Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency 2014: Why LeBron James Will Stay with Miami Heat

Much ado about nothing or a change of the guard? We’ll soon find out.

Contracts can’t be signed until July 10, but NBA free agency is already dominating social media and the all aspects of the media. No player on the open market is receiving as much attention as four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion LeBron James.

A plethora of suitors exist, but his decision has not yet been made. Not publicly, at least.

While he’s in the right to do his due diligence and analyze options, there’s no better destination for LeBron than the one he already calls home.

When it’s all said and done, James will remain with the Miami Heat.

With LeBron’s decision looming, the rest of the NBA has placed free agency on hold. Star-caliber players aren’t reaching agreements with teams, mainly due to the uncertainty around how much money James will be paid.

The same can be said about Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, who form free agency’s big three with LeBron. As fate would have it, all three will play a major part in where the other ends up.

For LeBron, the most notable options are Miami and the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. The reality is, all 30 teams would bet something close to the entire house and mortgage if it had the opportunity to acquire LeBron in the prime of his career.

For all of the uncertainty, Miami remains the most logical place for James to end up.

 

Four Straight NBA Finals Appearances

Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics former center Bill Russell (right) presents the MVP trophy to Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (left) after game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Miami defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win the NBA Championship. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The most popular notion in the NBA community appears to be that the Miami Heat cannot provide LeBron James with sustainable success. The most common comments are that Dwyane Wade‘s health is a major liability and that San Antonio Spurs’s dismantling of the Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals is a sign of things to come.

I’d never heard the, “You reached the NBA Finals. You should leave,” argument before.

I’d also never heard the, “You reached the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons and won two titles. You should leave,” argument before.

Sometimes, things are as simple as they seem. Don’t over-think it.

We can get technical and bring in advanced statistics for this point, but this is as cut-and-dry as it comes. Miami has been the Eastern Conference champions in all four seasons that LeBron has been there and it won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

The last time a team made four consecutive NBA Finals appearances before the Heat: the Boston Celtics between 1984-87.

Wade’s health and Chris Bosh’s potential departure shakes things up, but this is an organization that’s committed to success. Pat Riley knows how to build a championship team and the 1-on-5 show that was put on throughout the 2014 NBA Playoffs is unlikely to repeat itself.

Not when Miami has the financial flexibility to surround LeBron with an excellent supporting cast.

 

Cap Space

Apr 23, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (right) looks over at Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts (11) in game two during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Moving forward, the Miami Heat are something of an empty vessel from a financial perspective. Prior to July 7, the only three players on the roster were Norris Cole at $2,036,206, Justin Hamilton on a non-guaranteed deal worth $816,482 and Shabazz Napier on a rookie contract.

The recent additions include a reasonably priced four-year deal worth $23 million for Josh McRoberts and a two-year contract worth $4.2 million to Danny Granger. Even after signing two quality players, the Heat still have significant cap space.

Not many teams have as much financial flexibility as the Heat, and that’s one heck of a selling point.

Miami has already used a very small portion of that cap space to add McRoberts and Granger. McRoberts is essentially Udonis Haslem with 3-point range on his jumper, better health and the ability to create for his teammates.

So he’s basically just an upgrade from what Haslem was last season.

Speaking of Haslem, he’s expected to return on the cheap. Miami would thus create something it hasn’t had in the Big Three era: interior depth.

As for Granger, he’s an absolute steal for an average of $2.1 million per season. He’s struggled to get healthy over the past two seasons, but he was an All-Star before that and may still have something left in the tank.

He’s a reliable defender who will hound opponents in his quest for revenge against the Indiana Pacers. At worst, he’s a low-cost investment with high reward.

Granger and McRoberts may not be great selling points, but they’re responsible and intelligent uses of Miami’s vast cap space. That’s a promising sign for a superstar whose primary concern should be the commitment of an organization to surrounding him with the adequate level of help to pursue a championship.

So far, so good. Bigger names will soon follow.

Names like former (current?) teammate Chris Bosh.

Adrian Wojnarowski of FOX Sports also confirmed.

Dwyane Wade will likely return with a pay cut. This enables Miami to make a run at one more playmaker.

Throw in the probable return of Ray Allen and Miami would give LeBron a blend of depth, star power and financial reward.

There may be another squad with a brighter future, but Miami is a proven commodity which offers minimal reason to leave.

 

Money Talks

Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) and guard Dwyane Wade (3) speak during a press conference after game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has been the best player on the planet for the better part of his 11-year career. Still just 29, he’s already become a four-time MVP, a two-time NBA champion, a 10-time All-Star, a 10-time All-NBA selection and a six-time All-Defense member.

As broken down by Chris Chase of USA TODAY Sports, LeBron has never been the highest-paid player on his team.

During his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron was paid less than players such as Tony Battie, Darius Miles, Donyell Marshall, Ben Wallace, Eric Snow and a 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. Since going to Miami, he’s shared the honor of highest-paid Heat player with Chris Bosh.

I think the word you’re looking for is, “How?”

With this in mind, it’s crucial to note that the Miami Heat can offer LeBron more money than any other franchise. By a mile and a half.

Under the CBA guidelines, the Heat can provide James with a five-year deal worth $130 million. It should also be noted that Florida has no individual state income tax.

That’s a whole lot of money to leave behind, even for a man who’s already a multi-millionaire.

It’s impossible to dismiss the merit behind returning to play for the Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio. It’s foolish to ignore the value of pursuing other options when every team in the world is vying for his services.

When it comes down to it, Miami offers LeBron the two most important things from an NBA perspective: the proven opportunity to win titles and financial reward.

In a matter of days, we’ll find out whether or not he’s staying.

Tags: Lebron James Miami Heat NBA Free Agency

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