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.