Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James will be a free agent on Friday after deciding not to exercise his player option for the 2016-17 season.

Rich Paul, James' agent, told ESPN that James will enter free agency for the third straight season. Paul did not provide a timetable for when James may sign a new contract.

It was an expected move by James, who made it clear after the Cavaliers won the NBA title that he intends to remain in Cleveland.

But he will just do so with a lot more money, with the NBA's salary cap increasing by more than $20 million.

James would have already entered next season as the NBA's highest-paid player with a salary of $24 million. But with Kevin Durant also entering free agency, James wants to keep his negotiating leverage with the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers do not have the so-called "Larry Bird rights" with James, who only re-joined the Cavs two years ago and has essentially played on two one-year contracts.

James, 31, is likely to take another contract to run until next year, when the salary cap will significantly increase again and new collective bargaining agreement rules could be in place, allowing him to possibly land one of the largest contracts ever in professional sports.