For three years now, Pat Riley has sold South Florida on his all-or-nothing strategy to rebuild during the free agency summer of 2010. There was an idea floating around the Heat’s front office that they could pull off a monumental rebuilding coup if they could convince three max-level free agents – Dwyane Wade, plus two others – to take a little less than the maximum salary to sign on. For five years, maybe more, South Beach would be the NBA’s ultimate destination spot.
As the team entered the 2009/10 season, the Heat was little changed. Both of its second-round draft picks chose to play in Europe (in no small part because at the time the Heat did not want to pay luxury tax on their salaries), Jamario Moon was the only player of any importance who did not return (he signed with Cleveland as a free agent), and the biggest change the team had made for the upcoming year was deciding to move Beasley from power forward to small forward (and quickly back again).
The plan was widely criticized. Despite Riley’s master strategy, the math didn’t support the logic. With salary cap projections coming in as low as $50.4 million, the Heat would only be able to surround Dwyane Wade with one maximum contract free agent, with only $6.2 million to spare. Then Pat threw out a huge wrench in the strategy by offering a mid-level exception contract offer to Lamar Odom, a contract that would have paid Lamar $6.0 million and leave the Heat right on the cusp of max level money for even a second max contributor.
Wade was non-committal, having rejected an extension offer. He was screaming for help. There was much hand-wringing locally that not enough was done to surround him with championship-caliber players. After all, short-circuiting the rebuilding process would afford the Heat the opportunity to spend as much as $100 million or more on its team salary, a far cry from $50 million the 2010 off-season was expected to allow.
But Riley was adamant. Read more…