Since coming into the league straight out of high school in 2003, LeBron James has influenced and changed the atmosphere of the NBA teams he has played for.
Sure enough, things were rough starting off in Cleveland but he led the Cavaliers to the playoffs three years after he was drafted, a finals appearance in 2007 and other playoff appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
With that body of work, plus leading the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships, James has established himself as the premier NBA player on the planet. Because he has the talent and ability to change the culture of a franchise, opting out of his contract has given other NBA teams to chance to snag him during free agency. However, this will not be an easy process for any team. We are talking about the best player in the world.
Not to mention, he still has the opportunity to re-sign with the Heat if none of the other teams pique his interest. Nevertheless, for the Miami Heat, this could change the culture and the dynamic of the franchise that has been put in place in Miami. Since 2010, the Miami Heat have been dominant throughout the Eastern Conference, winning two of the last four championships. We know the “Big Three” played a pivotal role in establishing the success of the Heat organization. However, it is evident that without LeBron James, Miami is a whole different team.
If James decides not to return to the Heat, there will be many questions and concerns for the franchise. Even if Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen remain in a Heat uniform for sure and do not exercise their opportunity to opt out of their contract, it requires one of them to step up and carry the load. However, this could be a challenge for them. Over the last couple of years, Wade’s knees have been a constant issue for him, limiting his ability to be the prolific scorer he once was and having James with him on the team, he became “ second in command” in terms of being the go-to-guy for the Heat. Thus, it will be hard for him to transition to the leading player again, if James does not stay in Miami.
During his Toronto Raptor days, Bosh put up outstanding numbers because he had to. There were a few other players around him but he was the “main guy”. Asking him to step into more of a leadership role than what he already was would not be impossible. However, his ability to remain consistent with his production levels concerns me going into the future.
As far as Ray Allen, the prolific shooting guard has contributed many big shots through his stellar career. However, he is aging and will not play much longer. He has a few years left, but he could not be a prominent leader by himself.
Thus, it is important for general manager Pat Riley to keep LeBron James in a Miami Heat uniform. In addition, they must keep him happy and provide additional help for him as well as the team in this year’s draft. Picking up a point guard, another scorer or drafting a big man to create a stronger presence in the paint for Miami would provide James with certain pieces to be successful and remain with the Heat.