LeBron/Melo sweepstakes: what the Lakers and Heat have to do

Of all the teams in the NBA, the Lakers and Heat have it the easiest. Surprisingly, both of the teams are below the salary cap right now and are in a good situation to pick up one of these two free agent studs. The Heat probably have the best chance of getting LeBron James, but the Lakers have a very good chance of getting Carmelo Anthony. And who knows, maybe if they miss out on Anthony they’ll make a run at James. They have the money, so they certainly can do it. The reason I’m grouping them together is because it’s not very complicated for either team. Here’s what the Heat have to do:

1. Offer LeBron James a max contract

Done. That’s it. There’s really nothing else that they have to do because they have a team salary of $2.15 million right now, which is Norris Cole. Other than him and newly drafted Shabazz Napier, they don’t have anyone else that is guaranteed to play for them next year. If the Heat off LeBron a max contract and he accepted it, he would be getting about $20.6 million next year. The Heat have plenty of cap space to do that. Of course, would signing him to that much money give them enough space to re-sign both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Not without giving them significant pay cuts. But that’s not the issue here. As for strictly getting LeBron, they can very easily do that money-wise. It’s all about what other assets they bring in to entice him to stay.

The Lakers’ situation is a bit less obvious, but it’s still pretty easy to understand. The Heat have one person on their roster right now, and the Lakers have three: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre. They combine for a team salary of $34.1 million, giving them $28.9 million in cap space right off the bat. Here’s what they need to do:

1. Offer James or Anthony a max contract

It can only be one of them, but offering either guy a max contract is going to be enticing enough to make them think about coming to LA. Since neither guy played for the Lakers last year, they can offer a max contract that’s slightly cheaper than what the Heat could offer LeBron or what the Knicks could offer Melo. I’m guessing that it would eat up about $19 million in cap space for next year if either received a max deal, but they have enough room for either of them. Again, they won’t have much room for the rest of a roster with just under $10 million to sign 11 players, trading a guy like Steve Nash and his $9.7 million contract would help a lot. But again, that’s not the argument here. What I’m saying is that they have money right now to give either a max contract, and that’s a dangerous place to be in for other teams considering most suitors of these guys have to make a bunch of moves to afford him.

While this isn’t as complicated a description for what these teams need to do, it shows that they’re in a good situation financially. Remember that the Heat probably want Bosh and Wade back and the Lakers probably want Pau Gasol back, and all of those guys are going to be expensive. They also have tons of cap holds, especially the Heat, whose entire roster basically decided to enter free agency all at once. But if they want to go all-out for a star, they have the money right now to do it.

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