The Truths Of The Miami HEAT: Four straight NBA Finals appearances, four Eastern Conference championships and two NBA championships.
Let that sink in for a minute. Then ask yourself, how was this a disappointing season for the Miami HEAT?
Sure, the HEAT did not come away with championship number three, but few teams have. How many teams have looked their best in a fourth straight Finals appearance? Not many. There is a reason we’ve never seen a four-peat in the modern NBA.
To get as deep as Miami has gotten, it eats up players. Most teams in Miami’s position stock up on older veterans so this happens to everyone, eventually. The HEAT were historically worn down, playing more postseason games over the last four seasons than any other team in NBA history over a four-year span.
Yes, the HEAT got worked by the San Antonio Spurs. So did the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. The Dallas Mavericks were the only team that really made the Spurs sweat.
So let’s give a little credit to the Spurs for playing amazing basketball and maybe dial back the doom and gloom surrounding the HEAT.
There is no doubting that there are going to be changes in Miami, but the odds are that the three guys making the most money, you know the ones who delivered the championships for the previous two seasons, are going to be back and that a new, more balanced supporting cast will be brought in. So let’s dig into what’s next in Miami:
You Come To The King, The King Doesn’t Come To You
For whatever insane reason there is this belief that HEAT star LeBron James is packed and ready to move on to another team, that he has been secretly waiting for this summer so he can land somewhere else. Maybe a dysfunctional Cleveland Cavalier team? Who is their head coach today? Maybe he’ll bolt to the Los Angeles Lakers to be with Kobe Bryant and be the future of their franchise, but how many games did Kobe play last year? What is so attractive about their roster again?
There is a truth to be told here: The teams that could lure LeBron away do not have the means to lure him away. But before you even get to lure him away, you have to get him to believe that Pat Riley and Micky Arison are not going to re-tool this team to get right back to the Finals next year.
Who is closer to another Finals run in the East than the HEAT?
James has two years and $42 million left on his contract, a contract that will pay him $20.59 million next season and $22.11 million after that if he opts in.
He has options, which gives him power, and he will surely flex his muscle a little to ensure that the HEAT as a team and an organization do whatever it takes to re-fit and get back. That’s why it’s good to have contract options.
Dwyane Wade Is Not Dead
To listen to how people talk about Wade, it’s as if they didn’t notice he scored 17.8 points a game in the postseason and shot a scorching 50 percent from the field. Wade was the difference maker in a couple of the games against Indiana, but like most of the HEAT players, he did not play well against the Spurs.
News flash, Russell Westbrook didn’t play incredibly well against the Spurs either; he shot the ball about eight more times a game than Wade did.
Might the Spurs have had a little something to do with how effective Wade was?
There is no doubting that Wade’s body is breaking down and that going forward he’ll need to play a very different kind of role, but some talk about Wade as though he must retire or that LeBron can’t win with him. This overlooks the fact that LeBron did win with Wade. They won for the last four years all the way to the NBA Finals.
What has to happen for Wade is that he can’t make $20 million a year next year, so that the HEAT have the flexibility to add more support players. Like James, Wade has the option for free agency and has two years and some $41 million left on his deal that will pay him $20.164 million and $21.655 million respectively.
The question isn’t whether Wade can contribute, he clearly can, the question is how can Miami add to what Wade may no longer be able to do for 40 minutes a game.
Everybody Hates Chris
Fifty percent shooting from the field, 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, one block a game and a PER of 19.11. Who wouldn’t take that from their third option?
By the way, Chris Bosh’s best season in Toronto was 24 points and 10 rebounds a game on 51.8 percent shooting as the primary option. He is really not that far off production wise considering the role he plays. And by the way, he doesn’t get to choose the role he plays.
There is an underlying truth in this equation: There are only so many touches and shots in a NBA game, and when you want LeBron to lead the way he does, that means others won’t be as productive as they can be.
Like Wade, Bosh clearly can be more for the HEAT than he showed against the Spurs – again maybe we need to credit the Spurs a little.
Like LeBron, Bosh’s contract has two more years remaining worth roughly $42 million; $20.59 million next season and $22.11 million after that.
Bosh has already said he’ll be back in Miami next year, meaning he either gets a new deal or he stays in his current one.
It’s easy to point to Bosh and say he has to go, but the truth is he has won the HEAT a lot of games, and while he’s highly paid as a third option, you got two championships out of it. That’s the cost of doing business.
Not Too Much To Deal With
Outside of the James, Wade and Bosh, the HEAT have three other contracts worth talking about.
Udonis Haslem has a player option worth $4.62 million; that’s a lot for what Haslem brings to the table. But let’s say he takes the option, does he really make any money the following year in the summer of 2015 or is he a minimum guy?
