The Miami Heat are a pretty good team. That's what happens when you put three of the best basketball players of this current generation onto the court at once, and they develop some charisma.
It shouldn't work. Much like the Lakers for this coming season, people look at teams with an abundance of superstars as weak for the sole reason that superstars are considered "ball-hogs".
The Miami Heat had arguably one of the best offseasons prior to the 2010-2011 season when they signed Chris Bosh and LeBron James to massive contracts to play alongside Dwyane Wade. It's considered one of the best "big threes" ever put together, and the fact that the Heat were able to make room in the regulations of the salary cap still baffles me.
We all know what happened next. The Miami Heat charged their way through the regular season and the playoffs before losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the championship series.
That was not something they would allow two years in a row.
Instead, the Heat worked their way through the shortened season and met Oklahoma City in one of the most highly anticipated NBA championships of all time.
It did not quite live up to that billing. The Miami Heat quickly dispatched of OKC in only five games, giving LeBron and Bosh their first titles in the NBA and bringing the trophy back to Miami for the first time since 2006.
I'll put it bluntly, the Heat don't have a lot of room to work with next season, as far as free agency goes. They are about $25 million over the salary cap this season, and next season they'll be nearly $30 million over if all options are accepted. The biggest contract coming off the books will potentially be Mario Chalmers, who has a team option for $4 million dollars.
The Heat still have their amnesty clause, and with the help of a few exceptions in the draft, they could potentially add some decent pieces to what is already a fairly complete puzzle.
I'm taking a practical approach with this slideshow. Superstars like Chris Paul aren't going to be on the list, simply because the Heat just can't afford them. The guys I'm listing here are all going to come relatively cheap and would fill what few holes the Heat have.
There's always room to get better, and the four guys I'm about to talk about would all be able to contribute to Miami in their own ways.
2011/12 Stats: 10.5 MPG, 4.4 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, .391 FG%, .373 3P%
This was the first guy who came to mind when I started writing this article. Goudelock is an extremely talented young guard who, if given the time, can excel in the NBA.
He didn't get much playing time with the Lakers last year, mostly because he had to play behind a guy named Kobe Bryant, but when he did get minutes he was fairly effective.
The Heat have plenty of scorers starting, and they're pretty set at shooting guard with Dwyane Wade, but Goudelock is cheap and a potentially very good option to clock minutes so that Wade can get some rest.
Goudelock was a standout star at the College of Charleston, and I got to see him play once in person. He's electric when he's given the chance to perform, and he would provide an excellent spark off of Miami's otherwise lackluster bench.
Since Kobe Bryant is staying with the Los Angeles Lakers through at least next year (probably longer) and Steve Nash is now on board with the Lakers, Goudelock looks primed to ride the pine for most of the season again, which really is too bad considering how he is a very talented player.
He will be an unrestricted free agent next season, and there will likely be at least a few teams trying to sign him to come off the bench and provide 20 or so minutes per game as a combo guard. The Heat should be one of those teams.
2011/12 Stats: 25.8 MPG, 5.4 APG, 2.6 RPG, 0.9 SPG, .430 FG%
The Heat's biggest weakness (aside from depth) is at point guard. Mario Chalmers has been adequate but not great, and Norris Cole has been inconsistent off the bench.
They both have team options for the 2013/14 season, and if the Heat decide that they want an upgrade at that position, they could opt out of one or both of them, but that likely won't happen.
If the Heat do end up opting out of Chalmers' contract, they'll be looking for a starter at point guard at a relatively cheap price. The ideal PG in the current Heat system is someone who doesn't take too many shots and is more of a facilitator for the team. In other words, someone who can rack up assists.
The Heat should be paying close attention to what goes on in New Orleans this coming year. If the Hornets are confident that Austin Rivers is their PG of the future and decide not to pick up Greivis Vasquez's option, Miami would be wise to swoop in and grab the former Maryland star.
Vasquez is a great option at the point, he capably and confidently runs the show when he is on the floor, and he's a facilitator—all exactly what the Heat need.
Chalmers and Cole are both good players that just don't quite fit in Miami's superstar-powered system. They both want to score, and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the court at the same time as you, that just isn't going to happen very often.
Vasquez, if the Hornets do not pick up his option, would be a solid addition and upgrade over both Cole and Chalmers.
2011/12 Stats: 21.3 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, .534 FG%
DeJuan Blair is the definition of a "tweener" forward. He only measures in at 6'7", but he plays the power forward position against guys who are usually anywhere from two to five inches taller than him, and often times he gets the better of the big guys.
He plays intelligent, physical basketball. His five-and-a-half rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game would equal out to 9.3 RPG per 36 MPG, and his three year career average is 11.3 rebounds per 36.
All of this from a guy the size of a large shooting guard? Completely ridiculous. Watching him play you'll see how thirsty he is to prove himself amongst the bigger guys, and you'll see how physical he is on the boards.
You'll also see that he doesn't take bad shots. He has a career field goal percentage of .528, making him an extremely efficient scorer.
His Player Efficiency Rating has never dropped below 17, making him an above average player in the league. He's the poster child for guys drafted later or not at all because of size. Blair should be a role model for guys like Draymond Green. Like Blair, Green was drafted in the second round because of his tweener size, but Green is as physical and as capable of rebounding and scoring as the big guys he's matched up against.
It's almost like they're playing with a chip on their shoulder.
Blair will be a UFA in 2013, and he could come at a bargain to whatever team steps up and grabs him. He's only making $1.1 million right now, but he'll most likely be given a significant raise.
In Miami's lineup, Blair could flourish. It's a lineup that doesn't really go off of position and one in which players move fluidly on the court. Given his size, Blair would be free to play his style of play without having to worry about defending players that have several inches on him (even though he probably still will).
The Heat would get a potential starter (he started in all but two games last season with the Spurs), and someone who could easily post 25 minutes per game. He would give starters some rest but also provide productive minutes.
2011/12 Stats: 19.0 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 BPG, .618 FG%
I think Splitter should be Miami's No. 1 target going into next offseason. He will be a UFA and is currently making $3.9 million with the San Antonio Spurs to play in a fairly limited capacity,
Looking at those numbers above—they are fairly eye-popping. He shoots with phenomenal consistency, plays good defense and is a capable rebounder.
If he was given the starting job in Miami, the team would instantly see the impact. He would average nearly a double-double every night if he was given the minutes, and he would provide defense in the paint. The Heat's current lineup of centers is fairly pale, and Splitter would definitely be an improvement over the current offerings.
Adding splitter would take a lot of the defensive pressures off of Chris Bosh as well. Bosh is a solid defender, but his talents are better suited for power forward. This means Bosh would get more freedom away from the glass while Splitter defends the post.
If the Heat go this route, they're likely going to have to forego all other free-agent options, and it stands to reason that the Spurs are going to want to hang on to at least one of the two players I've listed (the other being DeJuan Blair).
But grabbing Splitter would be worth it, and locking up the young center for a few years would be just like adding another potential star talent to the roster.
It almost makes too much sense.