The Heat need quality depth more than they need another star.
That’s why – when all the ink is dry and LeBron James., Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are back in the fold with new contracts – Miami’s focus should be on adding role players rather than headliners.
James is the power broker in this game.
If reports that he wants a max deal (five years, $130 million) are accurate, it’s going to complicate the economics involved with any roster reconfiguration even if Bosh were to re-sign for something in the range of, say, $56 million for four years and Wade for something less.
And here’s a deeper rub: Why wouldn’t James, especially, want another opt-out escape clause in a year or two? It would afford him the opportunity to get his money while letting him see how things work out.
It’d be the smart thing for James to demand, quite frankly, and the Heat would be in no position to deny him.
Don’t call it selfishness or greed, because James deserves to get what he can get in the prime of his career as the NBA’s best player. He’d also be imprudent to ignore the possibility that the best days of the Heat’s Big Three Era are in the past … unless significant changes are made.
James’ high on-court IQ frequently is mentioned as an element of his greatness, and that intelligence extends to his business knowledge of what needs doing.
James dictates the Heat’s flexibility when it comes to re-signings or acquisitions, and he knows it. James, Wade and Bosh all made financial sacrifices when they signed in 2010, but there’s a new dynamic in play now, because James’ stature in the game has been honed to such an incredible degree during his Miami experience.
The Heat recently satisfied James by drafting point guard Shabazz Napier, and next should satisfy him by upgrading the roster without spending most of their available dollars on a Carmelo Anthony or even a Kyle Lowry.
Miami can use salary-cap exceptions and other league loopholes – everything from Bird Rights to trade exceptions – to do so.
The Heat can choose to re-up a few players from among the likes of Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Rashard Lewis and Greg Oden.
The focus when it comes to luring outside free agents should be on players such as small forwards Trevor Ariza and Caron Butler, power forwards Jordan Hill and Marvin Williams, forward-center Pau Gasol and center Marcin Gortat.
And at point guard figure on Norris Cole and Napier – say good-bye to Mario Chalmers.
The savvy number crunchers indicate the Heat could do what needs to be done with selections from among the aforementioned names for something under the projected luxury-tax figure.
What has happened so far – James, Wade and Bosh opting out of their old deals – was exactly what the Heat expected and wanted to happen. It had to happen if the franchise was to have any chance to make worthwhile changes.
What happens next depends on the dollars allocated to James, mostly, and then to Bosh and Wade.
How much money is Heat owner Micky Arison willing to spend for the team to remain a title contender?
How creative can general manager Andy Elisburg be as franchise capologist in allocating that money?
How persuasive can president Pat Riley be in attracting free agents?
The answers to each of those questions will do much to determine how well-satisfied James might be over the next season or couple of seasons, or how willing he might be to change his mind and leave some of his own cash on the table again.
The Heat’s longer-term future will be revealed in the next few days, primarily by James.