Heat title contenders? What about LBJ?

Updated: July 7, 2010, 9:59 PM ET
ESPN.com


Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh committed to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard. So how good are the Miami Heat now? And what does this mean for LeBron? Our experts weigh in with their instant analysis.

1. Do Wade, Bosh and a supporting cast make the Heat title contenders?

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: The two of them with Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and some of the cheapest players in the NBA will not get it done. However, if their pairing is powerful enough to entice players to play below market value -- LeBron James at a max contract is below market value, incidentally -- then absolutely.

The problem is that 7-foot, shot-blocking centers and truly capable point guards almost never play at below market value, so that will be Pat Riley's consuming challenge, with or without James. Bosh is not best deployed wrestling the likes of Kendrick Perkins and Dwight Howard, so the Heat still need help.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Those two alone, plus small pieces, aren't enough. Bosh has never won a playoff series. That would change in Miami next year ... but the Heat won't win two playoff series.

Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: Wade, an elite big man and a supporting cast were enough to win a championship in 2006, so there's a precedent. The Heat's supporting cast in 2010-11 doesn't need to consist of world-beaters, but if it can create open space for Wade and deliver Bosh the ball where he likes it, the Heat will be a very tough out in the East.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: It makes them instant contenders for the Eastern Conference title, not the NBA title. Not yet, anyway. Still need a shooter and a banger. Still have to decide if Beasley is a keeper or a trade chip. Still need to see who LeBron signs with.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Not until they get more help. With LeBron, Miami would have a trio so conceivably good that it could offset the inevitable lack of depth that we expect with so many roster spots still open and no money to fill those spots. Without LeBron, Miami is going to have to address its lack of size and depth before we can talk about title contention. Or even Eastern Conference title contention.


2. What does the Wade-Bosh decision mean for LeBron James?

Abbott: In getting to the summer of 2010, all kinds of teams made the judgment that the way to sign LeBron James was to clear the cap space to sign up two or three max free agents. That analysis was in no small part rooted in the intelligence that James wanted to play with the likes of Wade and Bosh.

In what we have heard about how the Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers, Knicks and the like have pitched James, that's what those teams still seem to believe. I have heard nothing that would make me think James isn't still hot on the idea of uniting with those players. One of the issues is what kind of offer the Heat can make these three players. The league releases cap numbers Wednesday night, and then the players can haggle over terms, but we already know there is no way all three can make max money, so there's a conversation to be had about who takes the pay cut.

Adande: This means LeBron has more legitimate options than ever. He can have the top three-man combo in the league in Miami, he can have a contending team in Chicago, he can have an All-Star duo in New York or he can stay home with the core of a team that had the best regular-season record. Miami's super-tempting, but I guess the emotional and financial incentives to stay home win out.

Arnovitz: Nothing in sports is certain, but joining Wade and Bosh in Miami would give James the best chance of winning championships in his prime. If James decides to stay in Cleveland, that would set up one of the better intra-conference rivalries in recent memory.

Sheridan: What it means for LeBron is unclear, but I would say it's safe to say we'll see some sort of "friendly" rivalry in the East for the next several years. And we should see some taunting of LBJ from Wade/Bosh each winter about how nice the weather is in Miami.

Stein: The closer we get to an actual resolution to this wild saga, which has commandeered so much attention in this league for the better part of three years, I believe more and more that LeBron's emotional attachment to Cleveland is such that only an off-the-charts opportunity like he'd have in Miami could convince him to walk away from his hometown team.

Ohioans will never forgive him if he leaves -- no matter what -- but I think LeBron can at least rationalize to himself that the chance to play with Wade and Bosh is something he couldn't pass up. Same effect if the Knicks could somehow promise him that Carmelo Anthony would be there in a year. The prospect of hooking up with two other All-NBA types would undoubtedly give LeBron a platform to tell people: How could I pass this up?

Now that Wade and Bosh are in place, I'm convinced that LeBron is giving Miami stronger consideration than he ever has. The other big factor? Just getting out of the East is going to be easier if he joins them, right?