This piece regarding 2014 free agents is a little ambitious to say the least.
For one, we don’t even know if the whole ‘Big Three’ is sticking around. Even just one of them leaving will affect how the Heat front office treats free agency this year, especially if they wind up having $100 million worth of a contract freed up for another free agent.
It all depends on how the Heat finish off the season. If they win a third consecutive title, then it’s doubtful the ‘Big Three’ decide to cut ties a few months after completing the first threepeat since the dominant Kobe-Shaq Laker teams of the early 2000’s.
But a loss to Indiana in the Conference Finals? Then maybe Chris Bosh considers if being a third scoring option on a paycut that’s constantly getting criticized for his numbers is really worth it.
For the sake of this article, we’ll just assume the Heat win the title this year and Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade decide to stay. Even if those three return, that will only be four Heat players signed on to play in the 2014-15 season.
Besides the ‘Big Three’, Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason, Jr., Greg Oden and Toney Douglas are all free agents.
Norris Cole is the only player signed on through next year. When free agency rolls around and if the ‘Big Three’ opt-out, the Heat will only have one player on their roster.
There’s going to be some changes. Many of the players on the Heat’s roster are nearing retirement, including Battier and Ray Allen, leaving the team with many vacancies on its roster, especially on the bench.
We’ve taken a look at five free agents the Heat could look up when creating what could be an entirely new roster surrounding the ‘Big Three’.
It’s been clearer than ever before: the Heat’s biggest need is an athletic defensive stopper who specializes on the perimeter.
Miami’s lone perimeter athlete off the bench is Michael Beasley. In case you haven’t noticed, Beasley isn’t exactly a presence on the defensive end. Much of the same problems exist from years past where he still gets lost on defense and is slow on rotations.
The ideal free agent to fit the bill would be current Washington Wizards swingman, Trevor Ariza.
Per Synergy, Ariza is holding ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll to 37 percent shooting and those who use isolation to 39 percent.
Ariza, who will be 29 next year, specializes in being a defensive stopper, most recently holding Kevin Durant to one of his worst games in the past month, as well as being a threat on the offensive end from beyond the arc. On nearly six three-point attempts per game this year, Ariza is shooting a career-high 39 percent.
He’s also averaging a career-high 6.1 boards. His current PER of 16 is the second-highest of his career.
The Heat should be wary of that three-point percentage, though. Ariza is a career 33 percent shooter from deep and has shot above 36 percent only the past two years. One has to wonder if he’s going to continue developing or if his shooting is going to eventually bottom out.
With Shane Battier possibly retiring after this season, a perimeter defensive stopper becomes an imperative need of Miami’s. Ariza could be the frontrunner this summer to fill the void Battier will end up leaving behind, with the Heat needing someone who can ease the defensive burden off of LeBron.
Ariza also has championship experience playing with the 2009 Los Angeles Lakers, which is always of importance to a Heat team that needs players who won’t falter under the bright lights. He averaged 11.3 points and shot 48 percent from deep in 23 playoff games, all of which he started, and shot 42 percent from three in his team’s NBA Finals win over Orlando.
The only problem is that Ariza may end up being the highest-paid player outside of the ‘Big Three’ if he does in fact sign with Miami. He’s played very well this season, meaning that he could be offered some lucrative deals from elsewhere.
Another ideal candidate to become the Heat’s next bench star, Luol Deng would be perfect for a role that asks of participants to play out of their comfort zone and with heavy minutes.
Thanks to Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Deng has plenty of experience playing an extraordinary amount of minutes, leading the league in minutes per the past two years. He’s averaged at least 38 minutes of playing time over the past four seasons, but that should end after this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers holding Deng to 33 minutes per contest.
Deng isn’t staying in Cleveland. He’s already let it be known how stunned he is regarding how the team is run in comparison to Chicago. There’s also a strong chance he may just end up back with the Bulls after being traded for Andrew Bynum and three draft picks.
Deng had spent the first nine-and-a-half years of his career in Chicago before getting sent to Cleveland. He averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game with the team who drafted him as a 19-year-old.
What Deng provides besides an incredible work ethic is a brilliant commitment to defense, where he excels as a one-on-one perimeter defender, and an ability to do a little bit of it all on offense. He’s a subpar three-point shooter, although he’s shooting 38 percent with Cleveland in 12 games, but is a solid mid-range threat that also has the athleticism and stride to get to the rim and finish.
