I, like everyone else with even a passing interest in the NBA, spent part of my night watching the LeBron James decision special on ESPN. He announced that he was “going to take [his] talents to South Beach” and sign with the Miami Heat. He did this, despite saying that it was tough, with little emotion on his face. While he said that the decision was tough, his actions were those of a man who had made his mind up a long time ago that he was leaving Cleveland. He may not have known where he would land or, if you believe some of the information in Bill Simmons’ article, he had an idea that he would land wherever Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh landed. The fact remains, that despite what LeBron said, he may not have the best chance of winning in Miami.
Miami will use roughly $49.5 million of their salary cap space on Wade, Bosh and King James. With the NBA setting the salary cap at $58 million. That leaves the Heat with $9.5 million to fill the remaining 9 slots on their roster. They currently have Mario Chalmers on the books, as well as Michael Beasley. It is unlikely Beasley will remain with the Heat, so his salary would come off the books. Chalmers is scheduled to make $850,000. That leaves the Heat with $8.65 million to fill the rest of the roster. They have to hope that some veterans will take WAY less than market value to play in Miami with the Trinity. There are rumors going around the Mike Miller might be interested in signing with the Heat. Even if Miller signs, the Heat still need a legit center, and back ups for the Trinity. I don’t buy that the Heat need a point guard because with Chalmers, LeBron and Wade on the court, there is more than enough ball handling skills to run the offense. As it stands right now, Bosh, James and Wade will have to play most of the night due to what could be a lack of quality on the bench. What would worry me if I were the Heat management is Wade’s injury history. Success is predicated on the Trinity playing together, if one of them goes down, who will the Heat replace him with? Will the Heat luck out the way the Celtics did when they got P.J. Brown, James Posey and Eddie House for nothing to play along side the Big Three? Who knows. Without quality back ups, this team will still be a contender in the East and under the right circumstances a contender for the title.
After hearing the decision, the real question to me is: why didn’t he go to Chicago where he could play with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose? While Chicago obviously wasn’t as flashy as signing with Bosh and Wade on South Beach, I believe it would have presented a better, long-term opportunity for LeBron to win. He would have been playing along side a legitimate future all-star point guard in Rose, an all-star power forward in Boozer and the emerging Noah. Chicago also has Luol Deng coming off the bench under this scenario. Beyond those four players, Chicago would have still had money to fill out a team that would have been better than anything Miami could put together.
After watching part of the special, I began to wonder if Cleveland was ever really an option? They didn’t have the resources to build a good team to play around him. Bosh was adamant that he would not play in Cleveland, despite the fact that the Cavs and Raptors had a preliminary sign-and-trade lined up that would have united Bosh and LeBron on the shores of Lake Erie. If LeBron had stayed, could Cleveland have spun a trade to steal a player the way the Lakers stole Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies? A more pressing question is where do the Cavs go from here? I don’t profess to have a great deal of knowledge about the Cavs roster, but I suspect they will be hoping the ping-pong balls bounce their way come next June.