Good and bad news for fans of the NBA. The good news: after 149 days, we finally have our dearly beloved basketball back. The bad news (for anyone outside of Miami anyway): It looks like the new system will absolutely allow the Heat to get better. This slideshow will take you through the steps I believe Miami will take to ensure a title in 2012.
Contrary to what most fans thought would happen, the MLE was not scrapped and still stands at 5.76 million for teams above the cap. A miniature MLE was added for teams below the cap which stands at 2.5 million. The Miami Heat happen to stand above the cap, and will likely use it to do one of the following:
Sign Samuel Dalembert: Currently in his home state of California, Samuel Dalembert makes $7 million per year, although he holds a near $13 million contract. Most people don't think he would jump from making $13 million to making $5 million just for a better location.
However, in Florida he would not have to pay a state tax. This means that with a $5.76 million contract he'd be making nearly $3.7 million per year. Suddenly it isn't an $8 million loss but only a $4 million loss for a chance to play for a contender in a city that is a 2 hour plane ride away from his home country.
Sign Tyson Chandler: Chandler is in a similar situation as Dalembert, where he is making $8 million per year despite holding a $12.6 million contract. He has stated that it may be difficult for Dallas to keep him, making it probably just as difficult for Miami to obtain him. However, he has stated he wishes to play for a contender and if he receives an offer he may not like, he could possibly sign with Dallas or make a switch to the dark side and join the Miami Heat.
Sign Marc Gasol: Gasol currently only holds a $3.6 million contract with Memphis, which means even at the MLE he would be making $2 million more than he currently is. Gasol is a good young player with a lot of upside and not a lot of downside. He will surely get offers from a lot of teams ranging in the $8 million-$12 million range. But all Pat Riley needs to do is work his magic and convince him to come to a contender and get a little help from Florida's non-existing state tax.
Don't hate me, Heat fans, I love Mike Miller. I also think that if he could have avoided injury and had a chance to stay in rhythm all season I'd be singing a different tune. However, the amnesty clause is providing Miami with an opportunity they may not get again.
Miller makes $5.4 million per year in a Heat uniform. Although his contract is not bad by any means, using the amnesty cause on him would free up $4.05 million (amnesty would only count 25 percent of his contract against the cap) from the Heat's cap. Give Pat Riley $4.05 million and he could do the following:
Re-Sign James Jones & Mario Chalmers: Chalmers and Jones both used their player options to opt out of their existing contracts with the Heat. They have both stated however that they want to return with the Heat, even for less money than other teams would pay them. But a solid guess would tell you they'd want a raise.
Chalmers made $854,000 last year, and Jones made $1.14 million. I believe giving Chalmers an offer somewhere around $2.2 million-$2.5 million would be enough to re-sign him.
Jones is very one-dimensional and should be enticed to return with an offer around $1.8 million-$2 million. Re-signing the reigning 3-point champion and a young point guard who seems to thrive under all sorts of pressure and has shown glimpses of greatness feels like it could help Miami a bit more than Mike Miller.
Sign a combination of Shane Battier, Tracy McGrady, T.J Ford, Michael Redd, or Grant Hill: The guys on this list are vets who have one thing in common: they have no rings.
We all saw in 2006 how Pat Riley was able to turn troubled vets Posey, Walker, and Williams into solid role players who made the difference between a title run and an early play-off exit. None of them will be demanding a major contract but will probably want a bit more than a vet minimum. Signing a combo of two or three of these guys would be a huge upgrade to Miami's current bench.
Mike Miller won't be the only casualty of the Amnesty Clause and the Miami Heat need to make sure they're on the other end of the rope when solid role players with bad contracts are cut from their teams. With the very little money that Riley will be able to use to stay under the "hard" cap, you better believe he will be targeting a couple casualties of the new clause. Those casualties could include:
Baron Davis: Still a solid contributor with a terrible contract. He thrived on a team that had a star in Los Angeles, imagine the possibilities of teaming him up with three of the best players in the league.
Al Harrington: At 31 he is still a pretty good scorer when he wants to be. Signing Harrington would give Miami an offensively capable power forward for the minutes Chris Bosh & Udonis Haslem aren't on the floor. I picture Harrington as an upgraded Juwan Howard.
Brandon Roy: Maybe Roy won't be cut by the Trailbrazers, but it's been said that he may be a casualty of the clause. He is owed $50 million by the Blazers and they may not feel like paying him to sit on the bench with bad knees. Although he may come at a steep price, Roy would give Miami so much depth at the small forward position that LeBron could get increased amounts of rest for the entire season.
Brendan Haywood: Think about this—Pat Riley at one point got on a plane to have dinner at Haywood's house and offered him $4 million in a recruitment effort. I bet Riley has never been so happy to fail at something. Although he is still a very solid big man and extremely capable off the bench, look for him to be cut by the Mavs in an effort to keep Chandler in Dallas.
All in all, Miami will absolutely be a force to be reckoned with in this upcoming season. Even with Oprah Winfrey and a cardboard cut-out of Hakeem Olajuwan on the team, they could be solid contenders. I assume the Heat's dream line-up could look something like this:
PG- Mario Chalmers
SG- Dwyane Wade
SF- LeBron James
PF- Chris Bosh
C- Samuel Dalembert
6- Baron Davis
7- Grant Hill
8- Brendan Heywood
9- Tracy McGrady
10- James Jones
11- Al Harrington
12- Joel Anthony
13- Eddie House
14- Dexter Pittman
15- Norris Cole
Granted, that line-up, while incredibly deep and talented, is almost impossible. However, keep in mind that once upon a time, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh playing together was impossible.