If you think the Heat will be in a free-agency frenzy once the clock hits 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, do yourself a big favor.
Otherwise, the Heat will be ballin' on a budget. Window shopping. Riding around on a quarter tank of gas. And make no mistake, the approach will test Riley's patience.
Riley has never been one to do his spending in the opening days, weeks or even month of free agency. He takes a methodical approach. But this is one of those times when his hands are essentially tied. The pockets of his Armani suits are stuffed with I-O-Us. He can't - make that won't - make any major roster moves until Wade commits to a contract extension as early as July 12.
Wade said he looks forward to being a free agent for the first time in his career next summer, when he can max out with the Heat at six years and $120 million. Any moves Riley can make then, he should considering making now. That's Wade's thinking. Don't wait. Gravitate.
But one happy medium between Riley and Wade could be the mid-level exception. Even if the Heat isn't willing to gamble on trading for major star power right now, would it not be wise to step out on a much smaller limb and spend the mid-level on a one or two-year deal if it lands you Iverson, Kidd or Andre Miller now? Or even a smaller-scale upgrade to the post depth, such as Chris Wilcox or Marcin Gortat?
Would it show Wade a slice of the "doing-all-we-can" approach LeBron James is getting from Cleveland, even though James is also in the same contract situation as Wade? Sure.
Of course, this would mean paying a price. Perhaps a big price if it meant spending all of the mid-level this summer. That would leave the Heat, already over the luxury tax, paying twice as much for any new contract it adds to the current rolls.
So floating Kidd or Miller a $5 million deal for one season would mean a $10 million tax hit if the Heat can't shed other payroll by the Feb. trade deadline. Would Iverson or Grant Hill as an opposite wing scorer at $3 million this season and an option at $3.4 million next be worth the one-year tax hit if it improves the Heat with Wade in his prime? Absolutely.
The Heat is going to have to pay a price this offseason regardless of the course it takes if Wade doesn't sign that contract extension.
Will it be the heavily-taxed mid-level (or another of its exceptions) in an attempt to add a key piece?
Or is it going to be the cost of standing pat and possibly sliding down the standings in the East if the internal improvements of Wade's current supporting cast aren't good enough?
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