What should be the most exciting week for anyone following the NBA is finally upon us. When later this week Wednesday night turns into Thursday morning, that will mean free agents can officially began talking and negotiating with whichever teams they wish. And just like freshly flushed toilet water, the rumors and stories are already swirling around and around.
A name that Heat and NBA fans alike will be getting to know much better in the coming days is Henry Thomas. He is a former Bradley University basketball player, law professor and tax attorney, but now the 57-year old has one main job; representing professional basketball players. His roster of clients is headlined by Dwyane Wade but also includes Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
It's nice to think that all three of those players could be wearing Miami Heat uniforms come next season, but that is just one scenario on a long list of possibilities. Luckily for us, many of those possibilities have the Heat signing some combination of superstars that put them in instant contention for an NBA title.
Of course, the main component to the success of this franchise will be retaining the services of Dwyane Wade, but we've already beaten that horse to death and you all should be plenty confident that he is as dedicated to the future of this team as is Micky Arison or Pat Riley. Just because ESPN is reporting that Wade agreed to visit the Knicks and Nets for recruitment trips doesn't mean its time to start freaking out.
Any free agent, including D-Wade, owes it to himself to do his due diligence and see what options are available out there. If you have been paying attention to what has been going on with those teams, the Heat and Dwyane Wade the past couple months then you'd know there is nothing that any of those teams can offer him that would lure Wade out of Miami.
As we get closer to Thursday (July 1st) we'll have more and more stories/rumors popping up so be sure to stay tuned for what promises to be a most exciting week for anyone who follows the NBA, but especially Heat fans. One thing I'd like to do before we get to any of that stuff this week is address a question that I've been asked a lot both in person and through e-mails; Why is Dwyane Wade going to opt out and become a free agent if he wants to stay with the Heat?
First off, he isn't as much ‘opting out' as he is just not exercising the option on the final year of his contract. In the short term he'll make less money but in the long term he'll make more. If he were to play out the final year of his contract and then sign an extension with the Heat, it would be limited to just four more years. That means while he'd be making a nice $17.1 million in 2010-11, that contract would max out at 5-years, $104 million.
While becoming a free agent will only allow him to make $16.6 million next season, Wade would be able to sign for a maximum of 6-years for $125 million. The reason I include the word ‘maximum' is because I still have this nagging little notion in the back of my head that Dwyane might just sign for a little less then the max so that the Heat can spend a little bit more on whoever else they (and Wade) want to bring in to start building the dynasty.
I will throw this one name out there because I haven't heard it much but I'd love to see him in a Heat uniform; David Lee. He will definitely sign for less then max but is a superb inside-out player who can average double-digit rebounds and play in the post while still working the outside and hitting a 20-foot jumper. Bringing in a player like Lee would work well with Wade and an outside threat (Joe Johnson or even Ray Allen).
Miami would also need some kind of big bruiser down low to take up space and create havoc under the rim, someone like the kid they just drafted, Dexter Pittman. I know the kid is far from ready, but his size and skill set is just what the Heat will need if they bring in a David Lee or a Chris Bosh, one of those ‘bigs' who is effective on the outside as well as in the paint.
Before I wrap this up with some Pat Riley audio, I'll give you the latest that I've read about what our favorite free agents are going to be up to this week as we prepare for what many of us have been looking forward to for months. LeBron James is planning to meet with several teams this week, and I've read that both the Knicks and Nets are going to fly to James' hometown in Ohio and that he's also going to meet with the Bulls.
ESPN even has a whole page dedicated to King James and his free agency adventures. I think I'm definitely bias, but I've yet to see him do in the playoffs what Dwyane Wade did for his team back in 2006; dominate the game at its highest level (the NBA Finals) like only Michael Jordan has done in the past couple of decades, though you could say that Kobe came close during this years edition of the Finals.
Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh are also expected to meet with the Knicks, Nets and Bulls though the details on who, when and where are still a bit flimsy for me to confirm. I believe the Knicks are going to meet with Johnson around midnight, then Amare Stoudemire a few hours later before heading to Ohio to meet with LeBron later on Thursday.
As promised, and before this topic becomes moot with all the discussion and hype of free agency looming ahead, I want to close out our talk on the three Miami Heat draft picks from last Thursday night. Just to recap, Miami took three players within 11 picks of each other during the 2nd round of the draft, all of which are big men who Pat Riley claims to have been on the Heat's draft board as 1st round talent.
First up the Heat took a mountain of a man; 300lb center Dexter Pittman with the 32nd pick. This is a kid who dropped around 100lbs in college and has the raw talent and work ethic that caused Pat Riley to think he could make a difference in a Heat uniform. I'm still very skeptical about this pick because Pittman didn't really wow me from what I saw of his college game and its only going to get tougher in the NBA. If he can use his size while controlling his body and still be able to put touch on the ball then the Heat could have something here...though his free throw shooting is comparable to that of Shaq.
Next Miami scooped up the NCAA's all-time leader in blocked shots, Jarvis Varnado, with the 41st overall pick. He finished his college career with 564 blocks and averaged 4.7 a game during his senior year while still putting up a double double (13.8 points 10.3 boards). With the very next pick in the draft the Heat chose De'Sean Butler at 42, who could end up being the steal of the draft depending on how well he recovers from tearing his ACL during a Final Four game last March.
Realistically, if the Heat can get just one serviceable player out of the three I think the draft will be considered a success. It's very hard to successfully draft ‘big guys' because you never know how well their game is going to translate to the NBA. When they start having to throw their weight around with the big MEN of the association, it's a much different game then the one they felt dominant playing in college.
Here is what Pat Riley had to say about his newest additions after Thursday's NBA Draft. To hear the clips simply click on the link and the audio will play inside of your internet browser.