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The Miami Heat have signed their first free agent of the summer, giving Josh McRoberts a four-year, $23-million deal.
It's significant because the structure of the deal suggests that McRoberts will use up the team's "mid-level exception" — a provision that basically allows teams that are over the salary cap to sign a player starting at ~$5 million per year.
In a perfect world, the Heat would have used that money on a top-line veteran willing to take less money in order to win a championship with the Big-3. Pau Gasol's name was even thrown around as a mid-level exception candidate for Miami last week. Instead they got McBob.
The Heat are in a catch-22 here, and this move is an attempt to get out of it.
LeBron doesn't want to re-sign until the role players are in place. But Pat Riley doesn't want to sign the role players until LeBron is in place.
LeBron wants Miami to surround him with a better supporting cast than he had in 2013-14. ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the best LeBron reporter in the business, says LeBron's No. 1 priority in free agency is picking a team with a talented roster. Opting out of his contract gave him leverage in forcing Miami to spend money on role players — something they haven't always been willing to do in the past.
But here's the problem for the Heat: Since LeBron won't sign until he feels comfortable that Miami will put together a talented roster, Pat Riley doesn't know how much cap room he has to build that roster. Until LeBron, Wade, and Bosh re-sign, Miami is playing a guessing game with which types of other free agents it can go after.
The McRoberts contract — as well as the two-year, $4.2-million Danny Granger contract that followed on Monday — is a way out of this conundrum for Riley.
He's trying to sign the role players without knowing exactly how much cap room he has to work with in hopes that LeBron will be satisfied and re-sign.
It's not ideal. Miami would much prefer to have the Big-3 in place, know its cap situation down to the penny, and build its roster from there. But with rumors of LeBron looking elsewhere continuing the gain steam, the team had to make the first move.
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