So he’ll make $4.6 million next year and maybe $1.2 million as a veteran minimum player next year. That gets him to two years and $5.8 million. Hold on to that number, we’ll come back to it.
Chris Andersen has a player option of his own worth $1.44 million. He already said he plans to opt out of that deal, so we can pull that off the books. That leaves Norris Cole’s guaranteed $2.03 million.
The HEAT have the 26th pick in next week’s NBA Draft and assuming they keep the player they draft there, that’s a $991,600 cap hold.
The HEAT are not in a tough spot salary wise, outside of the Big Three.
Time To Work The System
The solution for Miami isn’t overly difficult; in fact you may not even need a calculator to work this one out.
The Big Three have roughly two years and $42 million remaining. If all three opt-out and sign new five-year, $85 million deals, their first year salary drops from roughly $21 million to $14.04 million, and escalates up to about where they currently are today.
Not great for LeBron, but excellent for Bosh and Wade in that they get the $42 million owed to them and another $43 million for helping keep the band together.
Haslem has $4.6 million left as we covered above. He declines his option and gets a new three-year deal worth $6.2 million. His $4.6 million drops to $1.87 million, but he stays in the NBA and more importantly plays in Miami for three more seasons.
Assuming Andersen is off the books as he says, he could still be re-signed later as he is basically an NBA minimum guy anyway.
So let’s run the math: James ($14.04 million), Wade ($14.04 million), Bosh ($14.04 million), Haslem ($1.8 million), Cole ($2.03 million) and a draft pick ($992K) for a grand total of $46.94 million. Or, said another way, $16.05 million in useable cap space and the Big Three stay to together and can go shopping for teammates.
Those Last Years Are Ugly
So by this point you are saying, ‘Wait Bosh and Wade owed $43 million over three more years?’
Sure, and here is why.
Currently the salary cap is expected to be set at $63 million. Wade is expected to make $20.164 million or roughly 32 percent of the cap this year and likely 30 percent of the salary cap the following year.
The NBA is going to have a new national TV deal soon, and the salary cap is projected to continue to escalate and will likely be in the $75 to $80 million range as the Big Three get to the end of their newly minted deals.
Let’s say the cap gets to $77 million three years from now when Wade is slated to make $17 million again, that’s 22 percent of the cap. If it crosses $80 million as some suggest it may, then we’re talking 21.2 percent of the cap. He is making 32 percent now.
Sure, you back load what could be the ugliest years of Wade’s career and risk eating the last year, but is that worth it to the HEAT to keep the Big Three together and add potentially $16 million worth of new talent to the roster?
The HEAT are far from handcuffed if the Big Three want this winning train to keep rolling. Think about what $16 million could buy in free agency?
Here are the projected 2014-2015 NBA Free Agents; played the right way Miami could have as many as three.
The only guy that loses in this scenario is LeBron, because he could make $129 million this summer without breaking a sweat. He’d also tie himself to Wade and Bosh in ways he may not want to do.
But for the rest of the team, they kick the financial ball down the road a little and keep what’s clearly been working together.
The HEAT have options, especially if everyone wants to play ball. Before you write that concept off as improbable – that’s exactly what they did in 2010, not only to come together in Miami, but to create enough cap room to sign Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller.
Trading Up?: There has been some talk that the Philadelphia 76ers want to ensure they come away from the 2014 NBA Draft with Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins, so much so that they have talked with the Cleveland Cavaliers about trading up to the top overall pick or at least doing a deal where the Cavs draft Wiggins and a swap occurs later in the draft.
These kind of talks happen a lot in the week leading up to the draft and while the 76ers are sitting on the third pick and the 10th pick, they seem unwilling to part with both first rounders. The 76ers do seem open to giving up the third pick and some combination of second round picks they have amassed this year in trade and possibly forward Thaddeus Young.
The Cavaliers have yet to lock in on particular player and have worked out Kansas big man Joel Embiid and are set to workout Wiggins and Jabari Parker this week.
Unlike the NFL where there is sort of defined trade up value structure on draft picks, in the NBA it’s more fluid. Usually a trade up even from the third spot would require a first this year and some sort of future first. There is a sense that Cleveland might be more open to veterans in a trade up scenario if they can get a player they like in the draft and a roster player for a playoff run.
While the 76ers do seem willing to move up, they are not alone. There has been talk that the Utah Jazz would like to move into the top three and may be willing to give up some of the assets the acquired from Golden State last year for a shot at Parker.
There was also talk that guard Alec Burks could be had if it netted the Jazz Parker.
Expect the “trading of picks” chatter to pick up over the next week as teams begin to zero in on who they like.
As we do every year, we will have a NBA Draft Day Diary that will launch on Wednesday the 25, we’ll keep you up to date on all the news and notes surrounding the NBA draft and the potential trades and deals that come with it.
Look for that to drop next Wednesday.
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