LeBron James sacrificed nothing by opting out.
That’s not necessarily the case for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
If he wants, LeBron could re-sign for two years with a player option at the exact same salary he was set to earn in his previous contract. Or he could give himself a slight raise. Or he could sign a five-year max contract. Or he could sign a shorter max contract. Or he could accept less to give the Heat more flexibility.
Whatever LeBron wants to do, the Heat will bend over backward. If they don’t, other teams will line up to do so.
That might even be the case for Bosh, too, though I’m not absolutely, totally, 100 percent certain Bosh can get a full max deal. With his health, Wade almost certainly can’t. Maybe they’ll get long-term security in exchange for taking lower salaries, but that’s still sacrificing something.
There are a lot of moving parts to accommodating all three, but they went through this in 2010. I figured they could get on the same page again this summer. After all, they met last week to discuss their contract status.
But that meeting didn’t resolve much.
The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.
James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.
Bosh and Wade are intent on returning to Miami, but neither of them knows what James will do.
Bosh and Wade were so uncertain about James’s future after last week’s meeting that one of them spoke about what the Heat might look like without James, according to one source.
The decisions of Bosh and Wade to opt out of the final two years and $42 million of their contracts were sparked by their desire to add better players in an effort to entice James to stay in Miami, one source said.
Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.
If Wade and Bosh accepted salaries on the lowest end of those ranges and fully backload their deals and LeBron gets the max, the Heat would fall $9,646,014 below the projected salary cap.
That’s lower than a previous report indicated, but it’s much more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,305,00) Miami could have offered had Bosh and Wade opted in or demanded larger salaries.
On a four-year contract, a free agent could make $41,188,480 with that projected cap room – $18,536,130 more than he could with the full MLE. That’s a significant difference, one large enough to keep the Heat in play for players like Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol and Luol Deng.
But it would require convincing Wade and Bosh to accept the low end of their desired salary ranges and fully backload their deals. That’s not an automatic sell, though those two seem committed to the cause.
I’m pretty surprised LeBron is leaving this burden on them. LeBron reportedly wants the max, and without question, he deserves it.
Bosh and Wade – especially the former – were in line for higher salaries, though. If LeBron wants the max, he must realize that cuts into the Heat’s flexibility to assemble a quality supporting cast around him. He can’t have his cake and eat it too.
Maybe Wade comes out ahead in this deal. He was due $41,819,000 over the next two years, and there’s no guarantee he would have earned $13,181,000 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 had he played out his recently terminated contract and then sought a new deal. I’d been estimating Wade could draw $8 million per year in those seasons for $16 million total, but it’s obviously difficult to prognosticate three and four years ahead. If Wade is sacrificing salary – and I think he is a little – it’s not a huge amount.
But Bosh – whose max contract would pay $118,792,889 over five years – almost certainly comes out behind. Even if he couldn’t draw the full max – which would be $88,216,633 over four years if he left Miami – he could do better than this.
However, Wade and Bosh are adults. If they want to accept less money to placate LeBron, they can. LeBron isn’t forcing them to do anything.
He’s just putting them in a surprisingly tough spot.