Kevin Love Instantly Gives LeBron James Something Chris Bosh Never Could

LeBron James left Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat behind because he wanted to play with younger talent, save northeast Ohio and right the wrong of his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010—in some order.

Playing alongside Kevin Love, a big man with skills that exceed Bosh’s in a number of key areas, would be a pretty nice bonus as well.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports confirmed the whispers that had been floating around since before James even officially rejoined the Cavs, reporting Love would soon be in Cleveland as part of a blockbuster deal sending Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-rounder to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s easy to think of Love and Bosh as similar players, as both spread the floor and fit the mold of next-generation stretch bigs. But those similarities exist only on the surface. A deeper look reveals just how much more Love brings as a sidekick to LBJ.

 

Bombs Away

Bosh made a leap as a perimeter threat last year, firing off a career-high 218 triples and hitting 74. Prior to last season, Bosh’s career high in attempts was 74. In hitting 33.9 percent of those threes, Bosh proved he was evolving into exactly the kind of perimeter threat teams covet in the frontcourt.

Love, though, is already the paragon of that player type.

He pumped in 190 three-point shots on a whopping 505 attempts last season, good for an accuracy rate of 37.6 percent. Opposing defenses worry about Bosh’s outside shot; Love’s jumper is an anxiety-inducer of an entirely different sort.

Not only that, but also Bosh’s improved accuracy was just as much a result of his own hard work as it was the wide-open looks he enjoyed while playing for one of the league’s best passing teams. Love, on the other hand, attempted far more shots in far worse offensive circumstances. He drew the attention of entire defensive game plans, whereas Bosh was more of an afterthought.

Despite all of that, Love was more efficient. Imagine what he could do with James attracting attention.

 

Giving Back

Love won’t just mooch off James next year. He’ll also return the favor in a way Bosh never did: by moving the ball.

“I don’t even really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds], I care about his basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high,” James said of Love, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

Don’t be mistaken: Bosh was never a poor passer with the Heat. And his assist percentage cracked double digits in his final five seasons with the Toronto Raptors, per Basketball-Reference. As was the case with outside shooting, though, Love is simply more skilled than Bosh.

That’s because the Heat big man isn’t the only player whose game has evolved. Love, who spent his first five seasons putting up passing numbers very much in line with Bosh’s career marks, made enormous strides as a facilitator last year.

In racking up an assist percentage of 21.4 percent, per Basketball-Reference, Love nearly doubled his previous career high. No surprise, then, that he racked up 4.4 dimes per game in 2013-14. While it’s true the Heat’s offensive system rarely called for Bosh to make a play, it’s hard to argue he could have equaled Love’s distribution output under any circumstances.

When you also note that Bosh’s and Love’s career turnover percentage is nearly identical, Love’s value as a passer stands out all the more starkly.

 

And Then There’s the Rebounding

Shooting and passing aside, Love has crushed Bosh’s production on the glass throughout his career. Bosh took some heat last season as his rebound average stayed below seven per game for the second straight season, but it’s probably not fair to say he’s an outright poor rebounder.

Miami moved Bosh away from the bucket with increasing frequency over the past four years, effectively eliminating many of his chances at easy boards. When looking to defend Bosh’s rebounding decline, that has always been the first piece of evidence.

Love, though, proves perimeter bigs can still do work on the glass. He averaged 12.5 pulls per contest last season. And though an increasing percentage of those rebounds came on the defensive end, we know Love can be a beast on the offensive boards when he’s in position.

For proof, we need only look at his first two years in the league—seasons in which he spent almost all of his time in the lane. He led the NBA in offensive rebound percentage in both of those years, per Basketball-Reference.

The caveat, of course, is that Love’s refusal to defend often leaves him in excellent rebounding position. He’s not alone; David Lee has been padding his rebound totals the same way for years. Bosh is a far more active and committed team defender than Love has ever been, and his rebound chances suffer because he doesn’t give up easy buckets in hopes of snaring a miss.

That’s not to say all of Love’s boards are cheapies. He grabbed 4.9 contested rebounds per contest last year, third in the league according to SportVU data provided to NBA.com. Nonetheless, not all of the differences between Love and Bosh weigh in favor of the former.

James will likely find himself missing his former running mate on defense.

Tyson Chandler, NBA scout extraordinaire, has the book on Love:

That’s a small price to pay for everything else Love brings, though.

 

A New Toy

On paper, and by virtually any comprehensive statistical measure (PER and win shares, in particular), Love is a better player than Bosh. The fact that Love is also four years younger can’t be ignored either. What remains to be seen is whether James’ new teammate can adapt as effectively as his old one did.

