With the recent news regarding LeBron James and his decision to opt out of his contract, multiple rumors surrounding the Miami Heat are starting to pick up steam.
ESPN's Chris Broussard tweeted that LeBron officially exercised his early termination option on Tuesday morning.
LeBron James' agent Rich Paul has told Heat LeBron will exercise early termination option— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 24, 2014
The decision was one that was expected, but it now means that the Heat have a lot of work to do to convince LeBron to come back. The roster could be changing quite dramatically over this offseason, and after falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, the Heat will be doing whatever it takes to make another run for an NBA title next season.
Having said that, here are a few of the latest rumors surrounding the Heat in the wake of LeBron's decision to opt out of his contract.
LeBron Putting Pressure on Miami After Opting Out?
Even though he didn't have to officially decide on whether to opt out until June 30, he decided to make it official just under a week before the deadline. There were reasons for him doing so, and it wasn't just because he'd finally made the decision.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports, LeBron reportedly made the decision on Tuesday in order to put pressure on Miami to improve the roster and spend money to acquire key free agents.
LeBron James will opt-out of deal, source confirms. He's determined to impose pressure on Miami to improve roster and spend, sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 24, 2014
Will LeBron James return to Miami?
After getting blown out in their last three games of the NBA Finals, it became clear that the Heat didn't have enough talent outside of the Big Three to contend with the Spurs. Heading into this offseason, Norris Cole is now the only player with a guaranteed contract, with others having player or team options.
If Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade also opt out of their current deals, the Heat will have plenty of cap space to work with, although a good portion of that would likely be spent on those two along with LeBron. However, if all three were willing to take pay cuts, there's a good chance that the team could add even more talent around them.
With the Heat potentially having that kind of cap space, the rumors about possible new players have already started.
Luol Deng a Potential Target in Free Agency
With LeBron reportedly trying to put pressure on Miami to make a splash, there are names that the team could look to in free agency. Some involve superstars, but others could be very valuable contributors who might be willing to take smaller contracts.
Nate Duncan from Basketball Insiders wrote that Cleveland Cavaliers wing Luol Deng could be a potential free-agent target for Miami, saying: "If the big 3 all re-sign for $15 million, that leaves about $17 million in cap space plus the room exception to get that done. Luol Deng actually could be a decent fit in Miami if he were willing to sign for a relative discount."
Before being traded to the Cavaliers, Deng was having one of the best seasons of his career with the Chicago Bulls. In 23 games, he was putting up 19.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
Now, after half of a season with the Cavaliers, Deng is an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return to a team that's trying to slowly rebuild. Instead, he could join the Heat, where he could try to play with a championship contender.
Of course, Deng would have to be willing to accept a significantly smaller contract than his last one, which was a six-year deal with $71 million, according to Spotrac. The other problem would be playing the same position as LeBron, although the superstar could easily still thrive at the power forward position, which he has done before.
If Deng were willing to take a pay cut, he would be a big enough name to generate a bit more buzz in Miami.
Heat Potentially Trading First-Round Pick for Iman Shumpert
Despite this being one of the deepest draft classes in a while, the Heat aren't likely going to find any instant contributors with the No. 26 overall pick. However, if they wanted to trade that pick, there's a good chance they could find someone willing to give them a solid player.
One recent rumor from ESPN's Marc Stein is that the New York Knicks have been exploring the possibility of trading for a first-round pick by trading Iman Shumpert.
Hearing: Knicks have explored possibility of swapping Iman Shumpert for late first-round pick heading into Thursday's draft— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 23, 2014
Grantland's Zach Lowe responded to the rumor by saying that the Heat could be one of the teams interested in making a trade for the 23-year-old shooting guard.
Re: @ESPNSteinLine report of NYK exploring Shump for 1st-round pick: Watch the Heat, potentially using No. 26 as main bait for Shumpert.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 23, 2014
It was an extremely rough third season in the NBA for Shumpert, who averaged just 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 37.9 percent from the floor. He's struggled after a promising rookie year due to a torn ACL in April of 2012, but at 23 years old, there's still time for him to develop and improve.
If the Heat were able to bring Wade back, Shumpert could be a terrific option to play behind him. Along with playing limited minutes off the bench and providing a spark when needed, Shumpert would be learning from one of the best shooting guards of the past decade. Shumpert would also likely get plenty of opportunities to start when the Heat rest Wade like they've done in the past.
Overall, trading a late first-round pick for a backup shooting guard sounds like a fair deal, and with his athleticism and potential, Shumpert could end up thriving in Miami.