In a word? Nothing. Which is scary, considering it’s July 3rd and the Heat don’t know where the NBA’s best player stands three days into free agency.
There seem to be conflicting reports out of ESPN, as reporters scramble for any morsel they can to feed the free agency beast. ESPN’s Chris Broussard dropped a juicy little bomb late Wednesday night:
While Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were committed to returning to the Heat, LeBron James was unsure of what he would do, the sources said.
The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.
James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.
Oh? The entire article makes it seem less like a “Big 3” and more like “LeBron and Two Fading Stars.” (Yes, at 30, I’m cool calling Chris Bosh and his 16 points and six rebounds a “fading star.”) Everyone knows pay cuts are coming to Bosh and Wade, and both seem amenable to that. Here’s what gets lost in the next step – just who are the Miami Heat getting to improve the roster? You hear very little about that because … well, the pickings appear very, very slim.
Kyle Lowry is staying with the Raptors. Pau Gasol has inviting offers from the Thunder and Bulls. Does he even fit in Miami? Marcin Gortat stayed in Washington. Weren’t we hearing all these names linked to Miami last month? Or was that just agents using reporters to drive up value so they could get more money to stay where they were?
Now the name you keep hearing is Trevor Ariza. Really? He’s the difference-maker that keeps LeBron in Miami? Oh, but wait, Luol Deng! So now Miami can afford both of them? Looks like Isaiah Thomas of the Kings will be in play now that Sacramento has signed Darren Collison.
And the market is blowing up in Miami’s face. Avery Bradley got $8 million a year from Boston. Jodie Meeks got $6.3 million a year. What, Deng and Ariza are taking less than that? Better push the “but you can play with LeBron!” angle hard, Riles.
I’ve been saying it for awhile: It’s going to take a miracle for Pat Riley to improve this roster. Last year, when the Heat tried to win another title on the cheap, Riley went 0-for-2 adding mercurial Michael Beasley and always-injured Greg Oden.
Enter … Cleveland, again?
But maybe this time the Cavs make a play for LeBron without Kevin Love in the picture? Here’s the potential argument for Cleveland, which I’ll admit is mildly far-fetched, but could still appeal to LeBron on a couple fronts:
1) LeBron tells Miami he’s walking, and gives them an opportunity for a sign-and-trade so they get something in return. LeBron to Cleveland in exchange for Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao and a 2015 #1 pick. Yes, that’s two Top 5 picks, an expiring contract and a pick (probably in the late 20s).
2) Let’s say Cleveland offers Gordon Hayward a “max” deal and the Jazz don’t match (unlikely, but still). The knock today on Hayward is he only shot 30% on 3-pointers last season. Yes, when the Jazz hit rock bottom and he played with a rookie point guard. The year before? He shot 41% from deep. Also, he just turned 24. Yes, max money to Hayward is overpaying, but when you’re Cleveland – not a “destination” – you have to slightly overpay.
3) Again, assuming the LeBron trade happens, the Cavs are set up to be wildly athletic on the wing – Kyrie/Jack as point guards, Hayward/Wiggins/LeBron on the wing, and Tristan Thompson/Tyler Zeller inside. Yes, they’re painfully thin among big men. Can they convince Spencer Hawes to stick around, perhaps at a reduced salary? He’s no rim protector, but for a creators like LeBron/Kyrie, his value is high as a jump shooter.
4) Yes, that team besides LeBron is extremely young (but they’re in the East!), would have some defensive issues in the backcourt, and they’d still need to find another big man (Milan Mačvan, you ready to come to the NBA? If you don’t know the name, he’s 24 and dominated the Nike Hoop Summit game in 2009 against the likes of DeMarcus Cousins). But I don’t think there’s any question that 1-7 (don’t get me started on Joe Harris, the Virginia rookie! He can shoot and defend!), the Cavs are more attractive than the Heat in this scenario because they’re younger and LeBron would have to carry much less of an offensive burden.
Here’s rooting for fireworks in Cleveland on the 4th of July.