3 Moves Miami Heat Could Have Made at the NBA Trade Deadline
Patience has been a virtue within the Miami Heat organization over the past two-and-a-half seasons.
That staggering amount of patience, while also keeping a deaf ear to their numerous critics, detractors and know-it-alls, has paid off in tremendous dividends. This team has recognized every last one of its flaws and it has addressed each one of those issues within the organization, with the lone exceptions being a few midseason signings that resulted in the Heat taking a $1 million hit.
While there was a minimal belief the Heat were poised to make a move prior to the trade deadline, the organization maintained its usual silence and brought in no new players. Miami did make a trade that sent center Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, but it resulted in nothing more than a trade exception and the draft rights to a player you'll never see.
Basically, the Heat valued an empty seat over paying another $1 million to Pittman.
It appears doubtful the Heat fill in that empty roster seat, especially with Chris Andersen filling in as the resident big and Kenyon Martin now off the market. Miami is also expected to take a big hit from penalties caused by the luxury tax, rendering the Pittman deal as a possible slight salary dump.
It's only $1 million, but anything would help by this point. The Heat are going to end up being $15 million over the luxury tax and there doesn't appear to be any possibility of gutting of the roster, similar to what the Chicago Bulls did to their former elite bench, in order to avoid paying a drastic amount of money.
There was no need for the Heat to make any sort of move this past trade deadline, even if the team has a supposed rebounding problem. What so many fail to realize is the lack of offensive rebounds is caused by the team's league-best field-goal percentage.
As for their league-worst overall rebounding? The margin between themselves and their opponents is only two.
Miami had a championship-caliber roster the past two years and they have one now. There wasn't a move that had to be done by the Heat. Dexter Pittman won't be missed and Heat fans are beginning to settle in knowing that they'll never see Ricky Sanchez, who will be called the "Puerto Rican Dirk Nowitzki" by those who assume every seven-footer who can shoot is a future Hall of Famer.
The Heat may not have had to make a move, but there were a few that could have been made.
There's little doubt around the league that this Heat team is going to represent the East once the NBA Finals roll around. The Heat brought two inferior rosters to the Finals the past two seasons and it's most likely going to happen again. That's not just because the Heat are playing their best basketball of the "Big Three" era, but also because the East is in shambles.
However, there is a need to begin preparing for the future. Miami's role players have been nothing short of excellent this season, but there are quite a few that are on the wrong side of 30. There is a good deal of dependence on guys like a 37-year-old Ray Allen, 34-year-old Shane Battier and a 32-year-old Udonis Haslem, who sometimes plays as if he's on the wrong end of 40.
Yes, this team is absolutely in win-now mode, which is why one of the few young players on this team was traded for more room at the end of the bench.
However, there will eventually be a call for some younger talent because of the age of the Heat's most significant role players.
Of course Allen and Battier can shoot until they're 40, but they're playing on a team that likes to run and needs quick rotations on defense to commence the running. Outside of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the only players under the age of 30 that get consistent playing time are the two point guards—Mario Chalmers and, arguably the team's lone trade asset outside of the "Big Three," Norris Cole.
Throw in those pesky luxury tax penalties that will soon begin and a move this past trade deadline may not have been such a throwaway idea.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Package Mike Miller in a deal with Dexter Pittman
Nobody will forget Mike Miller's legendary Game 5 performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder. His 7-of-8 shooting display from beyond the arc helped lead the Heat to a blowout victory in the decisive game that won the Heat their second championship, as well as tying an NBA Finals record for total three-pointers in a game by a team with 14.
Miller has it in him to have those performances, but the Heat coaching staff has chosen to keep him on the bench. He's averaging a paltry 3.6 points per game on 39 percent shooting and is converting less than a three-pointer per game on 37 percent shooting. In 39 games this year, Miller has four games with at least 10 points.
He's played one game in the month of February. In that one game, Miller missed all four of his field goals, including all three of his three-pointers. Suddenly, his intangibles just haven't been as important as they have been, and the introductions of Allen and Rashard Lewis have caused a drop in his minutes.
Miller went from 20 minutes per game in his first two Heat seasons to a meager 13 minutes per game this year.
While Miller sits on the bench, he's the fourth highest earner on this team, raking in $6 million per year over the next two seasons. Miami will be paying $12 million for an oft-injured swingman who doesn't play and was recently contemplating back surgery over the summer that would have put an end to his NBA career.
There have been reports from Ira Winderman that bring up the idea of an amnesty this summer, but that still leaves the Heat paying a majority of Miller's lucrative deal.
It's understood that Miller is a tough sell. After all, he just turned 33, has been dealing with devastating injuries the past three years and, as stated before, a team would have had to been willing to give $12 million over the next two seasons to Miller.