That’ll be a tough act to follow, as Bosh completely altered his game to fit within a unique Heat system that was built to maximize James’ strengths. We don’t know if Love can be as effective when he doesn’t get the sheer volume of looks a No. 1 option typically enjoys. And he’s not known for contributing in ways that don’t show up in the box score—particularly on defense.

Ultimately, there’s a lot Love can give James that Bosh couldn’t. But there’s also something James will give Love: a chance to prove his gaudy stats actually represent a skill set that leads to wins.

If Love makes the most of that opportunity, he and Bosh, for all their differences, may eventually end up sharing something in common: a championship trophy earned as James’ sidekick.

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Portland Trail Blazers Make Key Addition with Chris Kaman

It might seem strange to think of Chris Kaman as the player who could push a team over the hump and get them into the realm of true title contenders, at least at this stage of his NBA career. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what he’s setting up to do for the Portland Trail Blazers

Confused about how a 32-year-old center coming off a lackluster season filled with injuries and personality clashes can have that type of impact?

You wont be for long. 

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the veteran big man signed on board with the Rip City squad for a two-year deal worth—at most—just under $10 million: 

Chris Kaman agreed Thursday night to a two-year contract with the Blazers, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports. The deal is worth $9.8 million total but only $1 million is guaranteed in the second year. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because NBA contracts cannot be signed until July 10.

Is Kaman worth nearly $5 million per year?

That’s iffy, but it’s by no means a significant overpay. In a vacuum, the 32-year-old might not be able to command more than the veteran minimum, but the NBA doesn’t operate in such a context-free environment.

As you’ll see, this move has far-reaching ramifications, all of which are positive for Portland. Plus, the ability to save so much money in the second year is a nice insurance policy in case his decline wasn‘t solely because of misuse and a lacking of playing time under Mike D’Antoni.  During the 2013-14 season, the hunting aficionado spent far too much time on the bench, possibly daydreaming of the next time he could get out the crossbow.

Playing only 18.9 minutes during the average contest, Kaman posted 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. He was hampered by injuries throughout the campaign, and his lumbering playing style didn’t exactly mesh with D’Antoni‘s up-tempo whims. 

The two’s feud wasn‘t exactly a secret: 

In February, Kaman left no doubt about how he felt while speaking with InsideSocial.com’s Mark Medina

Everybody tries to be positive. I want to be professional about it. It wasn’t what I anticipated coming here. Obviously I thought I had an opportunity to play more minutes with Pau. But history shows with Coach D’Antoni’s style, it’s a small guy’s game, I suffer as a result of that. It is what it is. I can’t argue what he’s saying. I have to trust the position of head coach. It’s obviously frustrating at times, especially when you’re losing a lot like that and we had a stretch where it’s tough to sit there and watch knowing I could help or provide an effort to get a change of momentum.

Is it any wonder he’s now signing with a team he thinks is a much better fit for his talents? 

It shouldn’t be, especially after that was the first thing he brought up once his two-year agreement with a new squad became public knowledge: 

And Kaman wasn‘t the only one excited about his upcoming arrival in Portland, one that will become official after contracts can be legitimately signed on July 10. It’s always good to get Damian Lillard on board as well: 

Even if Kaman can produce identical numbers to the ones he posted last year, he’ll be worth the deal for the Blazers. They may have a number of frontcourt options on the pine, but none are established like Kaman is, and depth is sorely needed on the Rip City bench. 

That’s what makes this such a scary signing for the rest of the Western Conference. 

Portland was often held back by its lack of a contributing bench, forcing the starters into major minutes (luckily, they stayed largely healthy) and wearing them out during the regular season. If Terry Stotts is able to play his second unit without fear of giving up a lead in just the blink of an eye, it’ll keep everyone much fresher for the inevitable postseason run. 

After all, the starting five—Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez—is staying together, and it’s only going to get stronger as Lillard continues improving. Given that this is still a young squad, there’s no reason to expect this team to trend anywhere but in a positive direction.

The bench is where the upgrades are needed, and landing a quality veteran like Kaman, one who’s presumably chasing a shot at a championship, indicates that more small-scale signings are coming.

Portland with depth is scary. Terrifying, even. 

“While Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was coming to terms with just how few of his reserves seemed at all playable in this series, Popovich was drawing a 10-point, seven-rebound performance from Aron Baynesa bottom-of-the-barrel center who logged all of six minutes in the first round,” wrote Sports Illustrated Rob Mahoney after the San Antonio Spurs handed Portland a 116-92 loss to open the second-round playoff series. 

If that scenario changes, everything follows suit. After all, the numbers last year just weren’t pretty. 

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Blazers bench finished No. 27 in defensive efficiency, better than only the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons. Things weren’t much better on offense, as the efficiency ranked dead last, admittedly by a small margin.

Yay for silver linings?

