As to the likelihood of all three winding up in Miami, it is possible. But it would require at least one of the three players to give up a lot of money. The Heat have not cleared enough salary cap room to be able to sign two "max-level" free agents and to re-sign Wade, though it is getting closer.
Currently, Miami only has three players under contract -- forward Michael Beasley, guard Mario Chalmers and swingman James Jones. Beasley is scheduled to make $4.962 million next season and Miami picked up Chalmers's option for next season earlier this month at $854,300. Jones is set to make $4.64 million next season, but only $1.86 million of that is guaranteed if Miami waives him by Wednesday. The two sides are working out some kind of arrangement, whether a straight buyout or something else involving deferred money, that would result in the Heat only being charged the $1.86 million figure on its cap for next season.
If Miami reaches an agreement with Jones, the total amount of committed money for next season for the Heat would be $7.6725 million. At first glance, that would leave Miami -- if the league's projection of a $56.1 million cap for next season remains accurate -- with $48.4275 million in room, which would be enough to sign three players to near-max deals.
But that's not how the cap works.
Grab some coffee. A lot of numbers are coming:
Teams that have fewer than 12 players
on their cap when free agency begins are given "cap charges" for every free roster spot up to 12. The amount is what a minimum-salaried rookie
would receive next season. That number is $473,600. So Miami would have to assign that amount per slot for at least nine players, because after waiving/buying out Jones the Heat would only have two players, Beasley and Chalmers, under contract. (The 10th player is Wade, who has his own cap hold. More on him below.) Multiply $473,600 by nine and you get an additional $4,262,400 that the Heat have to carry on their books until they start signing players. Added to the $7.6725 million Miami is already carrying forward and you get approximately $11.9349 million in salaries and charges Miami has to have on its books, leaving the Heat with about $44.1 million in room.
Then there's Wade. Miami has to hold onto his rights even after he officially opts out, so that he can re-sign with the Heat under the "Larry Bird" provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. A Bird free agent that has gone through at least a second contract can maintain his rights with his team as long as it keeps a cap hold on him July 1. In Wade's case, given that he made more than the league average salary last season and because he's a "Larry Bird" free agent ending a contract after his rookie deal, he's subject to a different level of cap hold. For Wade, that would be 105 percent of his previous contract, which was $15.779 million last season. That means his cap hold on Miami's books is $16.568 million, until the Heat re-sign him. Then, the new figure would replace the $16.568 milliion. But until that happens, that $16.568 million is added to the $11.9349 million.
But the whole notion of this Trio of Terror rests on Miami's re-signing Wade. Let's say Wade re-signs for the maximum he could get under the CBA, which would be 105 percent of his previous salary, or $16.568 million. That figure would replace the $23.66 million on Miami's cap. Added to the $11.9349 million, Miami would then have $28,502,900 in committed salaries for next season, and $27.5971 million in room to be split between James and Bosh.
But James and Bosh are also on line for $16.568 million maximum salaries in the first year of their new deals. Wade would wind up with more money over the life of the contracts, however, because he would get bigger raises for re-signing with his own team (10.5 percent of the first-year total each season) than James or Bosh would get for signing with a new team (8 percent of the first-year total). If James or Bosh got the maximum he could, or $16.568 million of Miami's remaining room, that would leave only about $11 milllion for the other. Over the course of a five-year deal, the player taking the max in year one would wind up with about $96.1 milliion, while the player taking $11 million in year one would get about $63.8 million.
For the sake of argument, let's say instead that James and Bosh agree to split the $27.5971 million right down the middle, leaving each with about $13.79 million in first-year salary. Over five years that would give each an approximately $80 million deal -- an incredible windfall, to be sure, but still $16 million less than each would get if he got his maximum salary over a five-year deal. (A sixth season would increase the deficit even more.)
Of course, all three players could take less and split the available room, roughly, three ways, which would give each around $15 million to start next season.
Thomas would not say whether Bosh or Wade would take less money in order to play with each other, or with James, next season.