Miami Heat's LeBron James
The Miami Heat could have upwards of $50 million in cap space available during the summer of 2014 if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all elect to opt out of their contracts in search of long-term security elsewhere.
As Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com noted recently, "There’s a chance the Heat will have as much cap space as anyone to retrofit their team around the most-prized potential free agent, LeBron James."
The five superstars identified on the following list that Miami could pair with James next summer would all help Miami compete for an NBA championship in 2014-15.
Each player is also scheduled to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
While it's difficult to specifically pinpoint the dollars available in free agency next summer, the superstars identified could possibly be acquired, along with Wade and Bosh in some cases. In other instances, however, a player would serve as a financial replacement to Bosh.
Each player is listed in terms of the projected impact that he would make alongside James in 2014-15.
Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce is an aging superstar who could be targeted by the Miami Heat during the summer of 2014 to not only pair alongside LeBron James, but to also allow Miami to re-sign Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Pierce is on schedule to become an unrestricted free agent when the 2013-14 campaign concludes. He will earn $15.3 million as a member of the Brooklyn Nets during the final year of a four-year, $61.3 million contract this season and it stands to reason that Pierce would be willing to accept significantly less money to join the Heat.
During his 2012-13 season with the Boston Celtics, Pierce averaged 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. While in pursuit of one last championship with Miami, the future Hall-of-Famer—who turns 36 in October—still projects to be a highly valuable asset as a sixth man heading into the 2014-15 campaign.
In a role backing up both wing positions in Miami, Piece could potentially average in the neighborhood of 14 points, four rebounds and three assists over 26-27 minutes per night. He could be a critical addition for the Heat with an extremely reasonable salary.
Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut has battled injuries throughout his NBA career. When healthy, however, the former No. 1 overall pick and All-NBA Third Team player for the 2009-10 season is among the top five centers in the league.
While working his way back from injury with the Golden State Warriors in 2012-13, Bogut averaged only 5.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 32 regular-season games before improving those numbers to 7.2 and 10.9, respectively, in the playoffs.
If Bogut remains healthy throughout the 2013-14 season while continuing to improve his production, he could become a highly sought-after commodity as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The seven-footer, who turns 29 years old in November, has demonstrated an ability to impact games defensively throughout his career. He has also averaged 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds since breaking into the NBA in the 2005-06 season.
Bogut would provide more of a traditional interior presence than Chris Bosh has at the center position for Miami and become a primary target if Bosh is not retained.
He would also be a player who could be added to a core of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at a less-expensive price than Bosh projects to command if he opts out next summer.
Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph owns a player option in his Grizzlies' contract that could make him an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2014.
If he activates that option, Randolph would become a potential candidate to pair alongside LeBron James in Miami.
Though he did just turn 32 in July, Randolph is coming off a season where he averaged a double-double at 15.4 points and 11.2 rebounds. If Pat Riley could convince Randolph to take less money in pursuit of his first championship, Z-Bo could be an ideal fit next to not only James, but Dwyane Wade as well.
While providing a rebounding element that Chris Bosh doesn't, Randolph is also equipped with the ability to create his own shot off the offensive glass or within the half-court set.
After thriving alongside Marc Gasol in the team environment of the Memphis Grizzlies since 2009, the mature version of Randolph projects to embrace the championship culture in Miami as a member of the Heat.
Though Randolph is capable of playing with Chris Bosh on the interior and potentially forming a dynamic inside-out combination, Miami will most likely only have room for one of those two bigs after inking James and Wade.
While slightly older and less dynamic than Bosh, Randolph could be the option at a less expensive price to make all of the salary dollars work under cap restrictions heading into 2014-15.
Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to become a restricted free agent during the summer of 2014.
The Sacramento Kings' big man could get locked up long-term by his team over the next 12 months and the remote possibility of joining the Miami Heat may never emerge.
But if he did land in Miami, Cousins would provide short-term help in pursuit of a championship while also serving as a piece for the Heat to build on for many seasons to come.
The supremely gifted 6'11" center, who won't turn 23 until August, is coming off a season where he averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds. While maturity and consistency are the ultimate question marks surrounding Cousins' game, the Heat organization would provide the stable environment necessary for him to grow.
Under the direction of Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and the veteran leadership of LeBron James, Cousins could reach the All-Star potential that many have long projected for him. As a true 5, he would also be an upgrade to Chris Bosh, who has been forced to play out of position over the last couple of seasons.
Retaining Dwyane Wade would also be critical to Cousins' growth and development, but may be only attainable if Wade is willing to take slightly less money in this scenario to round out a new Big Three.
New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony
Twelve months before LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade as members of the Miami Heat, there wasn't a pundit anywhere who expected the summer of 2010 to materialize the way it inevitably did.
While it seems crazy to think that Carmelo Anthony could be a legitimate free-agent possibility for the Heat during the summer of 2014, I'm not putting anything past Heat president Pat Riley at this point.
Like James, Wade and Bosh, Anthony owns an early termination option with the Knicks that could make him an unrestricted free agent when the 2013-14 campaign concludes.
With the moves made by his New York Knicks this summer, including investing long-term in an injured J.R. Smith and trading for Andrea Bargnani, it's difficult to argue that Anthony's team is any closer to a championship than it was in 2012-13.
If an NBA title is what Anthony is ultimately after, James could potentially welcome his long-time friend to Miami in a way similar to how Wade first invited him to South Beach.
Financially, with James and Anthony both maxed out, there would be no room for Bosh in this scenario.
I find it difficult to imagine Wade playing for any other team than the Heat. He would have to be fit in under the cap from there while leaving a void up front at the center position.
Despite that, the potential of having Anthony lined up as a scoring threat on one side and James on the other would mean that the Heat could bring Alonzo Mourning out of retirement in 2014-15 and still be extremely difficult to beat.