It’s the defense where Kaman can help most. Even during his down season with L.A., the Lakers allowed 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, per Basketball-Reference.com. Over the course of his career, his team’s defense has improved by two points over the same span of possessions when he plays, and it’s been better with him on the court in seven of his past 10 seasons.

Additionally, things were made worse for Rip City by the lack of playing time the non-starters received. It’s not as though the inefficiency was created by too many minutes on the court, falling in line with the typical inverse correlation between volume and effectiveness. The bench players averaged a league-low 13.7 minutes per contest. 

Kaman alone may top that mark in an effort to keep Aldridge and Lopez as healthy as possible throughout the year. And as the legitimacy of the second unit grows, more future free agents should flock to one of the true up-and-coming teams in the vaunted West. 

The bench, in order of money owed in 2014-15, is now comprised of Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland, C.J. McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe and Will Barton. 

Given the youth of that group, it’s safe to bet on internal improvement, but the Blazers aren’t going to be done making small-scale signings like Kaman. Remember, Damian Lillard recently texted some names he’d like to see Portland chase to CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes, “Yeah…Mo Williams,” and, “Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza.”

Some of those are reaches, but it’s not entirely inconceivable to see some of those veterans—or others of a similar caliber—taking a chance on being a part of something special. Well, it’s more inconceivable now that Kaman has absorbed what was likely the team’s mid-level exception, but minimum contracts still exist, and the allure of a deep playoff run can often trump monetary impact late in a player’s career.

Additionally, the recent signings by other franchises are only driving up prices, which makes this deal more palatable. Dwight Jaynes explains for CSNNW.com: 

Faced with the very real prospect of being priced out of a chance to sign Spencer Hawes or Channing Frye for the mid-level exception, the Trail Blazers got an agreement with Chris Kaman Thursday night at around five million bucks for the upcoming season.

Yes, that’s the very definition of what’s called overpaying for a player. Kaman’s contract last season for the Lakers was for just $3.18 million and he did nothing during that year to prove he deserved a raise this season, playing in just 39 games.

That said, Trail Blazer GM Neil Olshey probably had few choices considering what Portland had available to spend in the free-agent frenzy going on this summer. Olshey had to have depth in the frontcourt and he at least grabbed a player capable of being a solid contributor when healthy. Kaman is a smart big man who can score and protect the rim. He’s had several solid NBA seasons and is very underrated defensively.

But there’s more to the Kaman signing than his personal contributions and the assumption that more veterans are going to be following in his large footsteps. By bringing his talents to Stotts‘ pine, he’s making young talents like Robinson and Leonard increasingly expendable.

Trade bait, anyone? 

Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb predicted as much even before the former Laker was brought aboard: 

There are plenty of teams out there who’d love to get their hands on some of Portland’s young assets. It’s unlikely the Trail Blazers will break up their starting lineup, but you could easily see a rebuilding team seeking a package built around guys like McCollum and Leonard. Those are precisely the kind of prospects for whom a bad team will happily wait.

Trading partners might include teams like the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks. Even emergent, young teams like the Charlotte Hornets might be in the market for some new blood.

Could Portland gets its hands on a more proven veteran like Thaddeus Young or O.J. Mayo? There’s no reason to rule the possibility out, and there’s no doubt an acquisition of that magnitude would give Portland a starting-caliber sixth man.

Well, now things are getting really interesting. 

If Portland is able to land not just a bench contributor, but a Sixth Man of the Year candidate without breaking the bank and parting ways with one of its impressive starters, it becomes an even more serious threat to exact revenge upon Gregg Popovich and the Spurs during the 2015 postseason. 

In a best-case scenario, this is exactly what happens. General manager Neil Olshey swaps some of the young players with upside for a more established talent who can come off the bench as a super sub, and Portland gets a lot more dangerous. 

But with Kaman on the board, providing post moves, mid-range shooting and underrated defense from the center position, the worst-case scenario is so much better. 

Even if the Blazers aren’t able to do anything more than fill up their active roster with nondescript players, their bench is better for adding Kaman, who can serve as a solid insurance policy for a certain Stanford product.

And that had to be the No. 1 goal of the offseason. Not finding insurance for Lopez, but adding depth in general.

Mission accomplished, but not necessarily completed. 

 

Like the Kaman signing? Love it? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook 

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Chris Kaman to Trail Blazers: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

After a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, veteran big man Chris Kaman has reportedly come to terms with the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports broke the news of Kaman’s agreement with Portland:

USA Today‘s Sam Amick shared further financial details:

 

Heading into his 12th year as a pro at the age of 32, Kaman has become a bit of a journeyman underneath the rim in a backup capacity. He spent the first eight up-and-down years of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers before one-year stints with New Orleans and Dallas.

