What's ahead for the Heat

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The Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals this season, and might have a whole new look next year.Not long after the buzzer sounded to end Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the 2013-14 NBA season, the talk turned to the future for the Miami Heat and who would be on their roster for next season.

Teams to Reach NBA Finals
At Least 4 Consecutive Times

The Heat have had tremendous success in the “Big Three” era, reaching the NBA Finals in each year, just the fourth team in NBA history to have a run of four consecutive Finals NBA appearances.. With a return trip next year, the Heat would join the 1957-66 Boston Celtics as teams to make five consecutive NBA Finals trips. Those Celtics reached 10 straight finals, winning nine titles.

However, the Heat that take the floor to start next season might have a different look, as all three of the team’s marquee players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, have early-termination options and can become unrestricted free agents.

Heat Salary Cap Situation
For Next Season

Norris Cole is the only player on Miami’s roster that has a guaranteed contracted next season ($2M), although Udonis Haslem ($4.6M) and Chris Andersen ($1.4M) each have player options to return. Shane Battier is also retiring, and Ray Allen’s NBA future, with Miami or any other team, is uncertain.

Early talk in the offseason has centered around the Heat possibly bringing in Carmelo Anthony, who reportedly will opt out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks.

The most realistic scenario for the Heat to sign Anthony would be for James, Wade and Bosh to all opt out of their contracts and re-sign with the club for a starting salary of around $14M, or more than $6M less than they would’ve made by not opting out.

That would allow Miami to bring in Anthony for around that figure as well. If Anthony doesn’t opt out, he’d make $23.3M in the final season of his contract with the Knicks.

The Knicks can offer Anthony a five-year, $129M deal this summer, while any other team could give him up to four years and $96M. So the odds of a “Big Three” becoming a “Big Four” seem unlikely.

If James, Wade and Bosh all return, Cole’s contract alone will take the Heat slightly over the projected salary cap ($63.2M), so Miami’s best free agency tool will be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. That would allow the Heat to sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.3M.