The end of the Miami Heat's season saw them break against the San Antonio Spurs. The Big Three era led by LeBron James was riding on an axle ready to break, but the Spurs' domination to win the 2014 championship certainly showed that it's the right time for a roster reevaluation.
Miami has a lot of questions heading into the offseason, and there's no doubt about the most important one.
Does LeBron extend his stay in South Beach?
Because it's so obvious the Heat should bring James back, there is neither a discussion nor a rumor about who Miami would bring in should that plan fall through. Should James leave, president Pat Riley will have a completely different flow chart to follow in determining what's next. But if James stays, there should still be plenty of changes to come.
It would be hard to see James leaving an organization that won two titles and made the NBA Finals in every year since he spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers. A historian of the game, James knows that even a 50 percent success rate in the finals is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, it's a reason to return. Playing for Riley, who has proven he can get things done, and coach Erik Spoelstra, who probably hasn't gotten enough credit, the grass is probably not greener elsewhere.
The chances are James re-signs with the Heat, but there's obviously a reason to worry he'll leave as a free agent.
The finances of a return
The franchise will strongly consider the limits of its current three-pronged attack this summer.
James, should he return, needs a restructuring around him. Both he and, to an extent, Chris Bosh are important pieces who didn't receive much help in the series against San Antonio. Dwyane Wade's health is fading despite his regular season minutes being limited. The Big Three can remain together, but there's a chance Miami could make room for another All-Star caliber player.
Financially, it's viable for Carmelo Anthony to join the Heat, but Miami could also ask its Big Three to take smaller paycuts to sign another ball handler to take pressure off James. How willing James, Bosh and Wade are to taking significant salary decreases will dictate how much room Riley has in filling in the rest of the roster.
Plugging the holes
Arguably, Miami could remain a title contender by reshaping the collection of role players around the Big Three. Perhaps the most telling sign of the NBA Finals result was the regular season drop-off in production from the aging pieces around James, Bosh and Wade. The slippage in production showed even more on the defensive end.
Good thing for the Heat that they'll have the opportunity to review the value of almost every role player. Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Toney Douglas, James Jones, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden will be unrestricted free agents. Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen have player options they can pick up. Norris Cole is the only player locked into the 2014-15 season.
The Heat could use younger defensive legs, more shooters and more size in the paint. Dicing up the salary to acquire Anthony, of course, would be the most interesting move to be made.
Of course, everything becomes easier if James returns. Even so, Spoelstra is looking at a new iteration of building a championship-caliber squad. The Heat might find it hard to replicate the small-ball offense and high-pressure defense that's defined them over the past four seasons, simply because of the unavoidable roster shakeup.
Spoelstra will be challenged. Miami's coach will start from scratch at developing an identity that fits the revamped roster, whatever it might look like on paper.