LeBron James didn’t walk off the floor when the Miami Heat’s title run came to an end and immediately remove his jersey as he did four years ago following his final game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the future of the NBA’s best player is nonetheless uncertain.
James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all have the opportunity to opt out of their contracts this summer and become free agents. That gives the trio immense leverage over the organisation, but also creates a murky situation.
For James, he looked like he was back with the Cavaliers during the Finals, when he received little to no help against the dominating San Antonio Spurs.
Unlike the 2011 Finals when he disappeared against the Dallas Mavericks, James wasn’t close to being the one to blame. Rather, it was Wade and, to a lesser extent, Bosh who failed to provide enough back-up to not just defeat the Spurs, but to even make the series competitive.
Had the Heat won a third straight championship, James would have been inclined to stay. Even if he saw the cracks in the foundation forming, it would have been an unprecedented move for a superstar to leave on his own accord after such a historic run.
But a hypothetical is just that and the reality is sobering for Miami. There is the potential that after a four-year supernova flash of brilliance, it could also burn out in an instant, leaving them with two titles, but also back at square one.
Bosh, meanwhile, has remained steadfast in his desire to continue his career in Miami and believes the “Big 3” will remain. That scenario, however, might require all three opting out not to leave via free agency, but to take less money so the franchise can absorb another substantial contract.
The organisation is understood to be reviewing all of its options to potentially add Carmelo Anthony, who himself could opt out of his current deal with the Knicks.
Even the slightest possibility of that dream becoming real is a scary notion for the rest of the league. The elephant in the room is Wade.
It’s hard to imagine guard wanting to opt out of the final two years of his contract, which will pay him north of $20 million (Dh73.5m) per season, especially after his lacklustre show in the Finals and being the oldest of the trio at 32.
There’s no way he’ll receive anywhere close to what he’s due to make in the open market and might need to take the biggest pay-cut of the three.
His situation is key as it could either hold Miami hostage or free up cap space. It’s possible that if James doesn’t see immediate improvement of the roster, he could bolt.
The topic of his future was largely tabled this season, but now that everything has played out, we could again be in the Summer of LeBron.
T-WOLVES SHOULD CASH IN ON LOVE
Kevin Love is another star whose future hangs in the balance and whether or not he’s traded this summer could shape the playermovement landscape for the rest of the NBA.
While he’s not a free agent or able to opt out of his contract, Love has made it known he wants to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves – the team he’s been with since 2008.
Love has already been linked to the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns.
The Bulls and Warriors arguably have the young talent in Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Klay Thompson that the Timberwolves would covet to restart their franchise with, but are lacking the high draft picks that the other vying teams hold.
The Cavs have the trump card with the No1 overall selection in next week’s draft. However, even with point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland is far from being a desirable destination for Love.
The Celtics and Suns, meanwhile, have accumulated a war chest of draft picks, although Boston hold the advantage by playing in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Love also visited the city recently to become more familiar with it. Read into that what you will. It would be foolish for Minnesota to hold on to the slim chance of Love resigning.
They should get the most they can out of him before he walks and leaves them with nothing as a free agent in 2015.
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