The NBA Finals were a wakeup call for the Miami Heat. With Dwyane Wade no longer capable of playing at a consistently elite level due to his health, the supporting cast has to be improved in order for the Big Three to keep beating talented teams with strong depth. LeBron James can do a lot, but even the greatest players need help.
And according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, James and his star teammates will give Heat president Pat Riley a window in which to acquire that help. It's premature to call that an ultimatum, but it certainly underscores the urgency attached to Miami's summer plans.
It's interesting that we've reached the theme of supporting talent once again, mainly because that was the same reason that drove James to Miami back in 2010. He is now a free agent once again, and Miami has the chance to add significant talent so long as Wade, James and Chris Bosh are willing to re-sign and keep their combined salaries under the luxury tax.
Here's ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne with more:
The last option is that the Heat stars could all take moderate pay cuts and stagger their salaries at different levels. This would likely not leave significant cap space but it would take the Heat below the luxury tax line and enable them up to use the full mid-level exception of $5.3 million and the biannual exception of $2 million to bring in multiple role players.
With James saying the team needs to improve "at every position," it seems possible the third option may end up being the most likely, especially after the Heat players all took pay cuts when they came to Miami four years ago.
Depending on the size of the pay cuts taken, Miami could add some of the best players in the league. They'll likely start there, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported:
Because of the way the Heat have operated, Tuesday's start of free agency likely will include immediate pitches to the top of the free-agent class, basically with now-or-never offers below what such players could make in other situations.
What follows, however, could offer a truer read, the two, three or four pieces that once again complete the Heat, make the roster something far closer to whole than what was in place by the time the NBA Finals ended earlier this month.
For the sake of this exercise, let's start with the biggest potential acquisition and work our way down in terms of salary, as it's possible the Wade, Bosh and James sign and nothing but exceptions are left over.
With all that in mind, here are six free agents Miami should pursue to support the Big Three.