Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the Miami Heat celebrates its latest championship, it’s never too early to take a peek at what could be coming for the franchise that has dominated the Eastern Conference for the last three years in a row.
Everything about the Heat starts with two-time defending NBA and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player LeBron James. LeBron is under contract for a guarantee of one more season. He’s scheduled to make $19,067,500 next year and then he has another choice to make.
James can opt-out of his deal with the Miami Heat and become an unrestricted free agent for the second time in his career. However, James has built his legacy with the Heat and Miami will be able to offer LeBron more money than any other team in the 2014 offseason.
LeBron’s running mate, shooting guard Dwyane Wade, will have a similar decision to make during the 2014 offseason. Wade, who has been a fixture on the Heat sideline for a decade, will make $18,673,000 this season and then he also can opt-out of his contract into free agency.
Wade took less money to help put the Big Three together in the summer of 2010. He may be in a similar situation next season due to his ongoing knee issues and the Heat may have to decide how much to invest into Wade for the future depending on the condition of his knees in 2014.
The final member of the Big Three, center Chris Bosh, can also opt-out next summer. He will be paid $19,067,500 next season and while he will get another big pay day, it’s not likely to be as much as the Heat can pay him if he chose to stay with the team.
Bosh could also become trade bait depending on how the regular season moves along next year. But, Bosh is a key cog in the Big Three and allows LeBron to do much more of what he’s done for the last three years guiding the Heat to a championship.
Combined, the Big Three will eat up nearly $57 million against the salary cap next year. That leaves the Heat with few options heading into next year. Mike Miller will cost $6.2 million against the cap and could be a potential amnesty candidate.
The Heat can amnesty one player under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement during the length of the current CBA. Once a player is amnestied, their salary is removed from the salary cap hits, but the team will still be required to pay the player the salary.
So, the Heat could clear out between $6.2 and $6.4 million in salary cap space by choosing to amnesty Miller. The other option could be Miller may be thinking about retirement which he gave consideration to during the last offseason.
Three players expected to be back next year include Ray Allen, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis, who all have player options for next season. The Heat will also bring back Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem.
As for free agency, the Heat will once again have the mini-mid level exception to offer one free agent. The Heat may use that MLE to offer a contract to center Chris Andersen, who played a pivotal role for the Heat in the second-half of the season.
Finally, the Heat can also add veteran players paying the veteran minimum contract to them.