Most Intriguing Free Agents for Miami Heat to Sign Using Mid-Level Exception
Thanks to their star-studded roster, the Miami Heat have the honor of paying luxury tax—which means they won't be able to offer the max $5 million mid-level exception this offseason.
That doesn't mean they're out of luck though. Miami can still offer a max three-year, $3 million mid-level exception, which certainly gives it some wiggle room to add a veteran player to bolster its roster.
Adding a player with the mid-level exception is the Heat's only option to add significant talent, because aside from that they only have minimum salaries to sign players.
So whom should the Heat pursue with their mid-level exception?
Well, the first player they should pursue is a no-brainer who's actually on their roster right now—Chris Andersen.
Chris Andersen, C, Miami Heat
Heading into this season, the Heat's biggest weakness was a lack of interior depth. They attacked that weakness by signing Andersen midway through the season, and it's worked out pretty well so far.
In 62 games played this season—including up to Game 1 of the NBA Finals—Andersen is averaging 5.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 17.6 minutes per game.
That's not too shabby for a guy who was watching the first half of the NBA season from his couch.
Not only is Andersen a long and athletic defender capable of protecting the rim, but he's also the kind of player who brings serious energy off the bench.
Honestly, the Heat's biggest challenge this offseason will be inking Andersen to the mid-level exception, because other contenders who could use his talents can offer him some more cash.
The only way the Heat will bring him back is if they win the 2013 NBA title. If they do that, Andersen would be a fool to leave Miami. Well, not really a fool, but it would be his best opportunity to win multiple rings—which I'd imagine is somewhat important to him.
Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies
Aside from interior depth, which is obviously something Miami needs and will continue to need as long as it has Chris Bosh solidifying the paint, the biggest need is perimeter defense.
Enter Tony Allen, one of the most tenacious defenders in the entire NBA.
This past season Allen made $3.3 million, which is right around what the Heat could offer him with their mid-level exception.
While the Memphis Grizzlies would be extremely foolish to let him look elsewhere, I'm sure Allen will at least test the waters in free agency this summer. The one thing holding the Heat back from being a front-runner for a guy like Allen is that he's already won an NBA title.
Allen got his first and only ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and while winning another title is enticing, I'm sure cash flow is a bit more tempting since he's already wearing a ring.
If for some reason Allen decides he wants to make as much as he did last year and have a solid shot at a few more titles, the Heat would be his best option.
He would bring serious defensive intensity to the Heat's backcourt, and he would solidify the Heat's depth in their second unit. It wouldn't be a bad gig for a player who will be turning 32 next season.
Brandon Wright, PF/C, Dallas Mavericks
This one may be a stretch because he's even smaller than the weakling known as Chris Bosh who the Heat have solidifying their interior.
With that being said, Wright is a more intense, physical and post-focused player.
Over the past two seasons, he's posted a PER above 21, and last year he scored 8.5 points, grabbed 4.1 rebounds and blocked 1.2 shots in 18 minutes per game.
Wright should only be on the Heat's roster if they can't manage to re-sign Chris Andersen, because honestly giving Wright near $3 million per year is a bit of a stretch, even if he has serious potential at the young age of 25.
Matt Barnes, SF, L.A. Clippers
The final free agent the Heat should have their eyes on this offseason is Matt Barnes, the feisty and tenacious defender who's spent most of his career on the West Coast.
Barnes is a solid defender, along the lines of Chris Andersen, who's physical and knows how to get under his opponent's skin at the same time.
I'm sure Barnes has moved past those moments and could be a productive and solid member of one of the best teams in the league.
In addition to his stingy perimeter defense, Barnes also has a tendency to explode offensively once in a while—take for example the 21 times he scored at least 14 points this past season.
Barnes would be a great addition to a Heat team that will be looking to add defensive pressure out on the perimeter.
The Heat certainly have a lot of options when it comes to using their mid-level exception this offseason, and it will be exciting to see whom they add to their team.
It's safe to say that the player they end up with will go a long way in helping them remain a title contender or head in the opposite direction.
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