But Miami would have been in a far better position come offseason when the luxury tax is in full force and the organization is unnecessarily paying $60 million. Losing Miller wouldn't have been a solution, but it would have been a start that also could have brought in some young talent for a low price.
2. A stronger push for DeJuan Blair or JJ Hickson
Outside of Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat look extremely thin when it comes to their situation at the 4 and 5. That was made apparent last season when Bosh went down in Game 1 of the Heat's second-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Miami was left scrambling for answers, even going as far as starting Dexter Pittman in Game 3.
The Heat eventually threw in the likes of James, Battier and Ronny Turiaf to play the 4 and 5. If Bosh hadn't returned as early as possible, the Heat may not have ended up representing the East in the 2012 NBA Finals.
Miami hasn't gotten much better at that aspect. They signed Rashard Lewis over the offseason and Andersen last month. If Bosh goes down with another injury, it's Haslem, Lewis and Andersen to the rescue again.
ESPN's Chris Broussard brought up the Heat looking into DeJuan Blair, but nothing came of it. The 6'7" forward has found his minutes dropping because of an increase in the playing time for Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard. As a result, Blair is averaging a career-low 13 minutes of playing time per game.
Blair is an average shooter—he converted 38 percent of his jumpers last year—but his strongest suit is being a force under the rim. Despite being significantly undersized to play power forward, Blair had carved out a niche with the Spurs as a player who gives his team second chances on the offensive glass.
He was averaging at least four offensive rebounds per 36 minutes in his first three years with San Antonio. The lone problem is that his range is incredibly limited once he's beyond 15 feet.
What Blair lacks in a jump shot he makes up for in an ability to finish around the rim.
Another possible option was LeBron James' forever Cleveland Cavaliers teammate, J.J. Hickson. The starting center for the Portland Trail Blazers has had a great bounce-back season, averaging 12 points and 10 boards, but was still at the center of trade rumors last week. He is making a bargain-bin worthy $2.3 million from Portland, who picked him up after he was waived by Sacramento last March.
Hickson will certainly make his money this coming offseason, but there was a chance for Miami to obtain him if they offered the right pieces. Hickson is converting 47 percent of his jumpers, which would vault him as a starter over the Heat's current starting power forward, Udonis Haslem.
Were you expecting him to take Chris Bosh's spot?
Miami fans have a soft spot for Haslem, but the fans aren't blind. Haslem just isn't the same player he was prior to tearing a ligament in his foot early on in the 2010-11 campaign. He's garnering a career-low 19 minutes per game this season.
Even though he's a starter, minutes are thin due to foul trouble, how well Battier has played the position, and the fact that Haslem can no longer consistently convert a jumper. He's making 32 percent of his jumpers, most of them coming on wide-open looks caused by Miami's ball movement.
At 23 years old, Blair could have been a bargain for Miami. He was being heavily shopped by the Spurs and a move could have possibly been made if the Heat sent a first-round pick, James Jones and possibly Joel Anthony for the services of the seldom-used power forward.
What Blair and Hickson can't provide for the Heat that Haslem can on a nightly basis, however? An unmatched loyalty to his franchise and a devotion to being everybody's big brother.
3. A stronger push for Timofey Mozgov
Ideas are thin when you consider just what the Heat could have actually done this past week.
They have two trade assets that are worth any value. Those are the Heat's lone true point guards, and Miami wasn't about to let loose an excellent off-ball defender and perimeter shooter in Chalmers or a superb on-ball defender and mid-range threat in Cole.
Plus, they're currently 39-14 and are riding a 10-game winning streak as this is being written. There isn't an essential need for a specific part of the floor. The only reasoning behind a trade would have either been an investment in youth or an investment in not investing at all and simply making trades that would subtract a few salaries.
Of the few rumors surrounding the Heat leading up to the trade deadline, the lone deal that was actually discussed was one that would have brought in Timofey Mozgov.
Mozgov, standing at a towering 7'1", is currently the third-string center for a deep Denver Nuggets team. He started in 35 games for the Nuggets last year and averaged 5.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and a block per game in what was usually 16 minutes of action.
However, those minutes, and starts, have been nonexistent with the increased roles of JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, as well as the inclusion of Andre Iguodala in the frontcourt.
The Russian-born center has played in only 31 games this year and hasn't played since February 13th.
Turning 27 in July and taking in only $3.4 million renders Mozgov as one of the cheapest reliable centers in the NBA. It's understood that Andersen is already on the team, but he's also 34-years old and has a high possibility of not being re-signed next year.
Mozgov, on the other hand, would have been a wiser investment as someone who could have an influence on both sides of the glass over the next few seasons. The reason why there are a few highlight reel posters of him is because he's doing his job as a shot-blocker, something the Heat lack outside of Andersen and Anthony.
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