The Miami Heat have been able to reach the NBA finals three consecutive years and have won the last two championships. They are still a contender in 2014, but teams like the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder have improved their rosters and are looking to dethrone the Heat this year. If the Heat are unable to three-peat this year, LeBron James, the most coveted player in the league, will likely test free agency for a second time. Teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers will pursue James and both have youthful rosters blossoming with potential.
The Miami Heat are set to have one of the most important off-seasons in their history, primarily because the “Big Three” are set to opt-out of their contracts.
In this article, I will highlight four most important off-season moves Miami needs to accomplish in order to retain LeBron James.
4. Draft or sign a center in free agency
Miami has thrived playing small-ball, playing Shane Battier at power forward and Chris Bosh at center. However, the Indiana Pacers are adding depth to their front-court, recently adding Andrew Bynum to try and overwhelm LeBron and company, not to mention, Roy Hibbert dominated the Heat last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and one block per game. Pat Riley took a chance over the off-season and signed former number one overall pick Greg Oden, but Oden hasn’t been able to play much due to his lingering knee issues. The Clippers will be heavily recruiting James, as they have one of the best frontcourt duos in the league behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Teams are now finding solutions to disband teams who play small-ball, and if Miami doesn’t address this issue, they may be losing the best player in the NBA.
Available Players Miami Should Pursue at the Center Position
- 2014 Free Agent Centers: Pau Gasol, Spencer Hawes, Marcin Gortat, Andray Blatche
- 2014 NBA Center Prospects (Over 7’0″): Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona), AJ Hammons (Purdue)
3. Ask Dwyane Wade to take a pay-cut
In 2010, Dwyane Wade recruited LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play for the Miami Heat, knowing he would have to take a pay-cut. Wade missed out on close to 15 million dollars, but it certainly has paid off as they have won two championships in three years. Wade’s lingering knee issues have hindered his play and the superstar player we all have came to know and love, is gone. Wade still can be an elite player, but at the rate he’s going, he won’t be in the league for much longer. At the age of 32, Wade should be looking to add more to his legacy, rather than chasing money. If Miami can keep him in South Beach until he retires, that would be great, however, it would be a bad decision if they gave him anything close to a max-deal. Wade has been rumored into wanting to take less if it keeps his good friend LeBron in Miami, but nothing is imminent. If Wade takes less money in free agency, expect the Heat to bolster their roster with even more talent to compliment LeBron James.
2. If Chris Bosh wants a max-deal, let him walk
Without Chris Bosh, the Heat would’ve never been able to win two championships. Bosh is a floor-spreader who can hit mid-range jumpers, as well as three pointers. Much like Wade, Bosh has had to sacrifice shots and hand over the reigns to LeBron. Bosh went from a first-option on offense as a member of the Toronto Raptors to a third-option just by signing with the Heat. Don’t get me wrong, Bosh is a great player, but if he demands a max contract, Miami needs to let him walk. Teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards have expressed interest in signing Bosh in free agency this year, likely offering him close to a max-contract. Although Bosh plays an integral role in Miami’s offense, he is too much of a defensive liability and rebounds poorly for his size. It is in Miami’s best interest to let Bosh walk if he is seeking a max-contract.
Available Players Miami Should Pursue at the Forward Position
- 2014 Free Agent Power Forwards: Greg Monroe (restricted), Pau Gasol (Center-Forward), Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph
- 2014 NBA Draft Power Forward Prospects: Adreian Payne (Michigan St.), Mitch McGary (Michigan), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Isaiah Austin (Baylor)
1. Give LeBron a max-contract
The Miami Heat are the only team that can give LeBron the most money. After taking considerably less in 2010, LeBron deserves a max-contract. LeBron took less initially in hopes that Miami would have enough to pay him when his option kicks in, which is this year. Miami currently has zero guaranteed dollars set aside for the 2014-2015 NBA season. Shane Battier and Ray Allen are discussing retiring at seasons end, which means the Heat will need to find sufficient replacements for them in the near future if they decide to do so. In a best-case scenario, LeBron will take max-money and will stay in Miami for the rest of his career. However, nothing is imminent in the NBA.
Important Off-Season Facts:
- Maximum Available Cap Space in 2014-15: $58.7 million
- Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James can all opt-out of contracts at seasons end
- Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers are all free-agents this summer
- The maximum contract LeBron James can receive is 5 years, $124.3 MM