According to Brian Windhorst, everyone is completely missing the real story of the impending free agent class of 2014. Everyone is focusing on whether or not the Lakers can lure LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony to help Kobe Bryant chase one more championship in Los Angeles. But everyone is missing the fact that not only can the Big 3 in Miami stay intake, they actually could add yet another big name to the roster.
How so, you ask? Well, Windhorst cites Pat Riley as the driving force behind getting players to take less money in exchange for a chance at a dynasty. It worked 3 years ago when LeBron, Wade, and Bosh took less money to join forces. And now, it looks like everything is in place for the trio to do so one more time in order to bring in yet another star.
“When 2014 hits, we’ll be ready to deal with that,” Heat president Pat Riley said after the season. “We’re just going to keep everything very fluid … we’ll be prepared for anything, as we were in 2010.”
So how can Riley and the Heat actually pull this off? I’ll let Windhorst walk you through the particulars.
First, James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all have opt-out clauses in their contracts. That represents a $61 million portion of the team’s salary cap for 2014-15. It is hard to predict what each player will do because much will depend on health, the success of the team and other variables. But all three very well could opt out to re-do their contracts to assure more guaranteed years.
All three are earning less than the maximum salary and it is possible they could seek raises. However, all three have already shown a willingness to work with the front office to structure their deals in a way that will allow more flexibility.
In addition, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones and Rashard Lewis all are headed into the final year of their contracts. Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Chris Andersen all have player options. Norris Cole has a team option.
Even if Haslem, Anthony and Andersen bypass free agency next summer and the Heat, as expected, pick up Cole’s option, the team still could have in the neighborhood of $50 million to play with depending on what the Big Three decide.
Over the past three years, players have repeatedly taken less money to play with the Heat, often because Riley has been persuasive in contract talks. The team also has assistant general manager Andy Elisburg, who has proven to be a shrewd salary-cap manager during his long tenure with the team that has allowed the Heat to pull off some maneuvers that have shocked the league several times.
While several competitors will plot to poach James and perhaps Bosh, the Heat may be able to convince their stars to restructure their contracts in a way that would allow them to add another big name. Much of that may depend on Wade, who already showed a willingness to take the biggest pay cut to make room for teammates in 2010.
Bottom line, the Heat could end up being one of the most interesting teams in next summer’s already fascinating free-agent game. Not just as a protector of their championship roster but perhaps as a hunter for a player or two who could help them stay on top for the back end of James’ prime years.
So while Lakers fans are giddy at the thought of what they could become in 2014, their reality may actually be one of dealing with a Miami Heat squad that just reloaded.
And if that happens, that new CBA that the owners held out for was all for not, right?