Last year’s struggles with the Lakers resulted not only in one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but also arguably the worst season of Kaman’s career, as he appeared in just 39 games and was hardly used down the stretch. The result was averages of 10.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

Kaman grossly misjudged how then-Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni would utilize him before signing with the Lakers last offseason, as Mike Trudell of the Lakers’ official website noted:

A strange signing in the wake of Dwight Howard‘s departure and an insurance policy behind Pau Gasol, one has to think Kaman is looking for another opportunity to actually contribute in a significant role, hence this deal.

The Central Michigan product still has plenty to offer on a rotational basis, as his 7’0″ and 265-pound presence alone clogs the lane for opposing slashers and complicates offenses. Kaman is by no means the steady scorer he used to be during his prime years, but he can still produce at a sound clip when given the opportunity off the bench.

This much he proved in a starting capacity last March with Gasol out of commission, thanks to averages of 14 points, 7.8 boards and 58.1 percent shooting on 20.5 minutes of play.

For an added bonus, understand that Kaman averaged the fewest minutes played of his career last season at just 18.9 per game, so he should be on relatively fresh legs by the start of next season.

As a former All-Star, Kaman’s role in the locker room as a mentor is also an added bonus to the quality minutes he provides on a nightly basis, health permitting.

All things equal, Kaman may be one of the biggest steals of this year’s open market.

 

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LeBron Abandoning Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh Could Be Worse Than ‘The Decision’

The long forsaken sports city betrayed by its favorite son. Fans taken to streets with $100 jerseys and cans of gasoline. A public-relations nightmare from which its principal player was only recently redeemed, absolved, it seems, only by the sheer grace of his game.

Even four years later, The Decision—its conception and its execution—continues to haunt LeBron James. For many, it remains the single-most pernicious pock on what has otherwise been a colossal career.

The Decision was, in the simplest possible terms, a terrible idea.

Abandoning Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh—the two for whom James first risked all—might be worse.

The headlines are, by now, omnipresent: As first reported by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, James expects to receive no less than the league’s maximum salary as the four-time league MVP fields offers during the NBA’s free-agency period.

As a pure economic exercise, James’ demand is entirely logical: In the 11 years that he’s been in the league, the 29-year-old has yet to rake in the league’s highest one-year salary. That he deserves it goes without saying.

As a political maneuver, LeBron’s gambit couldn’t be more Machiavellian.

This isn’t about whether or not James deserves the max. He absolutely does. Nor is it about having the freedom of movement—however limited—afforded by the league’s collective bargaining agreement. If anything, it should be less restricted.

Rather, LeBron’s power play represents a nefarious nexus between a superstar’s disregard for past transgressions on the one hand, and a flippant willingness to jettison one’s recent success—not to mention the relationships wrought from said success—on the other.

Lest you claim such a judgment broaches the boundary between analysis and personal morality, let’s take stock of what we mean when we say “fandom.”

We root for players and teams because we want those players and teams to win. Players, on the other hand, operate according to an altogether different calculus, one where pay, place and personal relations are all brought to bear on one’s decision-making.

The further afield players trend from winning for the sake of itself, the more closely sports begin to approximate a business—not just in practice, which they most certainly are, but in spirit as well.

LeBron certainly wouldn’t be the first player in NBA history (or in any other professional sport, for that matter), to demand what’s his and let the subsequent chips—of roster fit and franchise prospects—fall where they may.

He is, however, the one player whose legacy could lose or gain the most depending on how he approaches the coming days.

The claim isn’t that LeBron should take a pay cut just to stay with Wade and Bosh, to more effectively and sustainably retool a now blank-slate franchise. His max demand could be a red herring for any one of a million reasons to leave Miami.

Instead, it’s worth asking whether what we once believed to be James’ understated humbleness—wielded through many a post-Decision interview and in his initial Big Three pay cut itself (via ESPN.com)—might’ve been a mirage all along.

And while Heat president Pat Riley probably wouldn’t put it in such accusatory terms, his comments at a recent press conference underscore something of a generational rift between James and his front-office overseers, per Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk:

This stuff is hard. And you’ve got to stay together if you got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it. We’ll find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options. It’s not about free agency. There’s just looking around the room now and finding out who’s going to stand up. This is time that you go home and take care of yourself and look at yourself and what are you going to do to come back and make the team better? Because we have a tremendous opportunity here for long-term success. But don’t think we’re not going to get beat again. So, just get a grip, everybody. That’s my message. That’s my message to the players.

That Riley’s remarks didn’t succeed in swaying James outright only proves just how serious the King is about controlling the discourse.

Per Windhorst’s report, only seven teams boast the cap space necessary to offer LeBron the max: the Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.

Four of those teams are assured lottery fodder. To be sure, while one could make the argument that any team—no matter how down and out or youth-laden—would become an instant playoff threat with James at the helm, it’s safe to assume the process would be anything but an overnight success.

