What LeBron’s Decision Means For The Miami Heat

LeBron James has announced his decision to return to Cleveland. That part is exciting. But where does it leave the Miami Heat?

Heat owner Micky Arison was disappointed to hear the news:


As expected, the Heat are no longer the title favorite. Not even close:


If the dominoes fall as expected, Chris Bosh will join the Houston Rockets, leaving the Heat without two of their Big Three. Because LeBron, Bosh and Dwyane Wade opted out of their deals together, Miami now has significant cap room to work with. Even if Miami does the expected and re-signs Wade and Udonis Haslem, and finalize commitments with Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts, the money originally earmarked for LeBron and Bosh will still be available to fill out the rest of the roster.

The Heat could try and rebuild on the fly and pursue older players on the market including Luol Deng and Pau Gasol, but of course, Miami as a free agent destination just lost a lot of luster. A team built around an aging Dwyane Wade is not an attractive sell, and it wouldn’t make sense for the Heat to overpay for veterans.

The restricted free agent market, which includes Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe, could be another avenue for the Heat to explore. It would allow the Heat to get younger, but any offer sheets would likely get matched.

An interesting name for the Heat might be Lance Stephenson. He’s young and unrestricted, and the Heat could trump the Pacers with a better offer — say $10 million a year, like his agent is reportedly looking to snag. Given his history with Wade, it’s uncertain how realistic this option might be, but from a basketball standpoint and where the Heat are at, it might make a lot of sense.

Things look bleak at the moment, but in reality, if the Heat are able to nab a few free agents off the open market, they can easily be in contention for a playoff spot in the East. Keep in mind, as part of the original sign-and-trade that landed LeBron in Miami, the Cavaliers have the Heat’s first round pick next season. Although it is top-10 protected, this removes a lot of the motivation for the Heat to tank into a lottery position next year.

What seems like the likeliest scenario is Miami will lose out on the remaining top options on the market, strike out on the younger crop of restricted free agents, and instead fill out the roster with players on shorter-term deals, then regroup for next summer.

It’s a stunning turn of events for the Heat, who could have never imagined the Big Three would be dismantled this summer — especially after four straight NBA Finals appearances. Now, the rebuild begins, while Ohioans rejoice. Such is the power of LeBron James.

What do you think?

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