By RICK SOLEM
LeBron James can’t win. Figuratively. Literally.
If he stays in Miami, he literally won’t win. Well, he’d have a harder time of it from here on out.
If he leaves, he gets ostracized. Again.
The Miami Heat just played the greatest “team” in recent NBA history, so this may be an overreaction. But it’s in James’ best interest to leave Miami, or as he will not say it, "take his talents somewhere other than South Beach."
All this is based on the performance – or lack thereof - of Dwayne Wade this season.
The 32-year-old sat out a third of the season and has $41.6 million left on his contract, which he, like James and Chris Bosh, can opt-out of.
He won’t, because he doesn’t stand to make that much money if he played another five years.
If the “big three” opt out, Miami could sign Carmelo Anthony and stay under the $63.2 million projected salary cap – taking a huge hit financially (below).
At almost $14 million a year, the Heat would have their “big four,” but, if James and Co. didn’t just learn, it takes more than four to win.
First, Wade would be getting $14 million a year for four years. James would already be aligning with a terrible contract. Bosh isn’t even worth $14 million a year. If he wants to win, he can’t have bad contracts on the team. This would give the Heat two, maybe three, because it’s hard to justify paying Anthony that much money - though someone will.
Second, signing those four to that amount leaves them with the $2.7 million mid-level exception to spend, along with paying anyone else the league minimum - or distributing that $2.7 among the remaining players.
At times in the Finals, the Spurs’ bench was better than the Heat’s starters.
Signing those four would give the Heat six players under contract – Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem (who could actually opt-out but won’t) being the other two.
A “big four” lineup sounds enticing, but Wade showed just what he is. Bosh couldn’t handle Tiago Splitter, can’t protect the rim, doesn’t get rebounds and has turned into Andrea Bargnani – a really tall 3-pointer chucker.
Teaming Anthony with James may just be the motivation that gets Carmelo to be a teammate, play defense, get rebounds, etc. But is that really the smart thing to bank on? He wasn’t playing his heart out when he was making max money for the team he forced a trade to.
Anthony as he is, is Bosh – a glorified jump shooter, who disappears in major facets of the game.
The other underlying factor is age. None of these guys are young. They’re all at the tail end of their prime, save for Wade, who is, of course, past his.
Bosh turned 30 in March. Anthony turned 30 in May. James turns 30 in December.
If given a choice, why would James sign on for that?
He’d be better off going to Cleveland – if he wanted to get the least amount of ridicule. But, at this point, does he care? If Cleveland traded for Love, then it would be a perfect fit.
It would be comical to see him sign with San Antonio. Who would argue with that? If you can’t beat them, join them.
He should find a way to sign with Oklahoma City or Indiana, or even Washington or Golden State – a team with young scorers, because, offensively, James is better when he doesn’t have to worry about carrying the team in points. He’s a distributer at heart. If he can pick where he wants to go, why not go somewhere that best fits his game both now and down the road?