That leaves three teams with either the pedigree or player core capable, with James in the fray, of contending immediately. And even that’s being generous to the Lakers, slated to return just three players next season: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre.

What James’ insistence on a maximum payday amounts to, then, is either a statement of his long-neglected worth or—as ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported back in June—a way of ratcheting up the pressure on Heat owner Micky Arison to retool the roster. Even if that means forcing Wade and Bosh to take their own haircuts:

[James] follows the league closely. He talks to people. He knows the salary cap and is intelligent and business savvy. He has been through this before. He’s not afraid to make big changes. He badly wants to win more titles and is concerned about his legacy. He thinks long term about money. He thinks short term about winning but is also extremely pragmatic.

And nothing about basketball scares him.

Most importantly, he doesn’t care what anyone says or thinks anymore. He is simply going to do what makes him happy and gives him the best chance to win. He was strong in 2010. He’s much stronger now.

“Pragmatism,” in this case, may refer to a recent report by Windhorst suggesting James may be looking for a shorter deal, albeit for max money.

At this point, one can’t help but wonder whether LeBron’s idea of flexibility isn’t akin to championship carpetbagging: of taking his talents wherever the winds are most favorable.

That logic might yield him an extra championship or two, but as a far as his legacy’s concerned, it’s hard to imagine LeBron doing more damage—or assuming a more polarizing place in the NBA pantheon—than with this fair-weather philosophy.

By abandoning his South Beach brethren, knowing whichever team he chooses will have to fortify on the fringes, LeBron risks coming off as a blatant opportunist—the very notion he’s spent every sweat-soaked second of the last four years trying to bury.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with James chasing championships, of riding the carpool lane all the way to Springfield. In a way it’s what we, obsessed as we are with rattling off ring counts, have tacitly demanded of him.

Just don’t be surprised when going it alone gets him pulled over by the public.

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Heat Rumors: Latest on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Kyle Lowry

The Miami Heat have some retooling to do this offseason after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals, and with pretty much nobody under contract at the start of the offseason, things could be much different in South Beach next season.

After two NBA championships in four years, the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all without contracts. 

All three could technically find new homes (however unlikely that may be), and that would drastically change the landscape of the NBA. There’s already stuff in the works, however, so Heat fans shouldn’t start getting upset just yet.

Below, you’ll find the latest rumors regarding the franchise.

 

LeBron James

The game’s best player is on the open market, and that means there will likely be a bidding war for his services. Prior to 2010, he signed with the Heat without a max contract. That won’t happen this time around, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

“Teams that contact James will be informed that he wants no less than the maximum salary number for next season, sources said. The max number for James is projected to be about $20.7 million.”

There are certainly going to be many teams lining up to offer James a max deal. ESPN’s Chris Broussard tweeted about two teams that might be in the mix:

Obviously, there are others.

James could always go home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Miami is probably still the front-runner. They offer James the best chance to go back to the Finals. Even though Norris Cole is the only one under contract, Miami will still put a competitive roster on the court next season.

Many players from last season’s team will return, and that will help lure LeBron back.

It will take a grand sales pitch from another organization to steal James from the Heat.

 

Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh

Speaking of bringing talent back, the Heat may already be gearing up to bring back Wade and Bosh:

If those two take pay cuts, the team can sign James and still have money left over to make some moves. Guys like Shawn Marion and Vince Carter would be stellar fits, and they’ll have the money to spend if they want to make it happen.

Wade’s decision to opt out should have led us to believe that he’ll be back for another run at the title. At this stage in his career, Wade isn’t worth the money he was making. By opting out, he accepted the fact that he’ll be making less money in order to have a chance at winning.

Miami needs all the help it can get. Wade can’t be relied upon heavily anymore, so a trio of Bosh, James and Wade really isn’t a Big Three any longer. It’s still three talented stars, but Wade’s knees are quickly diminishing his abilities on the hardwood.

I like the idea of bringing all three players back if Wade and Bosh take less money. The Heat need some flexibility to make moves.

 

Kyle Lowry

Mario Chalmers and Cole were adequate last season. Chalmers will probably walk in free agency, and Cole could be dealt for cap space. That leaves Shabazz Napier as the only point guard on the roster, and it would create a need for another signing.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that Miami could be gearing up to make a run at Kyle Lowry:

Lowry was a big reason for the Toronto Raptors‘ success last season, and he has established himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA due to his recent play. Of course, that means he’s in line for a big contract.

Assuming Wade, Bosh and James return, it will be very hard to fit in Lowry’s contract and sign more depth. Lowry himself might have to take less money than initially planned in order to play for Miami.

Throwing Lowry into the mix would be a great move for the Heat, as he is the perfect facilitator to distribute the ball between the three stars. I love this move if it can be made.

