The Heat is positioned to potentially build another super team in two years when the NBA receives a major infusion of cash.
The league’s salary cap is expected to skyrocket after the 2015-16 season thanks to new national broadcasting contracts that will triple league television revenue. Beginning with the 2016-17 season, ESPN and Turner Sports will pay the NBA an average of $2.7 billion annually over the next nine years for exclusive rights, according to reports. The league announced the deals on Monday.
In other words, everyone in the NBA is about to get even richer, and the league’s salary cap for the 2016-17 season has been projected at more than $80 million. The cap this season is $63 million.
“Everyone benefits from it, and it’s great that our game continues to grow that way,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
Many franchises already have set themselves up to maximize the opportunity. Miami enters the 2016-17 season with just three players under contract: center Chris Bosh, rookie point guard Shabazz Napier and power forward Josh McRoberts.
“Obviously, we’re not one of the biggest markets, but I’m sure, as we always do, we’ll maximize it as much as possible,” said Wade, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason to set himself up for perhaps one last big contract.
So much is still unknown about how the influx of money will affect league dynamics, but the Heat has a history of thinking big. In a letter to fans this summer, Heat owner Micky Arison said the Heat “wasn’t done; not even close.”
“As a Miami HEAT fan, this is what you have come to expect from us,” Arison wrote. “We are laser-focused on the present and the task at hand of defending our Eastern Conference championship with the East being described as ‘wide open,’ while also positioning ourselves for maximum flexibility and maneuverability in the future.”
Depending on how much Arison would be willing to spend, the Heat could engineer another super team around Bosh, and presumably Wade and Udonis Haslem during what is sure to be the wildest free agency period in league history.
The Heat could go after franchise players, like Kevin Durant — the star for the Oklahoma City Thunder and reigning MVP, who will be a free agent after the 2015-16 season.
Last summer, the Heat was hoping for the best, but also planning for the worst. Neither happened, even though the loss of LeBron James to Cleveland was a major defeat.
But, the Heat secured Bosh to a long-term deal. That did two things for the franchise: It allowed president Pat Riley and CEO Nick Arison to keep the team competitive in the short term, and also position the club for the spending bonanza on the horizon.
Of course, the catch to the Heat’s forward thinking is so much money is about to be pumped into the league that it might not matter. The extra money could be the league’s great equalizer.
The Heat currently has just over $32 million on the books beyond the 2015-16 season. Assuming the team remains relatively the same over the next two years, general manager Andy Elisburg would have around $50 million to add pieces for the 2016-17 season.
The Lakers, Knicks and Nets are also expected to be major players. For example, the Lakers currently have less than $9 million tied to existing contracts after the 2015-16 season.
Beyond the salary-cap ramifications, there is also the question of revenue sharing between players and owners. The new TV money raises the possibility of another work stoppage. The collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2020-21 season, but both owners and the players can opt out of the deal following the 2016-17 season.
“More money; more problems,” Heat forward Danny Granger said. “I think that’s going be true when it comes to that next deal. When you see numbers like that, the league revenue tripling and the sale of the [Los Angeles] Clippers going for so much money — that’s just a bridge we’ll have to cross when we get there.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra indicated forward Josh McRoberts might not be cleared medically in time for the start of the regular season. The Heat opens the season on Oct.29 at home against the Washington Wizards. McRoberts is recovering from offseason surgery on is left big toe.
“It’s too early to tell, but he’s doing a lot,” Spoelstra said. “I anticipate he’ll increase his workload significantly in the next week to 10 days.”