Pat Riley and the Miami Heat seem to be on the prowl for renovations in free agency on the off chance that one of the Big Three such as LeBron James elects to take his talents elsewhere.
Understand that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or some combination of the three, may very well not end up back in Miami. Understand that the best the front office may be able to do is a Luol Deng.
Better to prep for the worst rather than be punched in the gut like fans in Cleveland were so many years ago.
Let's get right into it, as the latest offering from the NBA rumor mill concerns the Heat, and some of it isn't pretty.
Two of the Big Three Coming Back?
Could James turn out to be the globe's biggest villain yet again?
By now, fans know the Big Three have opted out and were musing their options, although the popular narrative was that the three were conversing with each other, ironing out the finances and giving the front office in Miami enough cap space to bring in more talent.
"It's not a done deal," said one source to ESPN's Chris Broussard, when asked about James' return to Miami. "That's for sure."
As a famous man once said, here. We. Go.
Broussard notes that Bosh and Wade opted out and are more than willing to take a pay cut in order to keep James around, although he does say that the numbers they are thinking would prohibit the addition of a free agent like Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol or Deng.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN confirms, though, that the Heat already have something of an idea as to how much Bosh and Wade will cost them:
Heat telling free agents they will have $12+ million to spend, indicating Wade & Bosh ready to take huge pay cuts, sources told ESPN— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 1, 2014
The ball is in James' court. Miami likely gives him the best chance to win a title and the max deal he is sure to get will be worth the most in the state of Florida. That said, there are plenty of suitors out there willing to do whatever it takes to bring him to town, and his hesitation on this trip to free agency sheds some doubt on his intentions.
Kyle Lowry Thinking Things Over
At 28 years old, Lowry is both one of the most coveted free-agency prizes and perhaps the name most identified as a potential addition to the Big Three in Miami.
There are a few things wrong with this whole ordeal. For one, Miami's going to have a hard time paying the Villanova product. Two, Toronto and only Toronto can offer him a fifth year, pushing his likely last shot at a major contract to the $55 million range.
Three, there has been nothing to suggest Lowry would want to go play with other superstars and give up control of the offense, especially after leading his team to the postseason. So it makes sense that Lowry has an offer from the Raptors and is mulling things over, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet explains:
'The meeting with [Toronto] went well,' a source close to Lowry told Sportsnet via text late Tuesday night. 'Kyle is contemplating his decision and should let us know shortly.'
According to league sources the Raptors are comfortable going to $11 million for four years. The real decision will be what they want to do with the fifth year — an enticement they are the only team in position to offer as Lowry is a returning free agent.
Of course, none of this has stopped the brass in Miami from reaching out, as illustrated by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Miami reached out to Kyle Lowry's agent Andy Miller tonight, and sides are planning to talk in the morning, source tells Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 1, 2014
But sources tell Wojnarowski that the Heat's superstars have not been recruiting Lowry, which is a strange turn of events for a trio of players who want more shots at a title. He's an obvious upgrade and makes the team better (averages of 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game last season), so why the Big Three have not been on a recruiting pitch at all is perplexing.
As it stands, don't wait with bated breath for Lowry to take his talents to Miami.
Luol Deng the Primary Target?
Perhaps it is Deng who is Riley's No. 1 target this offseason.
ESPN's Marc Stein suggests that Deng is neck and neck with Lowry at this point:
Kyle Lowry and Luol Deng believed to be Miami's top two free-agent targets. Neither, though, seems especially attainable for Riles and Co.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2014
This is great, as Deng would be a critical piece to the puzzle in Miami, but Broussard points out that the former Duke Blue Devil is unwilling to slash his salary:
Hearing that Luol Deng will not take significantly less than his market value to join Heat— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 1, 2014
Who can blame him? Not every player is willing to sacrifice future financial stability to play with certain players or teams, and Deng is 29 years old with only so many new contracts in his future—even if his numbers have been rather sound in recent years:
Deng is undoubtedly an upgrade for the Heat, but he is an expensive one. He's unlikely to get the deal he wants until James, Carmelo Anthony and even Chandler Parsons come off the market, so don't expect news on his new team for quite some time.
As is the case with Lowry, unless Deng has a sudden dramatic change of heart, he won't be helping out the Big Three next season.