A close associate of LeBron James said the Miami Heat star is not of the mindset to take a significant paycut at this time and is looking for a maximum contract. Such a deal could pay him $20.6 million next season and run five seasons if he re-signs with Miami, which is considered very likely.
That means for the Heat to have cap space to satisfy the lofty salary wishes of high-end free agents such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Marcin Gortat, here’s what would have to happen:
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would need to take very significant pay cuts. (Contracts cannot be backloaded to extremes because of cap rules limiting maximum amount of annual raises.)
Trading Norris Cole also would help but would not be essential. All that comes with the caveat that none of those top-tier free agents is willing to take substantially less to sign here, which absolutely cannot be ruled out. But Deng’s agent already has said his client will not sign here for money in the range of $5.3 million.
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According to the L.A. Times, Gasol has meetings planned with OKC, Chicago and Golden State but not Miami.
If the Heat is just short of being in position to sign one of those players, the notion of James taking a cut could be re-visited. But Heat president Pat Riley has said he will not ask James to take a paycut, that it would have to be his idea. (Same with Wade and Bosh, who are on board with the idea.)
If the Heat cannot lure any of the top players to take less to sign here, Miami might be better served by using exceptions to augment the roster instead of cap space.
In that scenario, the Heat could add players with a $5.3 million exception, a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception. (But those exceptions cannot be combined and the Heat cannot use those exceptions AND cap space. It would need to be an either/or choice.)
The Heat also could add players to the minimum (such as James Jones) and use Bird Rights to re-sign Ray Allen and Chris Andersen at reasonable amounts.