Posted Jun 29 2010 6:39PM - Updated Jun 30 2010 12:18AM
Let's say the megastars align in South Beach this summer turning a franchise that hasn't won a playoff series in four years into a dynasty-in-waiting. If the Heat do pull off the Three-Feat of all-time, does anyone else really stand a chance?
Yes that includes you, Kobe.
Wrangling up LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh under one tent tips the balance of power so far southeast that Seattle goes from sea level to struggling for oxygen. Signing those three elite free agents -- each just hitting the peak of his career -- from the most-gifted class ever is not only unprecedented but unfathomable.
Who in their wildest dreams realistically thought landing all three was possible? Not a Russian or a Cuban or anyone in Gotham. This would blow the Boston Three Party into Boston Harbor.
Not that anything has happened yet in Miami. Each new report about a summit meeting or an agreement for any of those in the supreme triumvirate adds another wrinkle to the story or subtracts some shocking development. Who knows what to believe?
But let's assume for the purposes of unsubstantiated conjecture that the WBL (Wade-Bosh-LeBron) does take up residence in South Florida. What next?
We already know that these guys all get along, drawing on their gold-medal memories and long-standing friendships. They each entered the league in 2003 and have spent the majority of their careers as the beacons of hope for their respective franchises. Wade and Bosh share the same agent.
And we're not concerning ourselves with questions of ego, entourages and touches or whether the circular locker room inside AmericanAirlines Arena is big enough for their collective celebrity. If the WBL wants to play together, and this would be their choice, no sense in worrying about chemistry.
As for the rest of the stalls inside the locker room, well, there's the rub. The WBL will gobble up every one of the available dollars Heat prez Pat Riley has in cap space. Only two players are under contract with Miami for next season -- Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers -- leaving at least seven roster spots to be filled.
TNT analyst David Aldridge spells out the complicated salary implications for signing the WBL and what little is left over to field a team. In a nutshell, the Heat would surround their gold-plated nucleus with tin bottle caps. Minimal-salaried alternatives would have to do.
Steve Kerr knows a little something about putting together a roster on tight budget. While the former Suns general manager didn't have the extreme limitations that would face the Heat, Kerr said the challenge facing Riley to complete a team isn't impossible.
"It would be tough. That's a lot to ask," said Kerr, a TNT analyst again next season. "On the other hand if you have those three guys, you're probably thinking it doesn't matter. There are guys that you can find out there and over next few years, you also have your draft picks, you can potentially buy draft picks and you can use your exceptions next year."
While some will argue that it doesn't matter who plays with (or coaches) the WBL, you can't flush out the squad with just anyone. How content would the WBL be if they're taking the court every day with a bunch of stiffs?
There has to be a true team in place, with depth and skills that supplement the stars. Shooting, rebounding, defense, dirty work. The bench needs to hold its own. Riley, er, Erik Spoelstra can't roll out the WBL for 45 minutes a night. That's a recipe for injury or being worn down before the playoffs even start.
"They'd have to be pretty creative," Kerr added. "I think moving Beasley would be a key for them, maybe trading him for a couple guys they like."
Championship teams have always employed trusted role players alongside their legends. A roll call of selfless worker bees vital to recent title quests includes Derek Fisher, James Posey and Robert Horry. The New Heat would need to find those types.
So while Riley wouldn't exactly bring in YMCA weekend warriors to complement his Olympic trio, he's got to consider his limited options carefully to ensure the most expensive summer in NBA pays off. Past-their-prime veterans, unused/discarded young free agents and unproven rookies would have to share the same Hall-of-Fame space.
Second-round picks aren't guaranteed contracts or roster spots, but the Heat's three second rounders have to feel pretty secure about 2010-11. Big men Dexter Pittman (Texas) and Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State) are needed in the frontcourt, while guard Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia) is considered a steal if he comes back strong from a devastating knee injury.
It's going to take more than three promising rookies to build a title contender. Since Miami is under the cap, it can't use any exceptions (mid-level, bi-annual, disabled player or traded player) to help plug roster gaps. Not having those few extra bucks would mean tested vets such as Matt Barnes, Nate Robinson, Steve Blake, Brad Miller, Josh Howard, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden, Mike Miller and Roger Mason are likely too expensive unless they agree to come for the minimum. Ditto for younger players still looking for an opportunity to shine, including Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Amir Johnson, Josh Powell and Ian Mahinmi.
Any of the above would provide quality depth, NBA know-how and wouldn't be in awe of their glamorous teammates. Getting one or possibly two from that group would go a long way toward balancing out the locker room. Starting jobs would also be there for the taking at center and point guard. But because of the financial limitations, the Heat would likely be stuck plugging in NBA D-Leaguers, undrafted free agents and others off the NBA scrap heap.
"You're probably looking at guys like Rafer Alston, Flip Murray," Kerr said. "You get serviceable guys that can contribute and have been around. You look at Cleveland last year: after you take out LeBron and Mo Williams and [Antawn] Jamison, what do you have? Not much.
"That [Miami] team would be good almost regardless, and over the next few years you can do some things."
Speaking of the minimum-wage route, there are a number of names out there with impressive résumés and on the career downside would probably be willing to hitch a ride on the WBL Express. For starters: Tracy McGrady, Kurt Thomas, Michael Finley, Anthony Carter, Anthony Johnson and Juwan Howard. They do know their way around and what better place than Miami to prepare for retirement?
Or bargain shop?
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