 

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There Is Only One Option for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami

LeBron James took control of the Miami Heat’s offseason the moment he opted out of the final two years of his contract, and he is continuing to control the situation as the NBA’s free-agency period has officially begun.

Actions often speak far louder than words, and when James decided to exercise his early termination option days before the other members of Miami’s Big Three had made a decision about their contract options, he sent a message to Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the entire Miami Heat organization.

James’ decision to opt out of his contract made it clear to both Wade and Bosh that if they weren’t willing to opt out of their contracts and take a pay cut next season in order to allow the Heat to retain James and bring in at least another quality role player or two for the 2014-15 season, that James was ready to walk out the door along with any chance the Heat may have had to capture another NBA title in the near future.

James’ decision has also put a tremendous amount of pressure on Heat president Pat Riley to find a way to organize new deals with Wade and Bosh and/or find a way to acquire the assets necessary for the Heat to make another title run next season.

Riley may have attempted to take control of the Heat’s offseason during a June 19 press conference with some strong comments about players needing to “have the guts” to stay together and “not find the first door and run out of it” when things get tough, but James is the one holding all of the cards in Miami right now, and he has been for quite some time.

James seized any power Riley may have thought he possessed the moment he opted out of his contract with the Heat and became an unrestricted free agent.

The Heat, of course, went through a somewhat similar situation in 2010 when Riley was able to convince James, Wade and Bosh to all take pay cuts and sign almost identical contracts in order to give themselves the best opportunity at winning an NBA title.

But while James was willing to take a pay cut back in 2010, he now appears ready to cash in his chips.

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, James will be looking for the maximum salary allowed by the NBA from whatever team he decides to sign with for the 2014-15 season.

Some may view James’ demands for a max salary as something of a selfish move that could dismantle the Heat’s Big Three, but we must also realize that things are much different today than they were back in 2010.

Right now, James is far and away the best basketball player on the planet, while Bosh’s production has dropped in recent years and Wade is nothing more than a shell of the player he was just a few seasons ago.

It is abundantly obvious to anyone who even remotely follows basketball that James is significantly more valuable to any organization, including the Miami Heat, than Wade or Bosh.

So, it should come as no surprise that James is no longer content with earning the same amount of money as players who possess only a fraction of the value that James currently holds.

So far, Wade and Bosh have shown a willingness to fall in line by both opting out of the final two years of their contracts with the Heat.

But from this point there is essentially just one option for Wade and Bosh to pursue if they have any aspirations of staying in Miami while also keeping James in town and giving themselves a shot at another NBA title.

Wade and Bosh will need to accept lower salaries while the Heat will need to appease James with a deal that is at least close to the maximum allowed by the NBA.

This does not necessarily mean that Wade and Bosh will lose out on the $40 million apiece they would have earned in Miami had they not decided to exercise their early termination options.

The Heat could still get Wade and Bosh to that $40 million mark but just stagger it over four seasons rather than two.

This would bring their salaries down to around $10 million per year, which may be half of what each earned last season, but it would also get them their $40 million back while allowing the team to re-sign James and bring in some other quality free agents.

Any way you slice it, the deal just described or one similar to that is essentially the only option for Wade and Bosh if they have any desire to remain in Miami along with James.

While there may potentially be a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion going on among James, Wade, Bosh and the Miami Heat organization, James’ actions over the past two weeks have made his intentions quite clear.

It is now up to Wade, Bosh and Riley to accept James’ demands or watch the Heat’s title chances crumble to the ground.

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Lakers Rumors: LA targeting Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony

The Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005 this season.  Laker fans are not used to seeing their team do so poorly, so the pressure is always there for the front office to quickly reload the roster and get the team back to its winning ways.  As free agency looms, the Lakers have their sights on the biggest names on the market.Photo by Scott Mecum via Wikimedia CommonsChris Broussard of ESPN has reported that the Lakers will pursue LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony now that they have opted out of their contracts with their respective teams.  If luring LeBron to LA is unsuccessful, then the contingency plan would be to sign Chris Bosh as a free agent if he opts out of Miami.Lakers’ dream is to add LeBron & Melo this summer. If that fails would go for CBosh & Melo, sources say. That’s assuming Bosh opts out— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 27, 2014Let’s not forget that this Lakers roster still has a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant…

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Are Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh Enough for the Miami Heat to Rebuild?

Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are facing an unfamiliar predicament as the Miami Heat wait on pins and needles for LeBron James‘ free-agency decision: the possibility of playing alone as a Big Two, with the burden of anchoring an extensive rebuild falling solely on them.

They have played in James’ shadow for four years. His polarizing persona and abilities have been the draw, the foundation on which all-encompassing culpability falls. 

He has been their safety net. 

If James leaves in free agency, everything changes. The Heat must move forward without him and, assuming Bosh and Wade stick around, they must hope his sidekicks are enough to spearhead a desperate transition.

