- Kevin Pelton, ESPN Staff Writer
No team has more riding on the outcome of negotiations between the NBA and its players union on a new collective bargaining agreement than the Miami Heat. In a worst-case scenario, it might eventually force Miami to break up its current roster -- or even the Big 3.
The Heat locked up stars Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, as well as role players Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, for the long term last summer. In 2013-14, those six players are under contract for more than $71 million, far and away the most committed salary in the league. Only one other team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has a payroll of more than $50 million that far out. Should a new, hard salary cap be set below $70 million, Miami would have to get creative, to say the least.
But as for next season, staying below the salary cap is unlikely to be a problem for the Heat. As Wade noted in his news conference after Game 6, Miami's payroll was some $20 million less than that of the champion Dallas Mavericks. Still, a hard salary cap could dash the Heat's hopes of adding talent through free agency. Under the current rules, this season's team was likely to be Miami's worst roster over the next few years because of its ability to sign rotation players using the midlevel exception.
For a team like the Heat, where depth is at a premium, the midlevel exception could be a valuable weapon. Yet it may be a thing of the past under the next CBA. That would limit Miami's options for improving the current roster. The Heat's lone draft pick, the first selection of the second round (No. 31 overall) probably will not yield immediate contributions. Miami may be able to count on no more than a new round of the minimum-salary veterans that dotted the team's bench this season.