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NBA Sets Salary Cap at $58.044 for 2010-11

As we were all calmly processing the news that Chris Bosh will be joining Dwyane Wade here in Miami, and as we were all eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the LeBron James saga, Commissioner David Stern shocked us all by announcing Wednesday night that the salary cap for next season will be $58,044,000, nearly $2 million more than was projected just two months prior.

The new number, although a considerable increase from initial doomsday projections of $50.4 million issued one year ago, hasn’t created much fanfare around the league. That’s probably because it has absolutely no effect on 2/3 of its teams. But it could very well have a major impact for the Heat in its off-season planning.

First, to clarify, the maximum salary that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can earn next season will not change with the new salary cap figure. It stays at $16,568,908, which is 105% of the amount they each earned last season. In fact, the cap figure will only have an effect on the max contracts of Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson, effectively serving to make bad decisions considerably worse.

The impact the new figure does have on the Heat is highly dependent upon which of two directions the team will go – with LeBron or without him. Wade, Bosh, Riley and the Miami Heat already know the answer. The rest of us will find out in less than 12 hours (by the time most of you read this).

WITH LEBRON
I have previously described how the Heat could acquire the triumvirate within the confines of the salary cap
. Basically, the Heat needed to either get rid of Michael Beasley or the triumvirate needed to accept less than maximum dollars. The new cap number doesn’t change that. The Heat would still need to set Michael free in order to create enough space under the cap for three max contracts.

Beasley’s trade value remains an enigma. The Raptors continue to be underwhelmed with the prospect of incorporating him in a sign-and-trade for Bosh which, despite general manager Bryan Colangelo’s disingenuous threats to the contrary, will ultimately get done (with the leverage now squarely in Riley’s court, hopefully without the sacrifice of a first round draft pick). But with fourteen NBA teams with either cap space or a trade exception large enough to accommodate his salary, options are plentiful (particularly considering any deal could be sweetened with up to $3 million of cash and/or draft picks, as absurd as that sounds). Minnesota, by way of example, has overtly expressed a strong desire in the second year forward, and has the required cap space with which to make it happen.

Both Wade and Bosh have openly declared that they would be willing to take less than maximum dollars so that the Heat can construct a championship-caliber roster. And if LeBron does choose the Heat on Thursday night, as the comments from two people in the know clearly suggest, the new cap number means that the big three wouldn’t have to sacrifice as many dollars as originally expected.

Now, with the new cap number, if the Heat were to keep Beasley and Chalmers, and split the remainder of its cap room between the big three, each would have a starting salary as high as $15,631,456, which is just $937,452 short of a max.

A six-year contract with a starting salary of $15,631,456 would equal $118,408,277, a total give-back of $7,101,202. So Bosh and Wade would be sacrificing a fraction over $1 million per year. Not too bad for Chris, whose tax rate has just dropped more than 10 percentage points.

In such a scenario the Heat would have just five players under contract – Chalmers, Wade, James, Beasley and Bosh – and limited cap space remaining with which to maneuver. After signing their three second-round draft picks, they would still need to sign between five and seven more players, all to minimum contract deals.

If Beasley were instead able to be sacrificed, the excess dough would ensure the big three received its full compensation, in addition to Chalmers, and would still leave space for one contract of up to $2,149,883. That’s not big dollars; in fact, it’s just $797,702 above the minimum for a 10+year veteran player. But it has huge implications for Joel Anthony, who would stand to benefit tremendously. Whereas Joel figured to be nothing more than a distant memory in any trifecta scenario at previous cap estimates, the Heat now has the ability to retain his Bird rights – which would effectively translate into a significant, and cap friendly, payday for Joel down the road.

WITHOUT LEBRON
Now, if James were to decide against Miami, the added cap space would allow for a great deal of added flexibility with which to round out the roster. After Wade and Bosh sign their max deals, the Heat would have $13,756,551 of remaining cap space after roster charges. That should be enough to snag a solid if unspectacular defensive center like Brendan Haywood and a nice floor-spacing wing scorer like Mike Miller (who could share $14.23 million), all while retaining the youthful and suddenly less-pressured Michael Beasley.

But the convoluted range of possibilities does not stop there. If Beasley’s contract is thereafter jettisoned, his $5.0 million salary could be replaced with the likes of a Derek Fisher or, at the far stretches of the imagination given his outrageous salary demands, Raymond Felton.

***

One thing is certain. The picture in South Florida is now getting much clearer.

The question is: would you rather have a roster of: (i) Mario Chalmers, the Holy Trinity, Joel Anthony and a satchel full of minimum salary contracts or (ii) Derek Fisher, the Dynamic Duo, Mike Miller and Brendan Haywood?

One note of caution here. Incorporate the potential ability for the Heat to add on additional talent in future seasons into your line of thinking at your own peril. The NBA will undoubtedly face a dual strike-lockout next season, after which the rules as we know them today could change drastically.

The Heat already knows the answer. The rest of us will find out at 9:00 pm.

I, for one, choose the first option.

Whatever the scenario, it would appear that Dwyane Wade and his fellow South Floridians are being rewarded in spades for three years of patience through pitiful mediocrity.

To Pat Riley: I forgive you for all your sins. Just don’t make any more.

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  1. Eric
    July 7th, 2010 at 20:19 | #1

    Albert, enjoy the Marlins game, you earned it today! What a great day for the Heat!

  2. Jon
    July 7th, 2010 at 23:26 | #2

    JJ has a 4 run lead. This game is over. Let’s hear the detailed breakdown!!!

  3. Vincent
    July 8th, 2010 at 09:44 | #3

    lebron to Miami baby…..

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