Does their formula still work? Do their 'Big 3' still have enough to win? Or does the Spurs' model of depth over superstardom simply work better? Will the Heat's top 3 players even step on the court as teammates ever again?
Questions abound, for sure, as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can all opt out of their respective contracts and become free agents again this offseason.
Should they? The answer certainly differs for each of them.
The simplest one is Dwyane Wade. If he exercises his player options for next season as well as 2015-16, he'll make about $40.5M in the next two seasons. Based on his current skill set, health, history, and the fact that he has been with the Heat his entire career, it seems like a no-brainer for him to stay. He won't get more money elsewhere, and there will never be a fan base who could ever gravitate towards him like Miami.
For Bosh, the answer becomes a bit more complicated. He says that the team wants to stay together. Really, it hinges around LeBron James. If James stays, Bosh should stay. That would give him the best opportunity to redeem himself and show that he's still a legit All-Star caliber player and worthy of a max deal. They'll still be a contender, particularly in the weak Eastern Conference, and Bosh can stay in a place he has played for the past 3 seasons.
James has the most complicated choice by far. He left his previous team via free agency and was crucified in the media for it. But would anyone blame him if he wanted to leave Miami and, who knows, go back to Cleveland, even?
He'll be in the unique position of potentially hitting free agency for the second time as the best player in the world, and literally every team will be interested in his services. He could stay with the Heat, depending on what he thinks Bosh, Wade and company can do, or he could choose from literally any other (financially capable) team in the NBA.
Would he want to sign with the Heat, knowing they've already got $20M per year wrapped up in Dwyane Wade, who has proven to be in decline over the past three seasons? In a capped league, it's almost financial suicide to be bound to one of those contracts when a player isn't matching the money with his value on the court.
US Men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinnsman recently pointed out this phenomenon, only to be chastised by Kobe Bryant, but he's right.
Lakers fans, Bryant himself, and many American sports fans in general have no interest in hearing that logic, but it's 100% true.
The quickest way to lose consistently is to overpay players by millions of dollars, decreasing the money you can spend on other areas of your team. It's that simple. Based on the albatross that is Dwyane Wade's contract at this point, it might be best for LeBron to cut ties while he can. Perhaps it's time to try to bring a ring back to his hometown.