This playoff run, however long it may go on, has a different flavor than the previous two varietals for the Miami Heat. Bittersweet? Maybe. The cloud of impending free agency and opt-out clauses hovers over this particular postseason. For the sake of exploration, let's take a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Heat this offseason (for science!).
Since I'm not in the business of running around with underpants over my head like Captain Obvious, yeah, clearly the worst-case scenario is that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opt out and don't return.
All the talk around the organization seems to be that they are coming back. So this will focus on other scenarios, starting with...
Worst-case Scenario: The Big Three Want More Money
What could be worse than Chris Bosh deciding he's had enough of being third on this Championship Big Wheel and leaving? He decides he wants to at least get a max deal while he pops a wheelie down Biscayne Boulevard.
Maybe James chases Kobe Bryant money, and Wade decides not to opt out fearing the realities of an open market.
Now the Heat have the Big Three at a premium price but can't afford to replace guys like Ray Allen, Shane Battier or, heck, even bring back Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen!
The Big Three would have a hard time competing for a title with the likes of Luke Ridnour and Jan Vesely coming off the bench. Even worse, the Heat would go from a team of those sacrificing for the ultimate prize to three aging vets trying to get their checks.
Bosh leaving would be bad, but not necessarily the worst case. With Bosh's cap space freed up, the Heat would at least have the flexibility to chase decent free agents or make a run at one of the top free agents—Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol—next summer.
Best-case Scenario: Big Three Opts Out to Take Less Money
Seeing how those three sacrificed cash to come together for rings in the first place, it makes sense that they would sacrifice again to get another taste of that championship Kool-Aid.
After all, they already know what they get when they don't make the sacrifice. Chris Bosh told Sam Amick of USA Today that he has let the idea of being "the man" go.
I'm over it. It's just all about winning at the end of the day. It's about being in the game. I mean everybody isn't meant to take the last shot. Everybody isn't going to be the MVP. It's only for a very, very small percentage, for a small percentage of guys. I understand that, and I'm just lucky enough to be in this situation I am now, just competing at the highest level in the league. That's good enough for me.
Let's say they all opt out and re-sign for $14 million each. The Heat could plausibly sign Carmelo Anthony should he sacrifice some money too.
According to @stevekylerNBA Carmelo could join Miami if LeBron, Wade, Bosh & Melo all sign for $14 million. That is the Heat media's dream.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) February 17, 2014
But that's not the best-case scenario. Give me a primo supporting cast instead.
Larry Coon is reporting that the new salary cap will be about $63.2 million, and the tax threshold will be $77 million. Haslem and Cole are already on the book for about $6.6 million total, per ShamSports.com.
Let's say James, Wade and Bosh sign for $15 million each. That gives the Heat $28.4 million in space. With that much money, they could realistically re-sign Chris Andersen (who may opt out for a more lucrative, deserved deal) sign Rodney Stuckey to come off the bench, bring in Trevor Ariza to replace Battier and look at guys like Jason Smith, Anthony Tolliver, Nazr Mohammed, Chris Kaman and so on.
That's the best-case scenario and, with Pat Riley and James involved, is a realistic one.