It appears the Miami Heat will have far less financial flexibility than has recently been anticipated. According to Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick, the Heat will pursue free agents as a capped-out team if they re-sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Nothing I've heard leads me to believe the Heat have $10-12M to spend, as has been reported. More likely they operated as capped team.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) July 3, 2014
Skolnick’s report directly refutes a previous one that Pat Riley was telling players on the open market that Miami had approximately $12 million to spend in free agency. Henry Thomas, the agent of Wade and Bosh, has been adamant from the beginning that is not the case, insisting his clients aren’t taking the sizable pay-cuts such cap room would suggest given James’ desire to earn the maximum allowable salary.
It was widely assumed when news broke that each member of the Big Three was opting out of his contract for next season that the Heat stars would sacrifice money so Riley could upgrade their supporting cast. A recent report that James, Wade, and Bosh were discussing terms of their new deals among themselves upheld that theory. But yesterday’s intel that Wade and Bosh are “unsure” of LeBron’s plans cast extreme doubt on those prevailing notions, as does the information that each wants a salary of at least $15 million per year.
Skolnick reinforced that report by noting that Bosh is seeking a deal worth $90 million.
Even before Gortat deal, heard Bosh was aiming for 5/90 neighborhood. Could start that deal at 15M w/ max raises.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) July 2, 2014
The Big Three want to get paid. Their individual and team accomplishments over the past few years have given them the chance to cash in, and pay-cuts of the previously assumed variety would have been extremely notable – no player of such caliber has gone that route in the past.
But the Heat will suffer if James, Wade, and Bosh sign deals that align with their talents. Teams over the cap only have exceptions to work with on the free agency market, and it’s hard to believe a player like Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, or Trevor Ariza would accept the $5.4 million midlevel exception to play in Miami. Barring major roster and cap gymnastics or a change of heart from the Big Three, it appears Riley will be left to scour the market for free agent flotsam.
Would additions of that capacity be enough to get the Heat over the hump in coming years? It seems unlikely given the collective strength of the Western Conference and powerhouse looming in Chicago, but counting them entirely out would be foolish.
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