Options Improve for LeBron James and Other Max Free Agents

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Options Improve for LeBron James and Other Max Free Agents If you're Pat Riley and the Miami Heat team you've run for the past decade-plus is on the verge of elimination in the first round of the Eastern Conference yet again, there's really only one piece of good news you can hang your hat on.

That's that there's a good chance the summer turns out a lot better for you than the spring.

That's because the Heat, along with the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Clippers and a few other teams in smaller markets are among the NBA teams that will have significant room under the salary cap this summer to make a few moves on the free-agent market. And last weekend, it was announced that the cap would be set higher than expected for next season.

The early projection is a $56.1 million cap for each team's total salaries next season, and that's music to the ears of a handful of GMs, Riley included, that will be looking to wheel and deal this offseason.

The Heat, who have practically their entire team coming off the books aside from the troubled youngster Michael Beasley, will have tens of millions to throw around. The Knicks, who are shedding most of their roster as well, can make a run at a pair of maximum free agents like LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

The Nets will have about $25 million in cap room. That's enough for a whole heck of a lot of rebuilding. The Bulls will have the cash to tempt a blue-chip player like Bosh to the Windy City. The Clippers will barely have the room for one max guy, meaning there's still a glimmer of hope for them in the LeBron sweepstakes.

Basically, every team with money to spend just got some really good news.

And the drama surrounding every free agent-to-be just got a lot thicker.

For LeBron, how much is riding on this postseason? If he wins a title with the Cavaliers now, does he stay in Cleveland? If he doesn't, does he go for the big bucks with all the suitors calling to him?

For Wade, what will happen if the Heat lose on Sunday and are swept out of the first round? Will he give up on Miami and seek the big bucks elsewhere?

For Bosh, how crushing was it to go down with an injury in the final week and miss the playoffs? Has he had enough of Toronto?

What about all the other stars with expiring contracts still alive in this postseason? What about Ray Allen, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer?

In the coming months, all these questions and more will be answered.

At the moment, the intriguing storylines that surround the free-agent class of 2010 are obscured by the day-to-day headlines of the NBA playoffs. But while the spring will be thrilling, this summer might be the story of the year. The NBA's third season is still to come.

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