Following a meeting last Wednesday and the lead of former teammate LeBron James, the Miami Heat‘s Big 3 have all opted out of their contracts.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opted out of the final two years of their contracts Saturday. Wade was due $42.5 million over the final two years remaining on his contract, while Bosh was owed slightly more at $43 million.
James previously opted out of the remaining two years and $42.7 million left on his contract last week. Udonis Haslem, Miami’s 12-year center who has played his entire career with the Heat after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2002, also opted out of the final year of his contract, valued at $4.62 million.
Miami set themselves up well to be in this position, as they only have two players under contract: fourth year guard Norris Cole and recently drafted point guard Shabazz Napier. With the NBA‘s salary cap expected to rise almost $5 million to approximately $63.2 million for the 2014-15 season, Miami is left with roughly $60 million in cap space.
The cap is unlike the NHL‘s hard cap, and allows teams to go over via several exceptions and loopholes. The luxury tax threshold is also expected to rise to $77 million, giving the Heat more financial flexibility. The NBA is expected to announce the official numbers in July.
James is eligible for a 5-year, $130 million extension, and Wade and Bosh could be in line for much of the same. If the three want to stay together, someone will likely need to take a discount. Previous reports stated that James would be willing to take less money in order to give the team more financial flexibility to build a championship team around him, but Yahoo! Sports is reporting today that James will seek the full value max contract he is eligible for.
That means someone will need to take less if the three stay together. Wade’s will likely be the first cut, as his production is unreliable and spotty due to chronic knee problems stemming from injuries early in his career. Some are calling for contracts similar to those that San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan and former Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett signed two summers ago. Duncan took a discounted 3-year, $30 million deal, while Garnett’s was also team friendly at 3/$36 million.
Among the reason for James’ opting out in the first place are reports that he was dissatisfied with the production of his teammates. By opting out of his contract with Miami, James is essentially forcing his hand in making management upgrade the roster. Changes have already been made, as the Heat traded up in Thursday’s draft to take Napier, who James has previously publicly stated was his “favorite player in the draft.”
Despite making a fourth straight Finals appearance, James’ teammates weren’t much help along the way. The top five non-James Heat scorers averaged 52.0 points per game (ppg) in the 2014 Finals, where they lost four of five games by 15 or more points, and won Game 2 by only two points. In 2010, James’ top five scoring teammates averaged 53.1 ppg. With three future Hall of Fame teammates, the red flags are waving in the wind.
Ultimately, James’ destination will depend on the cooperation of those around him. He’s not only the best player in the league, he’s one of the best players of all time. As Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said, “He’s the Michael Jordan of our era.”
With that high praise not far fetched in the least, players who want to win should be lining up to take discounts and play by his side left and right.