NBA free agency is truly heating up.
LeBron James opted out of his contract with the Heat earlier in the week and now the other members of Miami's "Big 3" appear to be following his lead. Dwyane Wade also opted out of his deal on Saturday. Initial media reports conflicted regarding Chris Bosh's immediate situation, but the big man will reportedly join James and Wade in free agency, according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski.
This doesn't mean the trio plans to leave the Heat. If anything, it's quite the opposite, or maybe not.
Forward Udonis Haslem also opted out of his contract with the Heat.
James, Wade and Bosh, who joined forces during in the summer of 2010, were each due to make at least $41 million over the next seasons. Great for the bank account, but lousy for roster building.
Miami reached its fourth straight NBA Finals this year, but lost 4-1 to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month. The final three games were decisive blowout losses for the then two-time defending champions. Suspect performances, notably from Wade, played a factor. So did the reality that San Antonio had a much deeper and younger roster due in part to their stars making far less than Miami's
However, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that James wants a full maximum contract extension. He is eligible to sign a five-year, $130 million contract. This goes against the idea of leaving enough cap space for additional help, notably a center, point guard and wing depth. Miami added Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier in the first round of Thursdays NBA Draft.
While we'll see what happens with James' reported contract demands, but assuming he stays and Bosh also opts out, this is the scenario Pat RIley wanted. Now the Heat have the financial flexibility to add additional pieces. New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is an option, though a long shot regardless because of his expected salary demands, along with Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry.
Another free agent to watch is one Wizards fans don't want to hear: Marcin Gortat. Gortat hammered the Heat this past season due to Miami's lack of a rim protector. Trevor Ariza, Washington's other prominent free agent, could be a target If the Heat decide to pursue another wing threat to help take pressure off James and Wade.
This all assumes that the Big 3 - or at least James - want to stay in Miami. Other teams, including the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, are making moves to give them a shot at landing a big fish. Happy swimming.
ProBasketballTalk has more on the Miami Heat's ongoing and perhaps league-altering situation.