It all comes down to one thing for the Miami Heat and their immediate future as an NBA contender: What LeBron James decides along with his teammates, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. They can stay on board either with their current contracts or opt out to sign reduced deals, or simply hit free agency and pretty much end the era of the big three, which yielded four NBA Finals and two NBA titles.
While it may seem like there are plenty of options standing before James as he heads into potential free agency, it’s different for Chris Bosh and especially for Dwyane Wade. James can get any kind of deal he wants – he can even go for the maximum with the Miami Heat, which is $129 million over the next five seasons. Signing with another team can earn him as much as $96 million for the next four seasons.
No one is giving Bosh and especially Wade that kind of money, which is why giving up on their deal and opting out means knowingly never coming close to the $20 million salary again. We shouldn’t feel sorry for some of the highest paid people on this planet, both making over $120 million throughout their NBA careers. But these are the salaries in the league, and giving up getting paid $42 million over the next two seasons isn’t easy to do.
James has said he’ll decide things with Wade and Bosh. He isn’t going to talk to the Miami Heat because he knows what they’re offering. We haven’t heard from the Heat about their plans on actually signing someone on a Mid Level Exception this season or how do they feel about paying the luxury tax this time, something they were doing everything to avoid last season and cost them in terms of team depth and strength.
Wade has stayed strangely quiet after the Finals exit. He always gives a season-exit interview, but not this time. Maybe the criticism for his performance in the NBA finals, averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 43.8% from the floor and looking especially sub par over the last couple of games, have had a bigger effect on him than anyone would have guessed. Realizing you’re not elite anymore, especially for a confident man like Wade, is a huge hit to the ego.
Chris Bosh has said a number of times he would like to stay in Miami and continue to play alongside James and Wade. LeBron James has usually deflected the questions about the future, preferring to focus on the goal of winning a third consecutive NBA title which they fell short of. Now there’s no escaping the decision, although things are very different from what went down four years ago.
It comes down to preferences – title, money, respect, friendship. The Miami Heat can’t win with just Wade, James and Bosh. They can’t win with them taking $61 million of the projected $63 million cap. They need to opt out and take a pay cut so this team can reload for another title run, although make better decisions about new players. Maybe Carmelo Anthony who’ll need to buy into the reduced salary concept. There are other options that don’t involve another superstar coming to the team.
A decision. A secret, well not anymore, meeting between the trio that slightly changed how teams approach offseasons four years ago. Some tried to copy it, others are trying to battle it. The Spurs are an example of how to build a team when you don’t have a LeBron James or Kevin Durant on your team. Maybe the Miami Heat, like other teams, should learn the lesson Popovich has been teaching the league for so many years.