MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s beginning to look like all the puzzle pieces are falling into place for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Chris Bosh invoked his early-termination option and gave up the final two years of his contract on Sunday, joining fellow Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in the free agency pool.
These moves have given the Heat an NBA-record $55 million in salary cap room, setting the stage for Pat Riley to retool a Miami roster that could potentially be the best one he has ever constructed, in Miami or elsewhere.
Riley released a statement following the news of Bosh opting out, just as he did with LeBron, Wade and Udonis Haslem, and the underlying message remains the same; these guys want to win and are willing to do what’s necessary to do so. Here is Riley’s statement:
“Today we were notified of Chris’ intentions to opt out of his contract. Chris is one of the most versatile and dynamic big men in this league, and he has been an instrumental key to our championship success over the last four seasons. We look forward to meeting with Chris and his agent in the coming days to discuss keeping him in Miami for many years to come.”
With the Big Three all taking steps to ensure that the future of the Heat is bright, Riley can now focus on building around the superstar core without any salary cap or luxury tax concerns.
If it was all about making money for these guys then there was no reason for any of them to opt out. Bosh was slated to make $23 million next season while Wade was entitled $22.5 million and James $22.7 million. All that money going to just three guys would’ve handcuffed the Heat from adding any significant free agents, unless they were willing to literally play for peanuts.
Currently, the only players under contract in Miami are Norris Cole and Justin Hamilton. Hamilton’s contract will become partially guaranteed on August 1.
The Heat also hold the rights to Shabazz Napier, who Miami took in the first round of last week’s NBA Draft. Expect him to be on the roster when training camp rolls around in a few months.
The first day that free agents can begin talking and negotiating with new teams is July 1 and while they can’t actually sign with anyone until July 10, players can certainly give verbal commitments to the teams they intend to play for which is what Wade, James and Bosh all did back in 2010.
Should all three re-sign with Miami, it is unknown whether they will want to take less money altogether or if the Heat will sign them to longer term contracts that allows for more financial flexibility in the immediate future.
The freedom of all that cap space means that Riley and his superstars will have options as to which route to take when attacking the free agent market.
Names like Carmelo Anthony and Kyle Lowry have already been mentioned as possible targets for the Heat but unless they would also be willing to give Riley a discount, signings like that would take up most of the Miami’s cap space.
Whatever the Heat decide to do, expect them to leave enough wiggle room to make offers to Ray Allen, Chris Andersen and anyone else from last season’s roster who may want to come back. Granted, any returning players will likely have to sign at a discounted rate but it’s not like that’s a far-fetched notion.
Needless to say, it’s beginning to look more and more likely that the Heat are not done competing for NBA Championships. In fact, the roster that Riley puts together for the 2014-15 season could be the best one that Heat fans have seen yet, and it’s all thanks to a trio of unselfish superstars that value winning more than the ego boost one gets when making more money than 95-percent of his peers.