Deng’s defense would be a huge boost for the Heat, though, especially in the dog days of the season. Defense can sometimes be at a loss involving the Heat, which we all know very well of by now this season. Deng, however, has never been the type to take a few possessions off, and that stems from playing on Chicago teams that have preached defensive intensity over a full 48 minutes.
For the Bulls this year, Deng was among the league’s top defenders, holding opponents to 36 percent overall shooting, per Synergy. Pick-and-roll ball-handlers were held to 31 percent shooting, those who utilized to to 30 percent, and those who post-up to 29 percent.
On top of being a punchline on late-night talk shows, Kris Humphries also doubles as an excellent offensive rebounder and surprisingly decent mid-range threat.
Humphries has converted 43 percent of the 89 attempts he’s taken in he 16-25 foot range in 40 games with the Boston Celtics this season. In his first year with Boston, Kris is averaging 7.9 points and six boards per game, while shooting 52 percent and averaging nearly 20 minutes per contest.
His current role certainly isn’t similar to what it was two years ago when he was consistently starting for the New Jersey Nets and averaging double-doubles, including the 13.8 points and 11 rebounds he dropped back in 2012.
Since then, Humphries has struggled to find consistent minutes, eventually leading to being traded to the Celtics. His highs for the season include 18-point outings against Denver, Atlanta and Orlando, as well as 14-rebound outing against Golden State and a 14-point, 13-rebound night against Miami.
It’s impossible to know what the Heat will look like next year, but there’s a chance Chris Andersen and Greg Oden may no longer be here. Oden could earn a larger deal elsewhere and ‘Birdman’ will be 36 years old.
Either way, someone who can rebound like Humphries can is worth signing if he comes cheap, which could occur with his role and overall existence currently buried in Boston.
At his best, Humphries was averaging 3.8 offensive boards per back in 2012, good enough for fourth in the league.
Consider Vince Carter as that veteran who’s likely to take the minimum with the Miami Heat because he’s nearing the end of his career and wants a ring.
It shouldn’t surprise anybody if Carter comes knocking on the Heat’s door next year. It’s up to the Heat if they want to answer for the 38-year-old currently shooting a career-low 41 percent from the field.
His PER of 15 is down from last year, but is actually better than what he put up as a 35-year-old in his first year with Dallas. In 47 games this year with the Mavericks, all of which he came off the bench for, Carter is averaging 11.4 points, shooting 36 percent from deep, grabbing 3.3 boards and dishing out 2.8 dimes per contest.
Vince was shooting 41 percent on five three-point attempts per contest last year. He’s shooting a shade below 38 percent for his career.
Carter just comes off as someone who wants to end their career in a sunny location where a championship is a strong likelihood. He could follow in the footsteps of other veterans who have spent or are planning on spending their remaining basketball-playing years with Miami.
You know, guys like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen, Mike Bibby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier, and Rashard Lewis. The money isn’t great, but the reward at the end of the day and spending the final years of your career in a well-run organization that contends for titles in the most appealing location in sports is a solid trade-off.
You forgot he was in the league, too, right?
Well, Emeka Okafor is still very much a part of the NBA. The reason why you haven’t heard his name lately is because he hasn’t played a single game this year due to neck surgery. He’s currently with the Phoenix Suns following a trade from Washington that sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards.
When playing, Okafor ranks among the league’s top defensive centers. He’s averaging 1.7 blocks per contest over his career, although he’s only ranked one block per over the past two years.
At his best, Okafor was averaging 14.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest with the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2007. He was also among the league’s ironmen, playing in all 82 games in three consecutive seasons. Injuries, however, have ravaged his career recently as he has yet to play in a game this year, and played in only 27 games two years ago with New Orleans.
Okafor averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 boards per contest in 79 games with the Wizards last year.
He’s currently earning $15 million per season and has already made $89 million for a career that has included no trips to the All-Star game. With such little attention being generated, Okafor could be another player who the Heat could pickup for cheap because of his lack of playing time recently.
He’s almost redundant with Andersen also on the team, but, once again, ‘Birdman’ is 36 years old, while Okafor will be 32 at the start of next season. For the right price, Okafor would be a solid rim deterrent for the Heat next season.