Will LeBron James leave the Heat for greener pastures?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat are coming off a rough showing in the NBA Finals and now must figure out if they can retool around LeBron James, who just opted out of his contract. Will he stay with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? If so, how does Miami find the right pieces around them?

The Miami Heat made it to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and after splitting the first two games in San Antonio, it appeared the Heat were in good shape heading home. What followed was rather stunning, as the San Antonio Spurs destroyed the two-time defending champions three straight times to keep the three-peat from happening.

With the emphatic defeat, the Heat enter the offseason with many questions. LeBron James has already opted out of his contract, and from the sounds of it, he's looking to exert pressure on the Heat to improve the roster:

The Big Three can all opt out of their contracts if they choose, and some wonder if LeBron James will bolt for greener pastures due to Dwyane Wade's balky knees. Miami essentially made Wade a part-time player this year to help conserve his body, but he looked really old against San Antonio.

It's also clear the Heat need to rebuild the supporting cast around the Big Three. Ray Allen isn't sure about his future, Shane Battier is retiring and Rashard Lewis can't provide consistent minutes. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole both really struggled in the Finals. Chris Andersen is set to opt out of his contract, and although he seems like a good candidate to return, nothing is certain.

As long as the Big Three are around, the Heat will be a formidable team and possibly favorites in the Eastern Conference again next year. But how Miami fills out the rest of the roster could determine if they can win another title.

The assets

Draft picks: No. 26, No. 55
Free agents: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (ETO), Chris Bosh (ETO), Udonis Haslem (player option), Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Toney Douglas, James Jones, Chris Andersen (player option), Rashard Lewis, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden

Cap space: $56.5 million

Depth chart

PG: Mario Chalmers (UFA), Norris Cole, Toney Douglas (UFA)
SG: Dwyane Wade (ETO), Ray Allen (UFA)
SF: LeBron James, James Jones (UFA), Michael Beasley (UFA)
PF: Rashard Lewis (UFA), Shane Battier (UFA, likely retiring), Udonis Haslem (player option)
C: Chris Bosh (ETO), Chris Andersen (player option), Greg Oden (UFA)

Team needs

With so many players set to hit free agency, the Heat need quite a bit. The frontcourt has been thin over the last few years, and even if Andersen returns, another competent big man would be a huge help. This is especially the case with Bosh acting less and less like a traditional big.

Another point guard is also a need. Chalmers didn't get it done in the postseason and the Finals in particular, and it's unclear whether or not he'll be back. Even if Chalmers does return, acquiring another point guard would still be beneficial.

Finally, the Heat could use more shooting. Miami didn't adequately replace Mike Miller after he was let go via the amnesty clause, and they may lose both Allen and Battier to retirement. Surrounding James with deadly shooting helps make the Heat really dangerous on the offensive end, so getting at least one new three-point marksman would be ideal.

Of course, this all assumes James, Wade and Bosh return.


The obvious priorities for the offseason are James, Wade and Bosh. Ideally, Wade would opt out of his $20.16 million contract for next season and then sign a new deal at a steep discount, but it's hard to envision the 32-year-old leaving a ton of money on the table. All three could theoretically take discounts again in order to chase Carmelo Anthony or another expensive player like Kyle Lowry, although that's a fantasy scenario.

More likely, the Heat will have exceptions or possibly a small amount of cap space to work with, depending on what the Big Three decide. Miami could find some quality role players with exceptions, and a player like Anthony Morrow could be a nice fit as a shooter. Vince Carter may be an option as a ring chaser, or perhaps the Heat make a run at Patty Mills, who just finished torching Miami in the Finals.

In the draft, the Heat own a late first-rounder and late second-rounder, so there will be an opportunity to address some holes. For point guards, Shabazz Napier and Jordan Clarkson could be options at the back end of the first. In the frontcourt, Jarnell Stokes or Mitch McGary could be taken to add more rebounding and toughness. Other intriguing options may include Kyle Anderson, P.J. Hairston and Jordan Adams.

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