The NBA starts a new fiscal year at 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.
This week we take a look at the biggest offseason questions surrounding the Heat. Today’s question: LeBron James appears to be ready to bolt Cleveland for a second time, do the Heat have a shot of bringing James back to Miami? We’ll shift to a different question each day leading up to the start of free agency.
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LeBron James was spotted in Miami this weekend. He was seen walking in Brickell and at his son’s basketball game. What does it mean? Not much unless James was able to squeeze in a highly secretive meeting with a realtor and put in a down payment on a new home in the area.
Once again, we find ourselves in another ‘Summer of LeBron.’ James is expected to opt out of the $35.6 million player option for next season, making him an unrestricted free agent starting Sunday.
From there, James and his camp will start setting up meetings. Those that appear most assured to getting in the door with James are the Lakers, 76ers and Cleveland. Several others have been mentioned as possibly getting a sit-down, including the Heat.
Miami’s odds, though, are growing longer, according to those in that business. At one time, the odds were 25-to-1 the Heat landed James. Most recently those odds are up to 40-to-1. The reason is, unlike 2010, the Heat currently lack the salary-cap space to sign James in free agency. The Heat already are close to the luxury tax line with 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $119 million. That puts Miami about $18 million above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.
Pat Riley admitted last Friday, minutes after the draft ended, that there would be no midnight meetings and he didn’t think the Heat were “going to be in it that way because we can’t. We don’t have the cap space and we’re up against the tax, so we have to do some other things in reversing that direction.”
Realistically, the only way to acquire James would be through a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers and that would mean Cleveland having an incentive to deal with Miami, which is not likely. If the Cavs are going to lose James and are able to pull off a sign-and-trade they would want draft picks and cap space and not long-term contracts in return.
Eight summers ago, the Heat were in the driver’s seat with it came to James. They had the cap space and the ability to put together a juggernaut with James and Chris Bosh being free agents and Dwyane Wade already in place. Now, other teams are attempting to sell James on that same concept, teams like the Lakers, Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio, possibly Golden State. Teams that could have the space to sign two max players or already have a superstar in place for James to join.
As for Miami, put the Heat at the bottom of that list when it comes to the possibility of James taking his talents to South Beach for a second time.