With no LeBron, what’s next for Miami?

LeBron James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

HANG TIME NEW YORK CITY — With just one tweet, the Miami Heat went from being next season’s Eastern Conference favorites to most likely being out of the race to win their own division.

Today’s announcement that LeBron James is taking his talents home to Northeast Ohio effectively ends what has been a feverish run by the Miami Heat: four seasons, four NBA Finals appearances, two NBA titles. But LeBron’s exodus not only breaks up the Big Three. It throws the franchise into flux.

With LeBron gone, the next domino that seems to be teetering is Chris Bosh, who is reportedly in talks to join the Houston Rockets. With James and Bosh gone, the cupboard in South Beach will be left mostly bare.

What happens to Dwyane Wade? As part of his season-ending news conference, Heat president Pat Riley made clear that Wade, who has played his entire career in Miami, was something of a made man. Just two weeks ago, when Wade opted out of his contract, presumably as part of an effort to create financial room to help keep the Heat competitive, Riley said, “Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life.”

It’s a nice idea, but at this point in his career, Wade isn’t the type of player a franchise builds around. After missing 28 regular-season games last season to rest his ailing knees, Wade seemed to wear down in the postseason, to the point where he didn’t have much let in the tank during the NBA Finals.

Yet Wade could still serve as the franchise face while the Heat reload. They’ve already reportedly agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, two players who should (or at least could) be solid contributors. They will join incumbents like longtime Heat big man Udonis Haslem, who will likely re-up, and guard Norris Cole. Rookie guard Shabazz Napier will give them some youth in the backcourt.

While James and Bosh may be gone, the allure of South Beach and the Heat’s organizational championship pedigree still could serve as a siren’s song for available free agents. And with Bosh and James off the books, even if the Heat sign Wade to a modest long-term extension, the Heat will have plenty of cap space to throw at other free agents. Would a core of Wade and a couple of free agents like Luol Deng and Pau Gasol be enough to contend in the East? What about Wade with Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson?

Or, do the Heat step back, not immediately use their cap space, and try to reload down the road? The Heat’s first round pick next summer belongs, ironically, to Cleveland, though it’s top-10 protected. After that, the Heat own all their own first round selections going forward. And if the Heat can hang on to their cap space for one more year, the 2015 free agency class could include names like Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge (who has expressed his hope of staying in Portland).

No matter which way they go, what the Heat already have in place is a strong organizational structure. Riley may have swung and missed on keeping the Big Three together, but he did put them together to begin with and has the bona fides to build another championship organization. Coach Erik Spoelstra has spent just six years on the Heat sideline but has won two titles and never missed the playoffs, even when the Heat were setting up to go after the Big Three.

The Heat may be waning in Miami, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from watching how they operate, things likely won’t be cool for too long.

60 Comments

  1. Zach M says:

    The only thing I’m going to say is that D. Wade got a champion without L. James, He can do it again without him.

  2. tanibanana says:

    Pacers, Cavaliers, Wizards, and still Miami are the top-4 teams,
    I am confident will come out of the East.. Props to KIN6-James.

  3. kapokisms says:

    lebron made my nights i wish him well and will watch him play as often as possible,,, one off a kind

  4. KEVIN DURANT says:

    man now we gut a chance

  5. DWAYNE WADE says:

    go heat

  6. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    Its going to be interesting to see Spoelstra get exposed for the garbage coach that he truly is now that he doesn’t have best player in the world on his roster.

  7. Ian S says:

    I’m a Heat fan since the beginning so I’m sad to see LBJ leave but wish him all the best. These were 4 amazing years and ironically, one of the best games I ever saw was against Cleveland in 2013 when we pulled out a W after being down 27 in the 3rd quarter.My mom is devastated, When LBJ was sick she made him some chicken soup and wanted me to take it down to the Arena. She told me she wanted to adopt LBJ but I think she may feel differently now. I hope she remains a loyal Heat fan and I feel confident Riley will get the best out of the available players.

