Raise your hand if you thought Chris Bosh was hours away from leaving the Heat after LeBron James revealed he was re-joining the Cavaliers. Yeah, me too. My mind downshifted from Miami needing a roster retooling to then requiring a roster rebuilding.
But Bosh's agent, Henry Thomas, suddenly had substantial leverage thrust his way as his client was sitting on a 4 yr/$88 million offer from Houston. In a matter of hours the Heat upped their 5 year offer from an estimated $90M to $118M. Game, set, match...Miami wins out over Houston.
But who to take James' spot on the roster? Notice that I avoided the word "replaced". You don't replace the best player on the planet. But Luol Deng was brought into the fold by Heat president Pat Riley at $20M over 2 years. This is months after Deng rejected a 3 year/$30M offer from Chicago.
Riley then brought back Mario Chalmers on a 2 year deal and Chris "Birdman' Anderson and the Heat have also agreed on a deal. Deals haven't yet been announced for Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem but the two Heat lifers coming to an agreement with Miami is a foregone conclusion.
And don't forget the roster additions of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, two players who came to agreements with Miami before the signing moratorium ended. One thing the Deng, Granger and Chalmers deals have in common is that all are for two seasons. Two huge names that can be free agents that summer are Kevin Durant and yes, LeBron James. It would be a stunner of James bolted Cleveland a second time(He also has an opt out clause following this season).
Don't count on Riley going after any big ticket items in the Deng $10M/year neighborhood. Instead, Riley may be looking in the discount aisle. It may not be easy to attract veterans since the previous selling point of coming down here to play alongside James while competing for championships is moot.
The Heat will still be competitive in the weak sister that is the NBA eastern conference. Able to compete for a championship? No. Capable of 50 wins and home court in the first round of the playoffs? Quite possibly.
More moves will occur in the coming days, both here and elsewhere. We'll have a much better barometer---at least on paper---of how the Heat can compete without James to lead the way.
Speaking of James, here is a predicition that I said on my talk show this past weekend: Circle Christmas day on your calendars, Heat fans. I think it's a good bet that LeBron's return to Miami will be on Christmas day. That will surely be a ratings bonanza. Just be sure the A/C is working properly inside the AAA.