*UPDATED July 8, 2010 8:00 AM PST*
As reported by Chris Broussard at ESPN.com, several sources close to LeBron James indicate he's leaning towards Miami, lending further credence to this article.
As the dust settles around the Miami Heat this morning, one thing that stands out is Chris Bosh's reported willingness to take a 5 year max deal, as opposed to a sign and trade 6 year deal. As written in our previous post , the Bulls had a number of options involving a third team to make that happen.
The Bulls failed to consider the nuclear option - Miami getting all three: Bosh, Wade, AND LeBron.
Most opinions centered around Miami pairing Wade with Bosh or James - and not having enough good players left to field a competitive team. That seemed to make sense, since the sticking point was Bosh getting a 6 year max deal - and that precluded them getting all three. With this in mind, it seemed a sure fire bet the Bulls would be able to pull off a Wade and Bosh signing.
After this morning, as Pat Riley has been able to convince Chris Bosh to take at most the 5 year max, something earthshaking becomes increasingly clear.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade could have taken this same deal with the Bulls - right down to the exact dollar amount. AND they would have been joining a young playoff team with a smart new coach and great pieces in Derrick Rose and (not so great) Joakim Noah. Look at the starting lineup of Rose, Wade, Deng, Bosh, and Noah. That's an incredible amount of firepower in the East - and vaults them to the top of the conference in a heartbeat.
Let's compare this to what the Heat can offer right now :
Having only 2 players under contract, they can currently field a starting lineup of Chalmers, Beasley, Wade, and Bosh. The Heat have a number of holes - mainly at small forward and center. There are a lot of questions here, and compared to the Bulls - it makes no sense to sign in South Beach.
You add these things together and here's the ONLY scenario that can happen in light of the signing of Bosh and Wade:
Miami will trade Michael Beasley, freeing up the cap space to sign LeBron to a max deal. In fact, it's possible that Toronto take Beasley as part of a sign and trade deal so they get something out of all this. But there are plenty of teams with cap space to take Beasley - like the Clippers, Sacramento, or Washington - so the Heat should have no problem unloading him.
And that frees up just enough space to sign LeBron James. There is no reason that Bosh and Wade choose Miami unless they know LeBron is coming as well. Without James, they go to the Bulls and become the #1 seed. With James, it becomes very interesting, since Miami still needs to fill out their roster.
Can Miami be competitive with James, Bosh, and Wade? Absolutely. Can they be a championship team? It's debatable, pending their moves. The Heat are allowed to sign players at the minimum repsective to the player's experience. So here's where they could sign Juwan Howard, who had a good year with Portland and might have some gas left in the tank. They could also sign a point guard, like Jason Williams or Rafer Alston. Shooters would be at a premium so teams couldn't sag and help against the big three - meaning players like James Jones (whom they renounced, but could re-sign) could get a shot if they are willing to take the minimum for a chance at a title.
There are only a few GMs in the league that could pull off this kind of coup, and you've got to put Pat Riley at the top of the list. If he can get a defensive minded three point specialist like James Jones to take the minimum, if he can push their two big men from the draft to bring their hard hats, play with energy and not make mistakes, if Da'Sean Butler recovers from his knee injury, then the Heat have to be favorites to win it all.But those are titanic IFs.
As a coach, I will go on record as saying it takes a while for things to gel, and the Heat might not win it this year. LeBron and Wade will have to get used to sharing the ball, as well as feeding the post. Bosh will have to figure out how to flare to the high post and shoot his jumper without getting in James and Wade's way.
What happens to the Bulls? They improve by adding Carlos Boozer or David Lee and play better by virtue of better coaching in Tom Thibodeau. They could compete for the 3rd seed. The biggest loser appears to be the Knicks - who have to sign someone else to pair with Stoudemire to have a shot at being the 5th seed in the conference.