  8. CeeGee says:

    Reinventing himself.
    People think that Lebron turn down money and decided to go back to Cleveland.
    Lebron is done with Miami. Of course Miami can offer him a max contract but the legacy he’d longing for will never come up with Miami.
    In Cleveland, even with lesser money, he can REINVENT himself.
    The cath phrase “The returning Hero, The return of the King and even the lousy The prodigal Son is a good marketing slogan for Nike.
    Yes my dear friends, Lebron’s market value will rise up more than it use to by reinventing himself, good PR. good image. Thanks for his great adviser. MORE MONEY!!
    The adulation and God like worship from the people of Ohio will be good for his ego. Sure the monument that he longing for is about to come. Maybe a National Holiday like “The great Lebron day.”

  9. luis says:

    a los Lakers no va nadie que tenga3 dedos de frente. a Kobey solo le queda el nombre, alos Heat les pasa lo mismo con wade y haslem no quieren apartarse por el bien del equipo buscan el dinero por el cual no responden, ay que ser magnanimo en la retirada para pasar a la historia como un paladin:A Lebron gracias por confiar en los hombres y en los amigos ,nos distes junto con el equipo buenos momentos .te deseamos lo mejor ,caminante no hay camino ,se hace camino al andar .menos mal que abristes los ojos atiempo

  10. PHILLYFAN4LIFE says:

    Who will the Pacers hate now? haha I guess maybe they will have a season where they can actually focus on improving themselves and not burn out at the end of the season.

  11. overrated says:

    to Miami, lebron gone? no problem! get Melo!!!

  12. tonyzha says:

    Miami will be better without lebron and with the solid veteran add in. Wade will make his debate just alike manu. all the best MIami. spurs is waiting u guys in nba final 2015 again 🙂

  13. Bunbury says:

    I feel sorry for Wade and Bosh. Lebron is simply chansing rings, he knew that Wade was past his prime and winning more championships with him would have been difficult. ALTHOUGH, James was smarter this time by stating that the Cavs have no chance right now. He knows they will have a good shot, he is simply taking the pressure off.

  14. Paul Pietzonka says:

    What Miami needs now is a True Center! I say try to sign Greg Monroe away from Detroit . He’s 23yrs young and a stud. This would allow Bosh to Play power forward, his natural position and His stats would only improve. I also don’t think anybody knows how good James Ennis could be and I was upset that they didn’t have him on the team last yr. I’m still a Miami heat fan and I’m surprised Lebron went back to Cleveland. The Pacers and Bulls are clearly better teams in that Division and I expect it to be at least 2 yrs before they have enough talent around him to win, especially with a unproven head coach. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lebron never wins another Title. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Miami only gets better without him because Pat Riley is a great GM who isn’t going to cry about this, only work to improve after this. Go Miami Heat.

  15. cr12 says:

    as a magic fan from Italy, I always hated the heat, even before lebron joined them, but now I’m even more pleased by the fact that our former self-titled “superman” won’t get bosh on his team and will be stuck in mediocrity for the rest of his contract

  16. guy from germany says:

    It’s funny … now miami has to sign melo (and Gasol, Monroe, Bledsoe …)… Why cant they like any other team build around 1 or 2 stars and a solid cast around that? People really got too spoiled.

    Glad that Bosh stays in Miami. Now that LBJ is gone and they play by the same rules again as the rest I miight start watching Heat games again 😉

  17. Dwyane Wade says:

    Man i’m exited! To see lebron gone means we can prove ourselves that we can still win a championship. and unlike a championship full of stars were now a championship team whos evenly balanced. it will up our game but we gotta take this blow first. then come back with fortitude. and win . FOREVER HEAT

  18. Wheeler says:

    Bandwagon fans getting all jaded because LBJ left Miami to go back to the Cavs. You all then start showing your true colors focusing on his failures and downfalls when it was LBJ that brought that 4 year finals run to south beach. The heat would have had nothing to brag about in the last 4 years if it wasn’t for him.

