Whether LeBron returns depends on Wade and Bosh

If the Big Three all opt out, they could conspire to return

     That LeBron James chose to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat was no surprise. The surprise could come if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh choose to do the same.

     Wade and Bosh are each guaranteed roughly $42 million the next two seasons if they opt in and remain with the Heat.

     By opting out, James becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He can sign up to a four-year, $94.8-million maximum deal with a new team, or he could become the Heat's max player and re-sign for $127.7 million over five years.

     Wade and Bosh have until June 30 to decide whether they will stay with the Heat or also opt out like James.

     The ball is in Wade's court. If Wade opts out, he’s headed for a pay cut.

     The best salary Wade could hope to make is keeping his current deal with the Heat -- $20.164 million next season and $21.655 million with a player option in 2015-16.

     Wade could choose to take a pay cut by opting out and agreeing to a new deal with Miami for less money to free up some much-needed salary space for the Heat.

     If Bosh opts out, he potentially could make the maximum salary elsewhere, but it would be with a lesser team. Bosh has a much better chance for success by continuing to play third-fiddle in Miami than by becoming the No. 1 guy somewhere else.

     While you're trying to read the tea leaves the next couple of weeks, keep in mind the following formulas:

     * Wade-In; Bosh-out: Wade knows his worth is slipping and he won't find a better contract than the one he's got. With Wade locked in, the only way to keep the band together would be for Bosh to opt out and take less money.

     * Wade-Out; Bosh-In: Same as above, only in reverse. Wade is willing to sacrifice salary in an effort to keep the band together, something he did four years ago to initially form this union. Bosh -- rather selfishly in this scenario -- would stay on board at the same salary.

     * Wade-In; Bosh-In: By keeping their current deals with Miami, Wade and Bosh essentially are waving good-bye to James because this scenario would force James to take a significant pay cut to keep the Big Three intact and bring in new talent. If James re-signed with the Heat for the max, Miami would be even more handcuffed financially than had the Big Three initially opted to stay onboard.

     * Wade-Out; Bosh-Out: The Big Three could stay together by each re-signing for less money in order to free up funds and add key player/players. Does all three players opting out and then re-signing with the Heat constitute a conspiracy? You bet, but they conspired four years ago to join forces in the first place.

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