While the playoffs are undoubtedly the most exciting part of the NBA season, the offseason follows closely behind. A plethora of players change teams each July to the extent of changing a franchise, all the way down to simply becoming a perfect role player on an already stellar roster.
The Miami Heat acquired Shane Battier last season, and he became the undoubted x-factor in their title run. The controversial signing of Ray Allen this year was a major headline, and he's proved to have made the right decision leaving Boston. For the Heat, exercising the team option on Mario Chalmers' contract should be their major move this offseason.
Chalmers' infuriating inconsistency has marred his reputation thus far, but he remains instrumental to Miami's success. In wins this season, Chalmers averaged 9.5 points on 43.8 percent shooting from long range. He converted on 45.3 percent of his overall shots, and also chimed in with 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals in 27.6 minutes.
In the few 16 games that were losses for the Heat, Chalmers' production dropped to 5.0 points, 2.9 assists and 0.9 steals. He shot just 30.6 percent from the field, with an abysmal percentage of 24.4 from the three-point line.
While Chalmers isn't considered a big part of Miami's achievements, his statistical output in victories and defeats tells a different story. His overall effect on the team is apparent too.
The Heat post an offensive rating of 114.0 with him on the court, in addition to a 99.1 defensive rating. Such a statistic measures points scored per 100 possessions, which makes it easier to quantify a team's efficiency in a specific context. Miami knocks down a stellar 47 percent of their mid-range attempts with Chalmers in the game, which is directly relative to his long-range stroke and keeping the middle open for shots.
When Chalmers heads to the bench, we see the Heat's offensive and defensive rating drop to 106.3 and 103.7, respectively. Miami hits just 37 percent from mid-range, which may be due to Chris Bosh's absence as well. The Heat shoot 36 percent from mid-range minus Bosh, so while a lower percentage sans Chalmers may be due to the team's rotation, it should not take away from what Chalmers does to the offense.
The guard's contract for next season is $4 million, which is more or less the amount the Heat would have available in free agency. Miami can only use the mini mid-level exception as they are over the luxury tax limit, which equates to about $3.5 million.
The chances are slim that the organization will find a serviceable point guard at that price, especially with the skills and experience Chalmers offers. His offense and defense are perfect for the Heat's system, with the mettle to make shots down the stretch.
Chalmers' chemistry and experience with the team is almost flawless, save for a few errant passes and head-scratching turnovers here and there. The one-two punch of himself and Norris Cole at the 1 has proved effective for the Heat, despite Chalmers struggling thus far in the postseason.
Miami's front office is intelligent enough to not base their decision on his play in the playoffs, and would be making a mistake to let Chalmers walk. If the Heat decide to retain the point guard, they would still have the option of using the mini mid-level exception if they chose to.
By doing so they'd be able to re-sign integral players like Chris Andersen or any other role players available, or split the exception amongst two roster spots. If he receives his first championship ring this season, Andersen would most likely be satisfied returning on a minimum deal. However, Miami shouldn't gamble on their future, with the payroll already in jeopardy due to the league's new CBA.
Chalmers has proved he belongs in South Beach in his five seasons with the Heat, and has developed into the two-way veteran point guard the Heat need. Relinquishing the chance to bring him back after this season would be an error of Miami's part, but as aforementioned, they've made moves radiating pure genius in the past. It would be a complete surprise if they don't keep Chalmers, as he's certainly earned his keep for the Heat.