How Miami Heat Can Rebuild Their Supporting Cast This Offseason
The future fate of the Miami Heat rests on the shoulders of the Big Three. While LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all have the option to become free agents this offseason, let's assume that they'll all stay in Miami for at least one more year.
Based on what Chris Bosh said on The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio, that seems like the best bet at this point. Here's Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick with the transcription:
Rather than conduct a conventional interview, Le Batard—the longtime Miami Herald columnist—and co-host Jon "Stugotz" Weiner played two games with the Miami Heat forward/center, first asking him to "fill in the blank" and then asking him to answer "true or false."
Le Batard stated that Bosh—who can opt out of his contract after this season—will be in Miami next year.
"True," Bosh answered.
"And so will LeBron...," Le Batard continued.
"True," Bosh replied.
If Miami's stars stay put, though, who should join them next season? With only three other players (Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole) under contract past this season, Miami will have plenty of opportunities to restructure the supporting cast, considering a lot of free agents should be willing to take a discount to play for a title.
Let's take a look at Miami's needs and a few of those free-agent options the Heat could explore next season.
Let's get the players under contract out of the way first.
Udonis Haslem ($4.6 million) and Chris Andersen ($1.4 million) both have player options. While it's possible that Haslem retires since he's had so little playing time this season, it would seem more likely that he'll stick around and collect his paycheck.
As for Andersen, he's worth much more than that salary, which might lead him to opt out for a bigger deal. He seems comfortable in his role with Miami, though, so there's a strong chance he'll stay on at a discount for another shot at a ring.
Norris Cole will also be back, as he's still on his rookie deal.
That's six players, including the Big Three, which leaves about eight roster spots open. Now on to the expiring deals.
Shane Battier and Ray Allen could both retire, but it's incredibly unlikely they'll play anywhere else if they don't. For the sake of this exercise, let's say both retire.
Toney Douglas, James Jones and Rashard Lewis haven't played big enough roles to warrant roster spots, so all three are likely gone in the search for upgrades. Out of that group, Douglas might have the best shot to stick around on a minimum deal.
That leaves us with Greg Oden, Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley. The Heat have put in too much work with Oden to just let him go elsewhere, so it would be a shock if he didn't return on a cheap deal. Beasley has certainly had some big moments this year, so he could be brought back as well.
Chalmers is probably the most interesting case. He's played a big role in the previous championships, so it would seem obvious to bring him back. Will he be willing to take just a one-year deal, though? The Heat likely don't want to be stuck with a salary commitment beyond the life of the Big Three, so that could complicate things a bit.
Let's assume that Chalmers sticks around, though. That would put Miami's roster at 9, which leaves room for five or six more players at the max. By this point, Miami should be over the projected luxury-tax line of $75.7 million and over the apron for exceptions. That's important because Miami will only have the tax-payer mid-level exception at their disposal ($3.27 million) instead of the full mid-level ($5.3 million).
Miami owns their first- and second-round picks this year, so let's pencil in two roster spots there. That brings us to 11 players.
With that in mind, let's find Miami four more players to target in free agency.
It may seem odd for the Miami Heat to raid the Charlotte Bobcats for talent, but it might be wise to.
Charlotte has two intelligent big men who could be hitting the open market this offseason.
Although Josh McRoberts has a player option worth $2.7 million, it's possible he'll opt out for a longer or bigger deal. McRoberts has earned as much with his play this season, as he's averaging five assists per 36 minutes, defending surprisingly well and shooting 36 percent from behind the arc. If McRoberts was looking to move to a contender, Miami would be a nice fit.
If McRoberts stays, though, another Bobcats forward could fit the bill. Anthony Tolliver has really carved out a role as a floor-spacer, as he's shooting 40.4 percent from behind the arc this season with a whopping 2.7 makes per 36 minutes from deep. Tolliver is unrestricted and is probably a more likely candidate than McRoberts, since he would probably take a minimum deal in Miami.
There are alternative options outside of Charlotte, of course. New Orleans Pelicans big man Jason Smith is unrestricted and should come cheap given his health history, and he's absolutely deadly in the pick-and-pop game.
Kris Humphries (unrestricted) is another guy with some mid-range skills who isn't afraid to hit the glass, either.
Stealing Boris Diaw (unrestricted) from the Spurs at the tax MLE may be unlikely, but that would be an intriguing fit.
Even a guy like Chris Kaman (unrestricted) could space the floor some and provide raw size.
There are plenty of options here, and it would be a surprise if Miami didn't pounce on a big man with shooting ability to supplement Bosh, Birdman and Oden.
With Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade both getting up there, the Heat could probably stand to add some lively legs out on the perimeter defensively.
Luckily, there are a few players who fit the bill.
Maybe the best option is Memphis Grizzlies forward James Johnson, who really causes problems on both ends with his length, size and athleticism.
Johnson is averaging 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, which are outstanding numbers few players in NBA history can reach. Johnson is also a pretty capable distributor, as he averages 4.2 assists per 36 minutes.
I'm not sure how the 27-year-old forward flew under the radar for so long, but he'll earn himself a contract this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. If the Heat are convinced he won't kill their spacing (he's a 26.5 percent career three-point shooter), Johnson would be a scary addition defensively next to LeBron James.
If Johnson isn't a good enough fit, perhaps Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha would be. He's had plenty of experience playing with stars and spotting up off the ball, after all, and his defense is still a pretty big asset, even if it's slipped a bit as of late.
A veteran-minimum option could be Utah Jazz forward Marvin Williams, who could really play well in this system as a hybrid 3/4 like Battier. If the Heat are willing to spend more, Shawn Marion might be inclined to chase a ring at age 36 on a one-year deal. He can still get it done on that end.
Scoring Sixth Man
If Miami is looking for a little more scoring punch, particularly given the health of Dwyane Wade, signing a capable scoring guard in a sixth-man role might be a perfect way to accomplish that.
There will be a few players out there this season who could do that. Ramon Sessions (unrestricted) has bounced around the league, but he's always been a capable scorer who can draw fouls at an alarming rate (6.1 FTA per 36 minutes). Patty Mills is another small-sized guard who can really fill it up for a team's second unit.
If the Heat want a scorer with a little more size, Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott is like a very poor man's Carmelo Anthony, although he's a restricted free agent. MarShon Brooks has shown the ability to create his own shot, even if that's about all he can do.
Finding a capable and affordable sixth man may be the most difficult hole to fill, so perhaps Miami will look to address that in the draft instead.
If the Heat do lose Ray Allen to retirement, or even if they don't, adding shooting will likely be a priority.
Unfortunately, that will be just about every other team's priority as well. More and more, teams are relying on three-point specialists, so they'll be snatched up quick this offseason.
There are plenty of options available, though. Lakers guard Jodie Meeks is shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc this season. Steve Blake is a solid veteran option who can switch between both guard spots and knock down open jumpers. Jimmer Fredette is over 40 percent from three-point land for his career. Richard Jefferson is getting up there, but teams have to respect his spot-up capabilities.
Vince Carter is still a pretty productive player and is hitting 38.7 percent of his threes this year. A minimum contract for a shot at a ring might be appealing. If the Heat want to go younger, C.J. Miles brings similar size on the wing and is shooting 39.3 percent from deep.
As you can see, there are many different directions to go. Luckily, Miami is a shooter's paradise thanks to their system and LeBron, so recruiting a great shooter on the cheap shouldn't be all that difficult.
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