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Heat Exercise Option on Norris Cole, Only Player Locked into 2014-15 Payroll

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Heat Exercise Option on Norris Cole, Only Player Locked into 2014-15 Payroll
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LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can all opt out of their contracts in the summer of 2014, which means the Miami Heat have the haziest future of any NBA team.

Don't worry, though, there's finally a tiny sliver of clarity: Norris Cole will be around next season. The future of the franchise is now secure.

According to B/R's Ethan Skolnick, the Heat ensured that the reserve point guard would be a part of the team's 2014-15 roster.

What's incredible is that he's the only current Heat player guaranteed to be in Miami after this season.

Per ShamSports.com and HoopsHype, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden will all be unrestricted free agents after this season. Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Chris Andersen each have player options for next year, but if the Heat's Big Three opts to disband, all of those guys might decide to seek employment elsewhere.

Toss in a handful of camp invitees currently playing with unguaranteed deals, and you've got the entire Heat salary picture.

Perhaps this is all part of Miami's master plan to convince James, Bosh and Wade to stick around. Maybe all three really like Cole and were merely waiting for a little certainty about his fate before making the decision to stay with the Heat.

Then again, maybe not.

Cole showed modest improvement last year, but remained one of the league's worst statistical players. ESPN's Tom Haberstroh was very direct in his criticism of Miami's backup guard:

So, how do you beat the Heat when they're playing four future Hall of Famers on the court, three of whom are in their prime?

Answer: You pray that the fifth player is Norris Cole.

Yes, the Heat do have a weakness. And truth be told, it's stunning they've been able to get away with it for so long. Contrary to popular belief, Miami's greatest sore spot isn't rebounding, size or any area of their game. Rather, their weakness has taken the form of a specific player on their roster.

They can't seem to play winning basketball with Cole on the floor.

Ouch.

It's hard to fault the Heat for this move, though. After all, it's easier to win games with Cole on the floor than it is with nobody on the floor. Miami has to field a team in 2014-15 somehow, so it makes sense to lock in a young, inexpensive piece.

Now all it has to do is find 14 more players to fill out the roster.

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