NBA Free Agency: Did the Heat clear too much space?

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The Miami Heat had big plans for this summer. First order of priority was to create enough room to re-sign Dwyane Wade, who loves Miami like its his mother, to max contract. The next step was adding another max free agent to prove to Wade he could win another championship in Miami after the last four seasons of mediocrity. So of course, the Heat took on contracts that ended this season, like Jermaine O’Neal’s to provide them with the cap space to make a significant offer.

The only problem is, they may have cleared too much.

Suddenly, sign and trade is looking like the best way to attain the services of the max free agents. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, even Dirk Nowitzki, all are only going to be amiable to a zipcode switch if they can complete a sign and trade, which grants them the extra year by re-signing with their current club before being shipped to their new locale. For example, Chris Bosh has given the Raptors a list of teams besides themselves he’s examining, so they can pursue sign-and-trades if he decides to leave Toronto and its non-playoff contention squad.

Similarly, each of the other free agents are likely to move only if a sign and trade is worked out. But in order to accomplish such a trade, you have to have players on roster that appeal to the other club. It’s one of the small measures of leverage the team losing its franchise player has. For example, Toronto can’t stop Bosh from signing elsewhere, but if he wants that extra year and the salary that comes with it (and he does), Toronto has to have a trade partner it wants to deal with.

And the Heat are unlikely to be such a club.

Next season, the Heat have Michael Beasley, James Jones, Joel Anthony, Daequan Cook, Mario Chalmers, and Kenny Hasbrouck on roster, for a total of a little more than $13 million. These players are not exactly what the Raptors will be looking for. The Heat would have a hard time convincing the Raptors to do a deal. If there were no other options, it would be easier, but there will be a large number of teams vying for Bosh’s services, others on his list, who have more to offer.

For example, the Los Angeles Lakers can offer Andrew Bynum as has been suggested in the past. While Bynum is injury prone, still lacks in areas of his game, and struggles with work ethic, he’s still the best prospect available. If Bosh instead decides to follow LeBron James to Chicago, and doesn’t require a sign-and-trade (since James knows in five years he can just sign another max, his long-term prosperity isn’t as much of a concern as it is for Bosh), Chicago can offer Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich and younger pieces like Taj Gibson.

The Heat then are left with the prospect of their best possible option potentially being Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s unlikely to be a part of a sign and trade, Utah seems perfectly willing to let him walk. Of course, that’s partly because he’s Carlos Boozer and signing him to a max contract is like paying the price of a Lexus for a Volvo.

The Heat may be able to convince a player to abandon his former team without a sign-and-trade, to forsake that final year, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be one of the top free agents. And if they can’t obtain the services of such a player, why is it that Wade is so certain in re-signing with a team that has failed to provide him with a quality starting point guard, small forward, power forward, or center since the 2006 team?

This summer’s free agency becomes more and more complicated.

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.

PBT Extra: What does Kyrie Irving trade mean for LeBron James?

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In the end, the entire Kyrie Irving blockbuster trade was about LeBron James. It started because Kyrie Irving wanted out of LeBron’s enormous shadow. Cleveland went with this trade because Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder help them win now, and whatever LeBron decides to do next summer the Brooklyn pick (and maybe Ante Zizic) helps them build for the future.

But what does this trade mean to LeBron James?

Honestly, it doesn’t change much. That’s what I get into in this latest PBT Extra. LeBron is leaving his options open, but maybe this deal could help Cleveland keep him if it makes them more competitive with the Warriors.

Rumor: Young Bulls ‘can’t stand’ Dwyane Wade

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After a loss last January, Dwyane Wade (in conjunction with since-traded Jimmy Butler) lashed out at his Bulls teammates for not caring enough. Those younger players didn’t receive the message gratefully, questioning why Wade didn’t practice more.

The simple answer: Wade is 35, and he and his team are better served if he saves himself for games. But Wade also should have known his schedule left him ill-suited to criticize harder-working teammates.

The whole saga exposed the inherent tension that occurs when an accomplished veteran with declining skills is thrust into a leadership position on a mediocre team.

Consider that backdrop as Wade and Chicago dance around a buyout.

Nick Friedell on ESPN discussing Wade getting bought out:

This is inevitable. It’s coming. It’s a matter of when, not if.

But right now, guys, it’s just kind of a staring contest. Everybody’s looking at each other saying, “OK, how much money are you willing to give up?”

And Gar Forman, the Bulls’ GM, at summer league, said, “Oh, we’re not having conversations.” I don’t think that’s the case. I think Dwyane’s agents and the Bulls are wanting to get this thing done.

But I’d really be surprised if it happened before the season. I still think it’s more likely that it’ll happen probably somewhere in December or January.

But this is a divorce that’s going to happen. It’s just going to take some time.

The young players on the Bulls really can’t stand Dwyane, and it’s the little secret in Chicago. They have had enough.

Wade’s January criticism was reportedly particularly directed at Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams, neither of whom are on the roster. (Mirotic, a restricted free agent, will likely return.) Even if Wade’s comments cast a wider net, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio are the only young players still on the team from that time. None of those players deserve much influence in how the franchise operates.

Still, no matter what the young players want, it’s clear Wade no longer fits on a rebuilding Chicago. They might get their wish.

Wade is set to earn $23.8 million in the final season of an expiring contract. That salary could prove useful in a bigger trade.

If bought out, Wade would count as dead money against Chicago’s cap at his buyout amount. They Bulls should obviously be amenable if he sacrifices enough, but a small discount doesn’t justify locking into that money rather than having a trade chip available.

If Chicago is deep into the cellar as expected after the trade deadline, a buyout would be completely logical then. Maybe the Bulls even assess the trade market sooner and conclude Wade’s huge expiring contract won’t facilitate a trade.

It’s easy to see a buyout happening eventually. In the meantime, Wade and his younger teammates will just have to get along. I trust Wade’s professionalism to make this situation at least tenable, but Fred Hoiberg might have his hands full building cooperation with all the people involved.