The Miami Heat had just about the most to lose from the NBA lockout. Having one of the highest revenue teams in the NBA, Heat owner Mickey Arison avoids losing a sizable sum of money. More importantly to Heat fans, though, is the fact that Arison's trio of superstars will not be robbed a year of their prime due to the lockout.
As long as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh play on the same team, that team will be one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals every season for the foreseeable future.
But even if the lockout was resolved without canceling the season, it was not a sure thing that the Big Three partnership could survive a new collective bargaining agreement. At one point, NBA owners were hoping to impose such a strict salary cap and luxury tax that the Heat may have been forced to trade one of the Big Three in order to pay for the rest of the team.
That outcome did not come to pass, and the Heat got lucky on another front as well: the midlevel exemption. Under the new deal, teams can sign one player to a $5 million mid-level exception deal as long as that deal does not put the team more than $4 million over the luxury tax threshold.
This means Miami might have the chance to lure a free agent center or point guard that complements the skills of the Big Three. Miami has been rumored to be interested in Samuel Dalembert, formerly of Sacramento. Now they have the ability to add him to the roster with no luxury tax penalty (actually signing him is no sure thing, however).
As the Mavs proved last season, the Heat need a solid supporting cast around James, Wade and Bosh if they want to win a championship. The post-lockout collective bargaining agreement gives the team a good deal of flexibility in trying to add a key piece of the championship puzzle.
The midlevel-exemption rule could also spare the Heat from having to use its "amnesty clause" on reserve guard Mike Miller. Under the amnesty clause, teams would have been allowed to waive one player without having his salary take up salary cap space.
The Heat had reportedly been set to do just that with Miller (who had gone so far as to put his house up for sale), but now won't have to. Now that Miller will have a set of working thumbs this season, he will be a nice weapon to come off the bench, shoot some three-pointers and wear out opponents with his defense.
There is still a lot of roster-shuffling to be done as teams prepare for the late-December opening of the shortened season, and there is no telling what any of Miami's rivals will do to beef themselves up in the next few weeks. But the Heat will once again be the league favorites, and for that they can at least partially thank the favorable resolution to the lockout.