But are they?

 

Understanding Value

In the (unlikely) event that James actually leaves Miami, Wade’s and Bosh’s futures must be settled before the Heat can even begin looking ahead.

Wade will reach free agency, per the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds:

Like team president Pat Riley said, though, his future in Miami is as ironclad as they come:

Same goes for Bosh. His situation is a bit more fluid and his status technically undetermined, but it still appears he will explore free agency himself, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard:

Before rebuilding around Bosh and Wade, they must both commit to returning first. Bosh projects as a bigger flight risk if James leaves, as ESPN.com’s Bradford Doolittle (subscription required) explained:

Nevertheless, his 22.1 WARP over the past three seasons ranks in the 93rd percentile among all players. Bosh would easily rate as the top free-agent big man in the marketplace if he opts out. And because he’s honed his deep shooting during his days in Erik Spoelstra’s offense, Bosh can slot in with just about any team in the league. 

Increased interest in Bosh from outside parties would be an obstacle the Heat must overcome, but the floor-spacing big man has been nothing if not loyal to their cause.

“I don’t want to go anywhere,” Bosh said in May, per ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst. “I like it here. It’s Miami. Everybody wants to come here. Yeah.”

Miami—warm weather, sandy beaches and all—wouldn’t be as appealing without James. But acknowledging that Bosh and Wade need plenty of support would be the first step in any attempt to reassemble the roster around them. 

Riley and the Heat cannot hand both players max contracts paying them more than $40 million combined next season and hope to contend. Bosh has been relegated to a No. 3 option for the last four years and only made the playoffs twice in seven tries as the No. 1 option with the Toronto Raptors, while Wade is a lock to miss 20-plus games every season.

This is not a max superstar dyad. Current plans cannot change in the wake of James’ departure. Flexibility is still paramount. Pay cuts still need to be taken.

Another superstar still needs to be had.

 

Mapping Out Plan B

James isn’t going to leave for a rebuilding team himself. He would abandon the Heat to forge another superteam, be it in Los Angeles, Houston or somewhere else. Rivaling that team, duplicating their own, past blueprint, would remain the standard in Miami.

Options are still at their disposal here. Once Bosh and Wade opt out, following Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen’s lead, Riley will have record amounts of cash to spend: 

Valuable? Obviously. 

As valuable without James? Not at all.

The Heat won’t rebuild overnight, and they won’t return to contender status next season if he leaves. That’s something they’ll have to accept and plan around. 

There aren’t enough free-agent alternatives for the Heat to spend on. Carmelo Anthony instantly becomes the hottest player available with James off the market, but he’s not a suitable replacement. No one is, of course, but his less-than-modest playmaking abilities complicate an offense that will have, in essence, lost its starting point guard.

Courting Kyle Lowry is certainly a viable course of action. He just doesn’t move the needle in the way actual superstars would. Signing him, chasing him, is only the start.

Planning ahead to 2015 is the meat and potatoes of any rebuild.

More superstars will be available next summer—needle-pushing studs like Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol, among others, who can help vault the Heat back into contention.

Pursuing any one of them demands sustained flexibility. The Heat would be unable to offer long-term deals to anyone outside Bosh and Wade, and perhaps another player. They need to conserve the cap space that has been created.

Part of that comprises Bosh and Wade still taking pay cuts.

If Bosh is looking for a starting salary in the $15-16 million range, as Broussard reported, that’s wonderful for Miami. Paying him $15 million next season means he’ll be earning just over $16 million in 2015-16, when he would presumably receive a 7.5 percent raise (unless the Heat renounce his Bird rights).

The length of the contract doesn’t matter as much. Four years, five years—whatever. Retaining him on a reasonable salary is the key.

Wade’s situation is more complicated. He left nearly $42 million on the table over the next two years by opting out. Cyclic health concerns diminish his market value considerably, but the Heat will have to make sure he earns more money over the life of his next contract.

Those hoping his new deal can span five years to abate his annual salary must move on. The collective bargaining agreement’s “Over-36″ rule prohibits teams from backloading contracts past a player’s 36th birthday. It basically divvies up the fifth-year salary throughout the first four, thereby increasing the team’s bottom line.

At 32, Wade’s contract needs to span four years to guarantee financial plasticity. Starting him at $13.8 million in 2014-15 would be best for Miami, according to ESPN.com’s Amin Elhassan (subscription required). With a 7.5 percent bump in 2015-16, he wouldn’t be earning more than $14.8 million.

After re-signing them to those exact deals, the Heat would have only three players under guaranteed contracts beyond next season—Bosh, Wade and Shabazz Napier—totaling $32.2 million. A rough estimation this far in advance, yes, but one that still matters.

