In the NBA, free agency is supposed to be the time of delusion. The time where bad teams convince themselves if they can just sign that one guy, they’ll be contenders. Those teams rear their ugly heads and leak out rumors that their aim is to sign LeBron and Carmelo, with promises of multiple titles. Teams make ridiculous sales pitches that will obviously never happen. But it’s really too entertaining to dismiss. The crazy rumors. The ridiculously overpaid contracts. The insanity of it all inevitably leaves indelible stains on some franchises’ futures. Just ask the Magic, who were still paying Gilbert Arenas over $20 million last season for him to sit on the couch and troll Roy Hibbert.
Imagine how crazy free agency can be. Now magnify it a couple million times. That’s what happens anytime LeBron is a free agent. LeBron is good enough to make whatever team he’s on a contender. So, when he’s a free agent, the league collectively loses its you know what. Hell, Vegas won’t even put up its 2015 title odds, until it knows jersey LeBron will be wearing.
This summer, coming off another Finals loss, the Heat looked to be on the brink of irrelevance. A lot of experts and insiders forecasted a seismic change within the league. LeBron would leave the Heat, maybe join Doc and CP3, or try on Jordan’s team’s uniform, or maybe even head back home to Cleveland. Any of those scenarios could still happen, but they look increasingly unrealistic. With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opting out of their massive deals and on the verge of taking severe pay cuts, the Heat will have plenty of cap space to significantly upgrade its roster. Even with LeBron insisting on getting a max deal, which he of course, deserves every penny of. How much sense does it make that LeBron has never been the highest-paid player on his own team?!
The Heat will try to use that extra space to upgrade at point guard and center. The speculation has been that the Heat will make a run at Kyle Lowry and several other second-tier free agents. Suddenly, it seems time to stop fantasizing about how much fun the Suns would be with LeBron and Carmelo, with Dragic and Bledsoe in the backcourt. It’s time to stop thinking about a Howard, Harden, LeBron Big 3, or one composed of LeBron, Blake, and CP3.
Instead, it’s time to start thinking about just how good the Heat can round out the edges of its roster. Like it or not, the Heat are not going anywhere. They’ll still have LeBron and Co. next season. And they are going to be better. Wade will only be a glorified role player. You’re deluding yourself if you think he’ll bring his A-game even once every five games. He has visibly lost a step, and just looked plain washed up against the Spurs. Bosh is a little overrated, but will need to step up for the Heat. The improvements will be made with the rest of its roster though.
They may not get Lowry. Both players are coming off of career years, and their respective teams have made re-signing them priority number one. The Raptors and Wizards are both teams on the rise that will overpay if necessary to maintain continuity and momentum. The Heat could snatch up someone like Trevor Ariza or Luol Deng on the wing, and then try to add Pau down low. Heck, they could make a pitch for Lance Stephenson. The Heat had been targeting Wizards’ center Marcin Gortat, but with his re-signing, the Heat will have to look elsewhere to fill their gaping hole at center.
Still, day one of free agency is a loss for the league. Everyone is left with the possibility of not one, not two, but probably at least three more Finals appearances for the Heat. In the East, they don’t have any real challengers at the moment. Unless something crazy happens in the next few days or weeks, the Heat will again be the overwhelming favorite to win the East. At least we still have the Spurs.