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How will the Bulls react to LeBron's decision?

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  • Miami Heat forward LeBron James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, however.

      Miami Heat forward LeBron James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, however.
    Associated Press

 
 

Carmelo Anthony won't have the NBA's free-agent spotlight all to himself.

LeBron James has informed the Miami Heat he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. What James has in mind, however, is open to interpretation.

There has not been any announcement, but it seems more than likely teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will also opt out and become free agents. James, Wade and Bosh are scheduled to make roughly $20 million each next season.

What does this mean for the Bulls and their expected chase of Anthony?

First, James joining the Bulls is a long shot at best. He strongly considered the Bulls in 2010, but didn't feel the love he got in Miami and it's difficult to imagine James revisiting a Chicago scenario, though he's a fan of the city. A big question is whether the Bulls should risk alienating Anthony by chasing James.

Staying in Miami is still the most likely outcome for James. He wants the Heat to upgrade the roster after getting thumped by San Antonio in the Finals, but how does that happen?

The key ingredients to Miami's two championships (besides James) were 3-point shooters and at least one competent big man. The Heat needs to reload in both categories. Among the team's best 3-point shooters, Mike Miller is already gone, Shane Battier has said he'll retire, and Ray Allen is about to turn 39.

On the inside, Bosh's rebound stats have been sliding. Chris Andersen helped the last two years, but he's getting old, too. The Heat needs a reinforcement badly, someone with a better history of production than Greg Oden.

If the Power Trio didn't opt out, Miami would be able to use the full midlevel exception, worth around $5.5 million, and sign players to minimum contracts. To do more than that, the three stars would need to take pay cuts.

Bosh has some value on the open market. If he chose to leave Miami, he'd have a nice option in Dallas, his hometown, which has cap room. Wade, with ailing knees, would get nowhere near $20 million if he sought a new team. Realistically, there's no way Wade leaves Miami.

Obviously, the Power Trio is not three equal partners anymore. Wade needs time off to rest his knees and Bosh keeps drifting to the 3-point line. In a fair economic model, James would make more than Wade and Bosh combined.

If nothing else, Anthony will be watching to see what James does. It's certainly possible James could lobby for a Power Quartet in Miami, with Anthony joining the party and everyone taking $7 million less than they would have gotten otherwise.

James and Anthony could talk about re-signing with their current teams for another year, then meet up in New York in 2015 and recruiting a third free agent such as Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge.

Anthony will have some distractions on the way to hearing the Bulls' recruiting pitch. The Bulls could try to adjust on the fly, but even if they could get rid of everyone but Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, they'd be about $28 million under the salary cap. James and Anthony could meet in Miami at that price.

If LeBron is willing to leave South Florida, there are some options. Dallas and Phoenix are decent teams with ample cap room. Houston is spreading rumors that it could unload Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin if necessary, but I'll believe that when it happens. Lin and Asik are owed $15 million each next season.

The Clippers have been mentioned as a potential destination for James, but they'd have to move a ton of contracts to create cap room. Trading Blake Griffin for James would be the easiest way to make it happen. The Lakers will have about $25 million in cap room, but would be in much better shape if they hadn't signed Kobe Bryant to an extension.

Cleveland is also sitting there with another No. 1 overall draft pick and close to $30 million of cap space available.

As long as the option of returning to the Cavs is available, James can dictate everything the Heat does this summer.

Follow Mike's reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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