Using those projected 2015-16 numbers, the Heat can build their roster for 2014-15 accordingly, signing stopgaps and placeholders and impact free agents whose future salaries won’t compromise their superstar spending power one year from now.

 

Different Kind of Rebuild

All of this will take patience.

Landing James’ “replacement” is paramount, but the Heat must wait. They won’t nab him this summer. The free-agent pool isn’t deep enough, and the Heat have no assets to trade, hence the difficulty.

Convincing Wade and Bosh to accept drastic pay cuts when it means maintaining their current, championship-seeking, dynasty-bird-dogging lifestyle is one thing; selling them on sacrifices that won’t pay dividends for one year is another. 

But this is what the Heat must do if James leaves and they wish to move forward with Bosh and Wade. Role players won’t be enough. Modest additions won’t be enough. Not even a fringe-star like Lowry will be enough. 

That, in itself, is revealing. 

No matter what happens, the Heat won’t be looking to build around Wade and Bosh. Not long term. Maybe Riley allows them to headline the roster for another season, but they’re still not the ultimate solutions.

Just like the Heat need James now, they’ll need another superstar to eventually take control of their future if he leaves. Wade and Bosh are still the sidekicks, the supporting dignitaries. Their days of quarterbacking rebuilds as No. 1 options ended in 2010. That won’t change even if James leaves.

Luckily for the Heat, they needn’t worry much about life after James just yet. Across-the-board opt outs can be seen as a blessing, a precursor to retooling the roster around Bosh, Wade and, more importantly, James, as Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes eloquently describes:

Nobody thought the Heat could pull such a complicated, risky plan together four years ago, but they did. And in executing that plan, they created a super team that visited the Finals in every season of its existence.

Now, Miami is effecting an even bolder gambit, and to the dismay of the rest of the league, it looks like it’s going to work.

Again.

Nothing is etched in stone. It never is during this time of year.

James could still leave. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. And on the off chance he does, Riley and the Heat will be forced to plan their future around another superstar, another building block they don’t have yet.

Regardless of whether that future includes Bosh and Wade.

 

*Salary information via ShamSports.


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Lakers Rumors: Adding Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony Would Make L.A. Contenders

Every team would want LeBron James if it could have him, but the fact is, the King can only rule one court. As we saw in this past NBA Finals, the best player in the world doesn’t guarantee a championship. 

Championships are what the Los Angeles Lakers are fueled by.

Forget the fact that the team missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign and just the second time in 38 years. The Lakers already have their sights set on the two biggest prizes in free agency.

Per ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, the Lakers would love to get James and Carmelo Anthony, but their Plan B isn’t too shabby, either.

If the Lakers could tab both Melo and Bosh, the team could put a Big Three on the court that rivals any currently in the NBA. A nucleus of Melo, Bosh and Kobe Bryant is formidable. 

Melo spoke with Vice Sports about his impending free-agent decision.

What’s great is that each man could play their natural positions with the team.

Bosh has been playing out of position the entire time he’s been in Miami. He’s a natural power forward and would be even more effective if allowed to play that position. Melo is a small forward, even though his strength and post-up ability allows him to have success close to the basket.

The same could be said for Bryant, but The Mamba is still a 2-guard with the range to his perimeter game to make plays away from the basket.

The threesome wouldn’t exactly be young, but L.A. is a win-now organization.

Let’s not forget that the Lakers got one of the more NBA-ready prospects out of the draft on Thursday in Julius Randle. As a sixth man, Randle could make an immediate impact. 

Add in veteran ring chasers at center (perhaps Pau Gasol returns with a hometown discount) and point guard, and the Lakers are in position to make some noise.

Because of the mystique of the organization, the climate in L.A. and the atmosphere, the franchise will always be a magnet for top players who are free agents. That’s the reason the Lakers can afford to sink a boat load of cash into three players who are all over the age of 30.

Once Bryant retires—presumably in two years—the Lakers will have a huge chunk of salary (approximately $25 million, per Spotrac) to throw at the best available players during the summer of 2016.

If L.A. can exact either of their plans, the falloff for the league’s most successful franchise will be short.

 

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@BMaziqueFPBR

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Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh opt out of contracts

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are joining LeBron James in free agency. They told the Miami Heat on Saturday that they are opting out of the final two years on their contracts, which means they are free to talk to any team starting Tuesday. It’s the same option James exercised earlier in the week. The moves come three days after Bosh, Wade and James met at a posh Miami Beach hotel to discuss their futures. Bosh was owed $42.7 million and Wade was owed $41.8 million on the final two years of their contracts. Their moves provide the Heat financial flexibility to sign additional players while quite possibly being able to convince Bosh, Wade and James into staying. Players cannot sign new contracts until July 10.Filed under: NBA, The Associated Press, Top Stories

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