Everybody always assumes that Riley & Co. know more than the casual fan. Everyone always assumes they have access to inside information that the casual fan does not. I wish everybody was right.
Commissioner David Stern changed the landscape of the free-agent market on Friday. During the N.B.A. board of governors session in New York, he revealed that the league’s projection for the 2010/11 salary cap is now $56.1 million. This cap figure is interesting, in that it shows us just how costly Riley & Co.’s mistakes have been — mistakes this casual fan would certainly never have made.
At the beginning of the season I questioned Pat Riley’s decision to pick up Daequan Cook’s option for 2010/11. At the time, I didn’t have the benefit of watching Cook perform (or should I say, ride the pine). I simply said to myself that when a team is trying desperately to preserve cap space, it should under no circumstances surrender $2.2 million to a marginal backup. Of course, Cook has since proven out to be nothing more than what will be a massively-overpriced minimum contract player.
Then at the trade deadline, I vehemently protested Micky Arison’s decision not to offer Michael Beasley, both projected 2010 first round draft picks (the team’s own and that from the Raptors), and anything else not named Dwyane Wade in a trade for Amare Stoudemire. One would naturally need to ask whether Phoenix brass would have pulled the trigger on such a trade. I should remind you they almost pulled the trigger on J.J. Hickson and the 30th overall pick in the draft. Do you believe they would not have flinched at the prospect of Beasley and both of the projected 16th and 18th picks in first round of the upcoming draft? Well, since that time Stoudemire is playing the best basketball of his spectacular career. Michael Beasley, on the other hand, has played so poorly it remains to be seen whether he can be given away for free (with the $5 million salary he carries into next season). And the once highly valued first round draft pick received from the Raptors is no longer, and the future first round pick it is replaced with is nearly worthless in a trade today.
What does it all mean? These two moves are the only thing preventing the Miami Heat from possessing the required cap space to pursue three max contract free agents. Had a casual basketball fan such as myself been the GM of the Miami Heat over the past 12 months, the franchise that calls South Florida home would have Bird rights on both Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire… and enough cap space to pursue Lebron James.
Would such a trio be likely? I will reiterate the thoughts I’ve offered since October. It’s something of a tough sell to convince any two max contract free agents to come together. Most such players need their independence. They want their personal glory. They want to be the kings of their castles. But three such players on the same team, in my humble opinion, is a much easier sell. Why? Yes, they could make the same max money elsewhere. But they almost certainly win multiple championships. They become the unquestioned team of this decade. They become a dynasty, the likes of the Celtics and Lakers of old. Their legacy survives long after their playing shoes are tossed aside. Not to mention the South Florida weather. At least that’s the way I would pitch it. Would you be enticed?