  19. ARK says:

    Heat will survive! Lebron is all about himself and loyalty is not in his thoughts. He screwed Cleveland whom were loyal fans and now Miami. The last minute announcement says it all. Pat R. Is a genius and Micky Arison is no one to play with he will make this team strong again. Go Heat we love you. Thank you for being a great team for Miami!

  20. George says:

    I wanna ask a different question – what will happen to all the Heat bandwagon “fans”? 🙂

  21. db100 says:

    D wade is a winner with or without James and bosh he has the ring to prove it good on bosh for having sense to stay with the team James messed up and at the end of the day the heat will be in the playoffs for the 14/15 season

  22. ddub says:

    Chicago should drop boozer & pick up wade, gasol, that would make them the clear east favorites

  23. the truth says:

    Riley needs to be drug tested if he thinks Bosh is worth a max contract..its seroiusly irks me when players that don’t deserve money get it..Wheres the max contract for Lebron? Westbrook? DUrant? Duncan? And all the players leagues ahead of this guy in terms of skill. Hes averaging under 20 and 10 and CHOKING not in terms of shot, but overall performance in the finals.. come on riley

  24. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    KING-out… MELO-in… plus Deng, Amare, Jack, GO HEAT!!!

  25. Orlando says:

    D.Wade still has 3 championships ring ,and I still believe he can win 1 more !!! You go D.Wade get your self heathy and come back strong. GO HEAT !!!!!!

  26. Knuckz says:

    As a Heat fan I say thank you to Lebron for the last 4 years. I do not buy the “I want to go home” story. I doubt he would’ve left had they won this last title. Anyway that’s water under the bridge. He helped the Heat, but lets not forget, the Heat helped him also. I have no doubts that Miami can win without him. They have been competitive in every decade that Riley’s been there. And people are forgetting the both Wade and Bosh sacrificed shots to make Lebron happy. Yes Wade’s knees have been an issue, but with a supporting cast the Heat will be better than the naysayers think. Thank you again Lebron, but I am a 100% real Heat fan. Now we will see who the real fans are…..GO HEAT!!

  27. Orlando says:

    If Wade decides to come back ,him and Bosh will know shine more !!!! Let’s see how Cleveland fan can un-burned a jersey….

  28. mia fan 4 life says:

    i cant belive lebron so called best friends with wade and bosh. miami will be fine next year and will finish better then the cavs. i guess besides cramps in the finals lebron most have gone blind to cause this is a team game. now lebron is out the way wade and bosh will set up and play ball like they did before they played with lebron.

    lebron’s thinking makes no sense to me you leave cleveland for miami to win not 1 not 2 not 3 not 4 i guess we’ll never know what. then you go back to cavs to do what coach ah whatever or maybe its for jersey sales since everyone from cleveland as to replace the ones they burned.

    mad respect for wade and ud hopefully we”ll see some game play from them like we did in 2006

  29. Bongsk1230 says:

    Wade just earned his own championship ring without Lebron. How about LBJ?I guess MIAMI will still be a title contender in the EAST despite the departure of the KING!

  30. Adam says:

    Glad to hear Bosh is coming back, and hopefully D-wade will be staying too. I honestly think the players there will be a better “team”, and not just pieces built around LeBron. That’s one thing that irked me about the way they played their game. You could tell that they would rise or fall depending on how he played, and they rest were just second fiddle to him. That seemed to affect the psyche of the players and it really showed this year when they faced the better “team” in the Finals.

    I’m always a Miami Heat fan, and I’m thankful to LeBron for what he did while he was here. I’ll still cheer for him, when they’re not playing the Heat anyways :P.

