Despite conventional “wisdom”, I’m of the opinion (and yes, I know I’m pretty alone in this view) that Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are not positioning themselves to go after a Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, or even a Dirk Nowitzki come 2010, but instead the greatest Free-Agent Prize of all, LeBron James.
With their latest trade (sending Shawn Marion, Marcus Banks and cash considerations to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal, Jamario Moon, and a conditional first-round draft pick) Miami has made themselves the number-one player in the 2010 Free Agent Bonanza.
Sure, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Minnesota, and even Detroit will be further under the cap that year, but none of these cities are serious contenders for any of the big names available that year.
Detroit would be if they had any significant star of their own signed for that year they could entice one of the big-name players to come play with, but the only player they have under contract for that year is Tayshaun Prince, and LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and others aren’t going to be convinced to move their star power to a city like Detroit (one of America’s least desirable big cities) just to play alongside a player such as Prince—who is a decent player, but no superstar.
New York is pretty far under the cap as well, positioning themselves to be a major player in the Free Agent Sweepstakes of that year. But despite the local media and fans in New York dreaming of landing one or even two of the superstars available that year, I’m of the opinion the Knicks' recent history of failure, not to mention the nature of the spotlight that comes with playing in New York (whose media and fan base are NEVER satisfied) will be a very large mark in their disfavor when it comes to enticing the players they need to build a championship-caliber team from free agent signings that year.
So, again, this leaves Miami in the driver’s seat. And oh what a seat it is.
I believe that Riles is thinking of 2010 as the year he makes moves to build another dynasty on the order of the Showtime Lakers of the '80s. I believe he wants one last hurrah to cement his legacy. He’ll never surpass Phil Jackson in rings as a coach, so I believe he’s thinking he can surpass Phil’s legacy in only one way—using his immense talent as a General Manager in rebuilding a franchise to show that he is one of the greatest basketball executives of all time.
What can he do to fulfill his ambitions? What move can he make that would be the equal of stunning the world and bringing Shaq to Miami to secure a title? Why turn the NBA on its head again in 2010 by not going after Chris Bosh as most of the “experts” have already stated as fact he will (and their assumptions are just that, assumptions, as Riles has never tipped his hat as to what he’s going to try and do come 2010), and instead go after the big prize of that year, LeBron James?
While Bosh is no doubt a fine player in some respects, his defense is extremely suspect (it’s been noted by many he just doesn’t seem to have the desire needed to play D) and his leadership abilities are also in question. He’s certainly not a player any head coach would feel comfortable giving the ball to for the final play of the game.
LeBron, on the other hand, is not only one of the three most offensively dominant players in the league, but a player who recently has shown he has the desire and ability to play ferocious defense.
Of course, more importantly, his leadership abilities are unquestioned. There are only a handful of players in the NBA equal to Bron Bron in the confidence they inspire in coaches in handing them the ball for the final shot of the game.
Following are five reasons I believe Pat Riley will be successful in enticing Bron Bron to join the Miami Heat:
1. Miami is one of only a few teams capable of offering LeBron a max contract come 2010.
2. Florida is the ONLY state among these contenders for LeBron's service that doesn't have a state income tax (meaning the money he'd lose for not resigning with the Cavs because they can offer him a little bit more than any other team would be offset by the fact he won't be paying state income taxes on any of his earnings).
3. Miami is a paradise and a celebrity hot spot. There's probably no place in America more attractive, weather-wise than Miami, and its nightlife is the equal of any other city's.
4. LeBron's BFF, DWADE, plays for Miami. LeBron would love nothing more than to have a superstar of DWADE's caliber drawing the defense away from him so he could increase his numbers to even greater heights, and he also knows DWADE is anything but a ball-hogging type of teammate. DWADE is a humble guy who, truth be told, would rather be the 1b option to LeBron's 1a option than the guy who has to carry the team on his back ALL of the time. Dwyane has always been a team player.
5. In DWADE and Pat Riley, LeBron knows he would have champions working with him. They've been there, both of them. They've climbed the mountain. They know what it takes to win a title. Certainly no one in a Knicks uniform does. Certainly no one in the Knicks front office does. So, while others may try and noisily convince LeBron their city is the destination for him, all Pat and DWADE have to do is flash him their rings and say, "You want one of these? Come play with us."
Ultimately, my prognostications will require certain things to happen in order to come to fruition. We’re a long way off from the 2010 Free Agent Bonanza. A host of things could happen to derail everything. Dwyane Wade could get injured. LeBron could get injured. Miami could fall flat on its face over the next year and a half, causing DWADE to think of bolting the Heat for another team instead of enticing Bron Bron to join him in South Beach.
However, barring these disastrous scenarios, I truly believe Riles has his sights set on making my and every other Heat fan’s dreams come true and assembling what essentially would be the latest Dream Team.
I mean, can you imagine a team composed of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook, and others? I can, and have, and no amount of naysaying by others will convince me that my dreams aren’t realistic. We’ll have to wait and see though to know whether they actually become reality.
One thing to keep in mind. Dwyane Wade loves the idea. As he said in a recent interview, “It’s not crazy, it could happen. We both understand that. We both signed the same contract. We did it together. More than anything, it’s fun [to think about]. It’s exciting to know we both control our future. Will it happen? Who knows. He has something he’s trying to accomplish in Cleveland. I have something I’m trying to accomplish in Miami. But up until 2010, it will be fun to think about.”