With a team as talented as the Miami Heat, there are few issues to be concerned with. The overbearing problem with this current roster is the health of the team's payroll going forward. Their trio of All-Stars ultimately takes up most of the cap, thus the ability to add complementary pieces is difficult with whatever remains. The Heat currently have a number of overpaid contracts that they could do without, starting with backup center Joel Anthony.
If there could ever be a player to epitomize what this Miami organization represents, Anthony fits the bill. His hustle, defense and 100 percent effort attitude every game are what has kept him in a Heat uniform, despite the general public questioning his ability.
Anthony's offensive game has always been questionable, but his heart and passion have not. The undersized center was signed to his current deal because of this, in addition to the belief Anthony could be a Dennis Rodman-esque piece to the Heat's championship puzzle.
That attitude has since changed, not by any fault of Anthony's, as Miami took on a new identity. The Heat remain a scrappy and live-or-die defensive team, but their offensive versatility required more than what Anthony brings to the table.
His lack of post moves and mid-range shot hinders the coaching staff's ability to routinely give him minutes. While it gripes me to say it—as Anthony is one of my favorite players—it's the equivalent of the Heat playing 4-on-5, with Anthony seemingly a void in the offense.
Chris Andersen, who plays very much like Anthony, is a more athletic and experienced center. The duo are similar in terms of their offensive abilities; however, Andersen's movement and length are what puts him ahead of Anthony.
Many questioned the Heat's judgement when they signed Anthony to a five-year, $18 million deal back in 2010. As aforementioned he's all about hustle and sacrifice, and this was ultimately the reasoning behind his contract.
Anthony's 2009-10 season averages of 2.7 points and 3.1 rebounds do not denote what he was given in free agency, and while it's a nice gesture to reward a player for his hard work, it's now created an issue within the team's payroll.
Courtesy of HoopsWorld, the Heat's salary cap is listed at $83.4 million for this season. The team has $75.5 million guaranteed for next season, which doesn't include the potential returns of Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen.
Anthony's $3.8 million for next season would rank seventh-highest on the payroll, ahead of integral players like Chalmers, Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole. Amnestying the center's deal won't create cap space for the Heat to explore, but it will lessen the luxury tax burden for Miami.
Trading Anthony would be a arduous task, as finding a team to take on his contract will be difficult. Deciding to amnesty him is a much easier choice, and beneficial to both parties. Anthony would retain his dignity, as opposed to being sent away and prejudiced for his pay. He'd still receive his pay and could take on a role similar to teammate Juwan Howard.
Howard is not celebrated for his leadership at this point and is often completely unnoticed on the Heat bench. However his ability to mentor and advise the players has been essential to their success, with praise from Pat Riley via ESPN.com:
"Juwan is a key part of the championship culture here in Miami," Riley said Saturday in a statement released by the Heat. "He is essential to this team and can still play this game at a high level in some of our biggest games yet to come. He has a unique veteran savvy and will provide leadership and experience to our team."
Howard played in grand total of seven games for the Heat this season, serving more as an assistant coach than anything else. Anthony could fill a similar role, in contrast to being traded away.
The move would clear close to $4 million from the cap, thus making re-signing Andersen and other role players less strenuous. Miami can use its mini mid-level exception to sign a decent player, which is an option of about $3.5 million for teams over the salary cap.
Whether the Heat split it between Andersen and a veteran center or decide to throw it all at one player, amnestying Anthony will make the transition much easier. The luxury tax is already a concern surrounding the future of the Big Three, thus making a slight adjustment by amnestying Anthony preserves the future health of the Heat's payroll.