3 years later, is Miami’s window closing?

The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA champions. OK, enough of the Sports Illustrated infomercial — this team’s been seriously tested the last 2 years, this year in both the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals, and will have to improve to accomplish a 3-peat, something that has not been done in the NBA by a team not coached by Phil Jackson since the 1960s. Jackson did it twice in the ’90s with MJ, Scottie and the Bulls, and once more at the turn of the century with Kobe, Shaq and the Lakers.

Here’s Miami’s roster headed into next season, player options excluded.

  • Chris Bosh: $19.1 million
  • LeBron James: $19.1 million
  • Dwyane Wade: $18.6 million
  • Mike Miller: $6.2 million
  • Udonis Haslem: $4.4 million
  • Mario Chalmers: $4.0 million
  • Joel Anthony: $3.8 million
  • Shane Battier: $3.3 million
  • Norris Cole: $1.2 million

And the player options.

  • Ray Allen: $3.3 million
  • James Jones: $1.5 million
  • Rashard Lewis: $1.4 million

It’s safe to bank on 10 of these guys returning, barring a major Chris Bosh deal, which I don’t see in the immediate wake of back-to-back titles. Even though he was scoreless in Game 7, Bosh brings a lot to the table on both ends, spacing offensively and a rim protector defensively.

Mike Miller’s an amnesty option, but erasing his $6.2 million off the cap this year and his $6.6 million player option next will hardly cut Miami’s luxury tax bills. (Plus, if not for Mike Miller’s shoeless 3 and all-around intensity in Game 6, who knows if the Heat are NBA champions right now?) Ray Allen’s the only of the three with a player option with market value, and a Boston return’s been rumored — but now that Boston’s clearly en route to blowing the whole thing up, it’s hard to see Ray Ray, 37, leaving Miami for a rebuild effort.

So let’s assume all 12 guys are back, more healthy — costing the Heat close to $86 million, a far cry above the league’s $58.5 million salary cap for next year, first reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein. Miami does not have a selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

I think where it gets interesting is a year from now. Miami has, essentially, its entire cap tied up in 3 player options — LeBron and Bosh’s for $20.6 million apiece and Wade’s for $20.1 million. The following year, those options increase to $22.2 for LeBron and Bosh, and $21.6 for Wade. Bosh, 29 now, is not worth the money he’s signed for, and Wade, 31, seems to have health problems at the end of each season, so, barring a major resurgence, it’s hard to see either turning down those options.

This leaves little room for Miami to retool around LeBron; hell, even if they were to amnesty Bosh, Miller, Haslem and Joel Anthony, who combined for 0 points in Game 7, are due about $15 million in player options in 2014-15 that, unless Miami finds a team crazy enough to deal, are sure bets to be exercised. Which is why I expect LeBron, in chase of more championships, to forgo his player option and enter free agency next summer.

And less than 3 years after the ‘Big 3’ came together, largely because of the new restrictive CBA, Miami’s window is closing.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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