Jun 6, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James answers questions during a news conference at Spurs Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise! LeBron Has A Decision To Make

On Thursday, Pat Riley said that everyone needed to “Get a grip”.

Sadly, “getting a grip” doesn’t excite someone to click the link on a rumor. The other thing that doesn’t generate clicks? The boring narrative of LeBron James staying in Miami.

So now is the time when the media comes up with different outcomes for “The Decision 2: Decision Harder”. Articles pop up with various narratives of how LeBron can go to [insert team] and map out ways for it to happen, even if it ignores counter-arguments, because that isn’t the point of the narrative. It’s really lazy.

Look, LeBron can leave. It’s not impossible. There are moving parts that could affect his decision one way or another.

On Friday, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck  came up with a scenario where LeBron could go to Houston. As usual, he wrote another fantastic article. He makes solid points to support it, as the Rockets can create cap space by trading both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

But here’s a quote which underlines what some people fail to address:

If the Heat were just another suitor, they would have a tough time selling James based on their roster alone. Miami has no depth, no young talent in the pipeline and little payroll flexibility thanks to the massive salaries of its three stars. But they could all take a pay cut and extend the era.

 

Yes, as of this writing, the Rockets have a more talented team. Come July 1st? All bets are off. In reality, the Heat might only have Norris Cole on the roster come July 1st, if LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Udonis Haslem opt out of their deals. Depending on what those players decide, the Heat could be in a position to field a better roster than the one the Rockets have.

And before you say “Chris, you can’t assume that Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem are going to opt out. That’s a lot of money they would be giving up”, keep in mind that Houston can only create the necessary cap space by trading Asik and Lin, which won’t be easy. Both players are each due over $15 million next year (although they would only count as $8 million against a team’s cap. Stupid Poison Pill deals). That’s a lot of money to commit to Asik (who might leave his new team once the year ends) or Lin (a backup point guard). If other writers can be hypothetical, then I can be hypothetical.

My point? He might leave. He might not. But both sides of the argument need to be pointed out. Yes, he could go to Houston, if those deals go through. Or to the Clippers, if they trade players. Or the Bulls, for the same reason.

But, unlike 2010, LeBron is going to make his decision based off the fact the Heat have done right by him already; they just need to do it again. Also different is that his decision will be made by what his teammates do. I feel he’s only going to stay/leave Miami because one of the following things occurs:

Option A: LeBron opts in for one more season, because Wade and Bosh opt out and sign new deals at lower salaries.

As presently constructed, the Big Three can’t all opt in for another year and expect to greatly improve the roster, since they would be over the cap (including Cole’s deal and – presumably –Haslem’s deal). That would only allow them to fill out the roster with veterans playing at the league minimum.

However, if Wade and Bosh both want to extend, then taking some sort of pay-cut will allow flexibility. Even if LeBron feels like he can’t commit long term, this presents an opportunity to improve the roster (I addressed some possibilities in the column I posted on Wednesday) and gives him the chance to take the retooled team out for a test drive. Then he can extend in the summer of 2015, if he likes the direction the team is going.

Option B: LeBron opts out and leaves, because Wade and/or Bosh opt in.

This is the option that Beck’s article is implying. The Wade situation has been analyzed already. If he opts in, that’s a $20 million hit. This limits what reasonable pay-cut LeBron might be inclined to take. That could be problematic. If LeBron doesn’t feel that isn’t going to help him or the team, then he might be gone.

Bosh has been open to taking less money, if necessary. But what if Wade opts in? If Bosh knows this will cause LeBron to leave, maybe he’ll want to make the extra money. I still think Bosh would opt out and take a cut in pay, so the Heat can improve the roster – even if LeBron leaves. Might as well field a contender in the weak Eastern Conference.

Option C: All three opt out, because they re-sign team friendly deals to help improve the roster.

The implication that LeBron would be willing to take a deal between $16-$19 million (depending on what the Rockets, Bulls, or Clippers can get available) because he want to go to a team that has talent and the Heat roster is lacking is a bit hallow, when you realize that Miami could have great cap flexibility if each of the Big Three restructure their deals. If he’s willing to take those deals in other cities, why wouldn’t he do the same in Miami?

Yes, he could be labeled a mercenary if he left to go to another contender, again. But LeBron’s legacy gets picked apart on a daily basis, so what else is new? He just wants to win and will go about doing that however sees fit (he left Cleveland for that reason). The man just wants to know that a team’s leadership can help put players that can contribute around him (another reason why he left Cleveland).

This time, LeBron is going to make a choice because someone he believes in – Riley – can or can’t come up with a plan by June 30th that will be able to provide him with a roster that can continue to compete for championships next year and beyond.

So you’re going to keep reading stories of LeBron going to Houston, Milwaukee, or Turkey, because that will get the clicks.

Until then, everyone just needs to get a grip.

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Tags: Commentary Free Agency Lebron James Miami Heat

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