Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) and guard Dwyane Wade (3) speak during a press conference after game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs dominated the Miami Heat in 5 games, in a series that did not go the way any/many saw coming. The depth, long term planning and system of the Spurs overcame the talent, friendship and flash of the Heat. That leads all questions, except a few for the NBA Draft, to be turned to the future of LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet for at least the next 2 or 3 years. Simply put James as 2 Options:
1) Stay and Trust in Pat Riley
This is the option that most expected before the season and even before the Finals. Yet a 4 to 1 series have many, possibly including James, thinking otherwise. It is an interesting option as it isn’t as clear of a path to success as the other. Trust Riley and the Heat model is a great idea, and makes senses as it worked before. Yet there are no clear idea how this would work out. If we assume that the Heat need to make changes, as Brian Windhorst does:
"The Miami Heat, quite clearly, are no longer a championship team and are in need of some changes."
then we have to look forward to how they could do so. They do not have the cap space to do anything significant unless all 3 of James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade opt out and take less money. Technically they can’t have an agreement with the Heat before they opt out. Obviously the Heat and those players would have some understanding but even that could be difficult. Do all 3 of them want to take less money again? Could Wade see that he deserves his cash for all that he has done for the franchise? Could Bosh see a chance to go somewhere else and make more money and be a bigger star?
That route still could require more movement that is not easy to have happen. Both Chris Anderson and Udonis Haslem would also have to opt out of their contracts to take less money. All of these players would be needed though for a team with depth issues that were evident in the Finals. All of those moves could bring in Carmelo Anthony but the Heat would still be dealing with the aging Wade, the somewhat forgotten Bosh and the lack of young athletic players on the team. Windhorst continues:
"• James played 400 minutes more than any teammate this season and about 1,300 more minutes than running mate Wade. This is a trend he’s interested in reversing immediately. This means the Heat will have to add at least one reliable, and ideally younger, player at his position."
Again why this option is possibly problematic: not a ton of young, reliable players at the small forward position available for the Heat. The Heat will neither have the cap space to sign one of those type of players, the type the Cavs have been looking for since James left, and won’t have any trade assets to use in a trade for such a player. The Heat may have pulled a miracle in 2010 but finding a young, reliable player at the small forward spot is an even bigger reach.
If the Heat do not go for a Big 4 scenario the other option is to continue their current path. Try to get a bit of cap space so they can sign a number of players to fill the needed depth that was exposed during the Finals. This is more likely but still problematic. Do they get older players that they feel like they can rely on but whose age limits their output or try to get a younger player or two that they may not find reliable enough to give minutes to?
This is still the most likely option for James but it is hard to find a way that the Heat can change the roster to answer the questions brought up during this Finals. It is the NBA and anything is possible but if James returns to the Heat it will most likely be with a very similar team switching out a few parts, including losing Mario Chalmers. Is that enough for James to commit? Could that lead him to opt in instead or look at his other option: