Let me preface this post by stating that the primary reason that this will seem so out of left field is because it is - it's Friday, I'm in a dead end sales job, and I'm feelin' a little restless today. The lenses through which I gaze this afternoon tint with impatience and fantasy. That said, let's take realism and plausibility off the table for this one. Let's approach this like a Lakers fan dreaming about trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant...oh...wait...that happened? Ahem...perhaps we should approach it like a crazy Mavs fan floating the zany idea of trading Robert "Tractor" Trailer for Dirk Nowitz....shoot...that trade happened, too? Hmm...well, in order to avoid the inevitable scolding and chastising that a post like this would typically solicit, let's just assume I realize that this deal isn't going to happen and that I'm only floating it as a fun escape from my miserable, pre-weekendy boredom.
After reading this article on ESPN Insider, I'm thinking that the Miami Heat need to get younger, deeper, and more refined in their roles if they want to keep LeBron around for the next chapter of his career. I would say that it's safe to assume that's Plan A for Pat Riley and Co. Lebron had some great expectations when he brought his talents to Miami and joined forces with Bosh and Wade 3 years ago. The trio had very realistic aspirations of many championships that were sure to come. Obviously, after some growing pains for a season, they're seemingly on track for just that. The problem, though, as outlined in the Insider article I linked to above, is Bosh and Wade are expensive and aging, the chemistry is nothing like it was supposed to be, and the sustainability of what they're building is beginning to look questionable. In order to continue winning in the long term future, and subsequently win Lebron during his next contract negotiations, the Heat are going to need to make some difficult decisions on how to build the highly-skilled, youthful, role-playing, affordable team necessary. They have this offseason and the following offseason to do this, because Lebron can opt out in 2014/15. The Heat should begin this process of retooling and reshaping around Lebron as soon as possible. I propose that if they were to choose between Wade and Bosh as the player to move for flexibility, they would be better off trading Wade for some younger, role playing assets than they would Bosh. The primary reason? They already have a scoring King who can create his own shot, control the offense, and take up plenty of the spotlight. Additionally, they're very weak in the front court - with only Bosh and Birdman to speak of. They could use some cap flexibility, some youth, perhaps a(nother) 3 point specialist who can spread the floor and isn't a liability on defense, and a young center with some upside to give them some depth down low in the years to come. I believe the Blazers have just the assets to offer.......
Heat get: Matthews, Leonard, #10 this year, 1st Rnd Pick in 2016 (unprotected), and the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou
Blazers get: Dwayne Wade
PRETENDING WHY THE HEAT DO IT:
- Money: Under the new Luxury Tax rules that go into effect this upcoming season, teams that are <$5M over the luxury tax threshold pay $1.50 for every dollar they're over, teams that are $5-10M over are subject to $1.75 per $1 over, and teams that are between $10-15M over pay $2.50 per $1 over. Additionally, if a team is over the threshold for consecutive seasons, they add another $1 to that penalty the subsequent year. At $85M in committed salaries next season, the Heat would be $15M over the projected Luxury Tax threshold of $70.3M and paying $37.5M in luxury taxes ($15M x $2.50). By shedding $10M off of their total salaries for next year, they would drop from $37.5M in luxury taxes to just $7.5M - a $30M reduction in outgoing money. Furthermore, after this deal, they would only have $7.2M (plus the 2013 rookies) guaranteed, $53M in player options, and $4.4M in Team Options going into the following offseason. As a result of this deal, in 2014/15, the Heat would be under the tax threshold (paying no luxury tax) with 4-5 fresh, young role-playing assets to fill their roster around Lebron and Bosh instead of $15M over the threshold again and paying $52.5M this time in luxury taxes. The NBA is a business - and this deal would be GOOD business for the Heat.
- Asset Acquisition: It can't only be about saving money. Money is a huge part of it, but they also are not at the point in their Franchise's life cycle to be mailing it in or rebuilding. The goal of this deal would be cost-effective retooling in light of the new collective bargaining agreement and its tax implications. Part of that retooling would be turning an expensive and aging 31 year old Dwayne Wade who has some positional/skill-set/role redundancies with Lebron James into a younger defensive/3-point guy (like Wade) in Matthews who has fewer role overlaps with Lebron, 2 first round draft picks for young, affordable role players, and an affordable center with huge upside (offensively, anyways). To summarize thus far, in addition to $30M in savings ($82M over 2 seasons), they gain 4 solid assets and the potential of Papanikolaou.
- Lebron James retention aspirations: The age old saying goes like this, "If you're not moving forwards, you're moving backwards". They're nearing the end of the current trajectory they're on and simply can't stand pat for the next 2 years. In order to keep Lebron in the future and remain competitive, the Heat have to create future cap flexibility and fill their roster with young, affordable role-players while managing the max salary of Lebron and potentially Bosh (or a similar All-Star level talent). In order to retain Lebron, they have to be able to shift towards the future without losing too much talent so that the Heat AND Lebron can both win for years to come. This trade accomplishes that.
PRETENDING WHY THE BLAZERS DO IT:
Think about roles while looking at this core-4 to build around - these guys were born to play together:
There isn't a twilight center in the league that wouldn't finish his career here - Brand, O'Neal, Birdman, et al. Any of those types of players at that point in their career would fill in that 5 spot for us. We could use the 3M(ish) left in our cap space (after trading Matthews, Leonard, and #10 for Wade) to sign Brand, use the room exception on Maynor, and then pack the roster with veteran minimum exception guys. Something like this:
Lillard / Maynor
Wade / Barton / Williams
Batum / Claver
Aldridge / (vet min like Jason Maxiel) / 2nd Rounder
Brand / O'Neal
One year of this line up gets us in the playoffs and then the following year we have the MLE and exceptions to fill in the last pieces so that we can win a few championships during Aldridge's prime. We owe him that much...