  31. mcrobertsfinalsmvp2015 says:

    what about wade joining lebron in cleveland now? he is a free agent too, they could definitely need him and its not like him having to spend the rest of his life in boring there, he got only a couple of years left in his tank anyway, afterwards he can go back to south beach. i know its probably not going to happen, and he’ll finish his career with the heat, but from a basketball standpoint it would make much more sense to chase some more championships with his friend, than wasting his last years with an rebuilding team.
    i also don’t see why everybody is saying wade is the one who sacrificed everything, i mean he could stay with his team while the bosh and lebron had to leave to make the run by the big three happen. lebron came down to south beach to help wade and the heat to win some championships, now wade could join james in cleveland to win some championships there 😉

  32. Orlando says:

    D.Wade has always been loyal to the Miami Heat team ,Pat Rilley needs to do 2 things take care off D.Wade and get Melo to bring his talent to South Beach !!!!

  33. Gary Augustus says:

    Yeah, right….

  34. FrankL2010 says:

    I just admire D Wade… do you?

  35. Some random says:

    Where is the lbj troll? Lol heat fans particularly the band wagons I wonder how empty the arenas will be now all those walk out during games

  36. Flexy says:

    Sad to see Bron leave, but this post season proved that there is a chance he may be losing his mojo. MVP Kawhi Leonard shut him down, I don’t care what anyone says, and that means LBJ is human and does have an achilles heal, its called tight confident D. Miami can regroup quickly if they can manage to land Melo, keep Bosch and Wade, and land another big man like Pau Gasol. True LBJ is a savage on the court but he can be stopped, and the Cavs still just don’t have the right cast in place. The fact is LBJ can’t do it alone anymore, and we saw that this post season, sure he can still put up a solid 30-40 ppg but can be stopped, Miami give teh CAVS a run for their money and I hope they stomp them out the entire season. I don’t care if Miami doesn’t make it to the Finals as long as they make sure the Cavs don’t either. Finally D-Wade can be himself again, rest up and bring it next season. Go Miami!!!!!

  37. Hugh Longfellow says:

    If Wade and Bosh are sincere and truly love Miami and the Heat family, good things are still possible. Bosh + Wade + Melo or Gasol/Deng + Shabazz could be a contender.

  38. Carlos Camacho says:

    Yes I am sad, but not disappointed. Lebron just did what every professional would do. THANK YOU LEBRON for those 4 years playing for my team, The Miami Heat. We did enjoy every single game, my daughter and I, watch you play and those were the best games my family and I had the honor to watch and enjoy. You are the best and your legacy will live for a long long time.

    We will be watching your games, who would’t?, unfortunately you will not be wearing our Team’s jersey ( the Miami heat No. 6), We might not cheer for you as much as we did it all those four years we had you here in South Florida, but believe me , part of our hearts will always be with you.

    God Bless you!!!

    Note: in Regards to our beloved D Wade…. He will always be our Miami Heat “golden boy” He is our treasure.

    • Bermir says:

      What an excellent message. Your heart seems to be in the right place, Carlos.
      For 4 years Lebron was good to the Miami Heat and the Miami Heat was good to Lebron. Nice to see that Bosh likes it so much that he is sticking around.
      Looking forward to the new season…
      Go Heat, go Lebron!

  39. PGideon says:

    I love Lebron James. And I can understand his decision.
    But, honestly I feel very sad for D-Wade who I guess did lots of sacrifices to keep those big-3 together.
    And I am also sad for Miami fans, but I hope they won’t overreact like those stupid fans from Cleveland,
    they proved that they are haters; when I am disappointed with someone or something, I am not turning to hatress !
    Otherwise, question yourself: do you really love this guy, or it was just what he represents.

  40. Ashok says:

    Riley will find supporting cast for Wade. We felt same when Shaq was disposed and we got Lebron. We lost on Juan Howard and got hardaway. We will find players for D-Wade. Hope Lebron wins another one!

  41. kavika6 says:

    Wow. San Antonio not only got their revenge and thrashed the Heat in the Finals, it looks like they took down a so-called “dynasty” as well.

  42. MH says:

    Players like Wade or Zo deserve Heat fans’ full respect. They have Heat in their blood. They did sacrifices for the club. Wade delivered first championship, moved back to make Lebron a leader and now situation with the salary.

