Happy New Year! It’s the 2014 NBA Free Agency period!
Or, as I like to call it, “The Decision 2: Decision Harder”!
So have the Miami Heat signed everyone yet?
I’m kidding…a little.
But we’re finally able to see what the last few weeks of rumors and nonsense have wrought. [Insert reporter] thinks [insert player] is going to [insert team]. It goes on and on. All we really know is that teams will be jockeying for position, as they fight for the love of star players.
At the epicenter of all this will be the Miami Heat.
They’ll have everyone’s attention over the next few days, as whatever they do will have ripple effects across the NBA.
The Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh – as well as Udonis Haslem – have all opted out of their contracts and are now free agents. That means Heat godfather Pat Riley can finally build around a core of Norris Cole and 2014 first round pick Shabazz Napier.
(Wait a minute…)
But in all seriousness, the Heat have almost a blank canvas to work with, as Cole is the only player on the roster (Napier has yet to sign). Now the Heat have to put together a roster that is ready to compete for a championship, with the blessing of its king.
LeBron has given positive signs that he wants this marriage to continue, that it’s reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that LeBron’s only interested in signing a max contract (starting at $20.7 million), which might make it hard for his biggest suitors – Houston and the L.A. Clippers – to come up with that kind of space.
Good news is coming from Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski as he reports that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will give Pat Riley ample time to find pieces to put into place that will encourage them to stay on board. Of course they will; LeBron is planning on attending the World Cup; Bosh is going on vacation; Wade will probably be trying on awful clothes. Needless to say, the Big Three will be more than happy to let Riley work his magic.
Meanwhile, late Monday night, NBA CBA guru Larry Coon noted that the cap number hasn’t been raised until the league finishes its audit, so it won’t be set until July 9th. This is important to the Heat, as reports state that the new cap number would be $63.2 million. That would be about $5 million more for Riley to play with.
However, even the best laid plans have some pitfalls that need to be overcome.
Early Monday evening, ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted that the Toronto Raptors were feeling confident that they would be able to sign point guard Kyle Lowry to a multi-year deal. This news is important to the Heat, as they were thought to be in the running for Lowry’s services. The number now being thrown around is $12 million a year. If Lowry is indeed off the table, this means the Heat will have to look elsewhere for help retooling their roster.
Miami still has options on the table, as Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, and Luol Deng are all names that have been tossed around as suitable options.
Even losing out on a point guard like Lowry isn’t crippling, as the Orlando Magic announced that they released Jameer Nelson. No, Nelson isn’t the player that Lowry is, but he’s an experienced point guard that can help run an offense. He also can help Napier in his development.
Or maybe Riley goes for blood and signs Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to an offer sheet, forcing Houston’s hand. Doing this means Rockets GM Daryl Morey would have to make a choice: match the offer sheet, but lose any chance at LeBron/Carmelo Anthony (the way the Rockets have lined up their salaries, they would need to have Parsons re-sign with them AFTER they can get Carmelo/LeBron to sign on, so they can fit Parsons into their tax; doing it the other way means Parson eats into their cap space, effectively taking them out of the running) or decide not to match, and lose Parsons – as well as LeBron, since that would probably be a move that he would support – and would have to sell Carmelo on just pairing with James Harden and Dwight Howard (a solid consolation prize).
Anything can happen. You’ll be reading about what may or may not happen and you’ll just have to deal with all the bumps on the road, until we reach our destination.
But whatever road this free agency period goes, just keep in mind that the Heat have a grip on the wheel.