have played on an elite level without him. Hayward would enhance Boston’s chances of knocking off James and Cleveland to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.