    I appreciate what Lebron did for us, 2 championships mean a lot but he is just another player who thinks solely about himself, well that’s the business like in NBA. OK. But don’t say stupid things about returning home, about delivering championship to Ohio (hahaha) because you sound terribly foolish. It’s all about enormous prospects which are in Cleveland. If such selection of players + max contract were in Bucks/Suns or any other random club Lebron would go there.

    And why there is no NBA’s hate towards Cavs?

  43. RayN says:

    Dwade to the bulls ?

  44. TTKIN says:

    Maybe someone can explain to me how the MIA situation is any diff from LAL?

    Both have a ton of cap space, both have an aging superstar, both have championship pedigree (but LAL’s is like 4 times as much as MIA), both have nice beaches (but CA doesn’t get as nasty humid as FL).

    IMO, LAL is set up better, yet everyone is saying they want to go to MIA? Makes no sense to me.

  45. mikepl says:

    not a big deal for the heat.. they still got a future hall of famer norris cole right??

  46. HEATNATION says:

    REGARDLESS WITH LBJ STAY OR LEAVES. HEATNATION WANTS TO THANK HIM FOR 4 YEARS OF EXCITEMENTS 4 FINALS APPEARANCE AND 2 CHAMPIONSHIPS. NOW HE’S HEADING BACK “HOME” YET DID DISRESPECTED THE ORGANIZATION THAT HELPED HIM GAIN HIS LEGACY, NOT MAD OR HATING JUST SAYING THAT WAS SO WRONG FOR HIM TO DO THAT TO HIS CLOSE FRIEND LIKE DWADE AND BOSH.

  47. Ms.C says:

    Yeah it’s sad 2 c Lebron leave but truly his heart has always been n Clevlland an now mayb it’s time 4 the heat 2 bring n another superstar Melo an build around him along with the remaining time that D-Wade has left cause there r other players out there that u can put with Melo an Wade

  48. kevin says:

    Wade will be taken care of by the Heat. They will lose respect of all future free agents if Riley doesn’t take care of Wade, their loyal player and “pitchman”.

  49. kobe24theblackmamba says:

    le-burn just went to heat to get his rings, I don’t blame the heat fans to burned his jersey like what cleveland fans did 4 years ago

  50. Zac says:

    Now the Heat have Wade (injury-prone) + nothing, and the Lakers have Kobe (injury-prone) + nothing.

    No good free agent going there.

    • No Regrets says:

      True. the Heat and the Lakers will take a few years at least to be competitive. The difference is, the Lakers had it coming with the choices they made. The Heat, well, I don’t think they could have done a lot more.

  51. MD says:

    just feel sorry for kyrie… buliding a team around him and wiggns would be something worth wathing. now its all about lebron. its like bringing a gun into a kung fu fight. unfair and sad. anyone feels the same?

  52. Edwin Torres says:

    Miami’s gotta sign melo and get some players like Bledsoe, Monroe, and re-sign Wade.

  53. Ed says:

    It’d be sad to see D Wade stay in Miami if Bosh leaves. He wants no part of a rebuild at this stage in his career, I see no shame in going somewhere that can contend.

  54. benjie says:

    So sorry for wade for the inconvenient .Bosh should stay in miami as out of respect for wade ,LEBRON has no loyalty not with the organisation not with his friends not with bios team mates.Its ok for wade now his the true face ang king of the heat franchise. Good luck my wade .all you need to do is get to the play offs. Heat forever.

  55. Heat Fan says:

    Until Bosh leaves I dnt think anybody should count Miami out. He and d-wade along with strong pieces whom miami can acquire can still pose a threat in the depleted eastern conference

  56. BonnieBear29 says:

    Wade got it bad in this. Opted out of $20 million per year to make for LeBron to come back, and lost his two best team mates. Tough day for D-Wade.

    • MikeM says:

      And I see no guarantee that the Heat will “take care” of him. To do so will handicap them in the future.