Once LeBron James announced to the world that he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the dam that had been holding back high-profile free-agent moves finally broke. But the resulting flood hasn't quite flowed in the direction we figured. Once James' decision was made public, it was all but assumed now-former teammate Chris Bosh would take up the Houston Rockets' max offer to join Dwight Howard and James Harden.
Nope. Bosh surprised many by agreeing to a five-year, $118 million deal to remain in Miami.
The Heat reportedly were moving fast to lock down Dwyane Wade, who for a few fleeting minutes was attached to nonsensical rumors involving the Chicago Bulls. Udonis Haslem is also expected to return. So in essence, the Miami offseason has comprised of adding veteran forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Oh -- and losing James. That strikes me as a net negative.
You just don't get over losing a player like James easily, as fans in Cleveland circa 2010 can surely attest. Nevertheless, even after agreeing to contracts with McRoberts and Granger, Heat president Pat Riley still has about $15.8 million of cap space with which to work, per my colleague Kevin Pelton. James is joining a young team in Cleveland, while the limbo surrounding Carmelo Anthony means another powerhouse might or might not be forming in Chicago.
So is all lost for Miami?
As for Houston, after reportedly being ruled out of the Anthony chase and seeing its talented young forward Chandler Parsons sign a $46 million offer sheet with Dallas, the summer has gotten a lot more complicated. As Bosh's two leading suitors, let's talk about how the Heat and Rockets might complete their respective puzzles.
By throwing massive dollars at Bosh and keeping Wade in the only uniform he's known in the NBA, Riley has sent a clear signal that he's not about to downshift into rebuild mode. You do wonder if he's regretting his commitments to McRoberts and Granger, who in theory would have made nice complementary pieces to a James-led roster. Without James, you have to figure Miami will move toward more conventional lineups and on-court style. That means finding a rebound-and-defense big man to pair with Bosh.
McRoberts is a highly skilled player, but he does not fit the bill of rim protector. It's not out of the realm of possibility that McRoberts and Riley mutually decide to back out of their verbal agreement. There is nothing in the collective bargaining agreement against doing so. McRoberts surely would be welcomed back in Charlotte, which wanted to retain him in the first place. It's also possible that Riley is content to pay McRoberts the equivalent of the full midlevel exception to be his third big man. Or maybe Eric Spoelstra will want to maintain a pace-and-space style, and will pair McRoberts and Bosh together. These are things we don't yet know.