Update (9:13 p.m. ET): Chris Bosh has decided to return to the Miami Heat, signing a five-year, $118 million max contract, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports. In addition, the Heat continue to pursue free agents Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza to fill the hole left by LeBron James at small forward.
With Bosh back in the fold, the Heat will also attempt to re-sign Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to shorter deals, Wojnarowski adds.
LeBron James has officially taken his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving Miami Heat team President Pat Riley to salvage a depleted roster that will likely lose two members of its once-vaunted "Big Three."
James announced on Friday that he'd chosen to return to the Cavaliers instead of the Heat, citing a desire to finish his career in Cleveland. However, the four-time MVP's decision will likely cost Miami a second star as well. Chris Bosh tabled a four-year, $88 million contract offer from the Rockets in hopes that James would return to Miami, but is expected to sign with Houston "soon" now that LeBron has come to a decision.
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With James out of town and Bosh well on his way to Houston, Riley, the architect of the pair's arrival in Miami in 2010, will now have to find a way to recover from their departure. First, the Heat will likely move to re-sign Dwyane Wade, who opted out of the final two years of his contract in June.
At 32 years old and with a pair of balky knees, Wade no longer has the ability to singlehandedly carry a team through a full NBA season. Still, despite a listless performance in the 2014 NBA Finals, Wade was remarkably efficient last season, recording the highest shooting percentage (.545) of his career. Moreover, Miami will probably be able to sign Wade for about $12 million per season, using remaining cap space to add complementary talent.
Some reports have suggested that the Heat could attempt to negotiate a "sign-and-trade" deal to reacquire Bosh from the Rockets. However, a source familiar with the situation told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Houston won't consider that scenario until it has a commitment from Bosh.
Unfortunately for the Heat, James, Bosh and free agent forward Carmelo Anthony are this offseason's only free agents capable of serving as a franchise cornerstone. Miami hasn't made a real push to sign Anthony; the competition for his services is considered to be a three-team race between the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls.
Lacking the opportunity to acquire a franchise player, Miami will likely set its sights on second-tier options, such as free agent forwards Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng -- Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have met with all three players. However, Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report notes that all three players, particularly Ariza, are longshots to sign with Miami.
As it currently stands, the rest of Miami's roster is thin. The Heat did add promising point guard Shabazz Napier in the draft, and they seem poised to re-sign free agent forward Udonis Haslem. However, only Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton, and newly acquired free agents Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts are currently under contract.
Once an All-Star, Granger has battled multiple injuries in recent years, while McRoberts has never averaged more than 8.5 points per game in a season. The Heat could also choose to target a restricted free agent, such as coveted Phoenix Suns guard Erik Bledsoe or Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, but offer sheets on either player would likely be matched.
As he showed in 2010, Riley is a savvy executive who excels at building winning NBA teams. Yet, without James or Bosh, the door may have temporarily closed on Miami's NBA title hopes.