LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade aren’t going to be “sacrificing millions for the good of the team,” a source tells Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News. All three have early termination options on their contracts that they can exercise at season’s end, and it appears they’ll seek the highest paydays possible after signing for less than the maximum salaries they all could have commanded in 2010.
James would no doubt become the most sought-after free agent on the market if he opts out, though he’s given no indication about whether he’ll do so, nor has he suggested that any team would be the favorite to sign him. Similarly, no such hints have come from Bosh, who should also warrant maximum-salary offers if he were to become a free agent, or Wade, whose age (32) and knee troubles would make him the least desirable of the three.
All three could make the most money over the next two seasons by remaining under their current deals, which run though 2015/16. James and Bosh are set to make $20.59MM each in 2014/15, with Wade slated for $20.164MM. If they opt out, the maximum that James and Bosh could make as a starting salary in a new deal, whether with Miami or another club, would be $20,020,875, or 105% of their current salaries. The max for Wade would be $19,606,650. It’s conceivable that the NBA’s maximum salary could rise high enough to make it somewhat more lucrative for all three to sign new contracts, but that won’t be determined until after the July Moratorium, past the deadline for the trio of stars to decide on their early termination options.
Still, they could guarantee themselves a greater sum of money over the long-term if they opted out and signed new four- or five-year contracts. The Heat stars took less than the max in 2010 to join up, with Wade, then still in the prime of his career, making the largest sacrifice. James, Wade and Bosh were all clients of the Creative Artists Agency at the time, but James has since left to join longtime friend Rich Paul of the Klutch Sports Group. If the three stars opt in and rejoin the Heat next season, each has another opportunity to get out of their respective deals via player option in the summer of 2015.
Miami has Bird Rights with all three, allowing the team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign them. The issue for the Heat, as it has been over the past few years, would be figuring out how to maintain a championship-caliber roster around their stars, particularly if Wade’s health continues to decline. The Heat have recently convinced several others to take discounts, but they’ve nonetheless paid the luxury tax the past two seasons, and are set to do so again. The tax penalties will become much greater next season, when repeat offender tax rates kick in.