Miami Heat 2013 NBA Free-Agency Primer: What You Need to Know

John FrielAnalyst IJuly 5, 2013

Miami Heat 2013 NBA Free-Agency Primer: What You Need to Know

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    It's understood that LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat need a long and deserved break after taking home their second consecutive title in thrilling fashion, but it certainly doesn't ease the anxiety and withdrawals the fanbase is dealing with due to there being a lack of basketball.

    The summer league that begins July 13th will quell that anxiousness, but there's also a free-agency period that should draw plenty of interest. Although the Heat aren't likely to make as big a splash as last year when they signed Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, or possibly even the year before when they signed Shane Battier, there is a sense of urgency from this offseason that could carry over into 2014.

    In 2014, the Big Three will be eligible to opt out of their current contracts and become free agents. Not only that, but several key players will be facing the possibility of retirement, which would leave the Heat down a number of pieces of its supporting cast.

    Consider this year's offseason as one that will be utilized for winning now and later. The Heat obviously don't want to be stagnant, but they also have to be cost-effective, choosing players who are willing to accept a minor role on the bench without complaint. It's unlikely Dwight Howard will be joining the Heat, but who knows by this point. Still, there will be several names that could entice Miami into making a deal.

    Outside of free agency, the Heat will also have decisions to make of their own within the organization. They have two players who will become free agents, as well as two players whose salaries being cut or traded away could greatly help the Heat come the time when luxury tax begins playing a factor.

    The Heat will remain quiet over the next few weeks as they wait for the league's 29 other teams to make their moves. Once all of the primary meat is gone, the Heat will be there to pick the bones and find whatever remnants that could possibly serve a purpose on next year's team.

What Do They Need?

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    Pat Riley learned from his mistakes after the Miami Heat's first championship victory in 2006. The summer offseason came and went, and Riley and the Heat organization remained stagnant, allowing a roster of satisfied veterans to become complacent and a lack of young talent to give the needed boost to contend for a second consecutive title.

    When the Heat won the title in 2012, however, Riley pulled some strings and recruited the shooting prowess of both Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. It was a way of not only adding new dimensions to the team, but adding players that were only motivated to win and not by money. Allen wanted to retire a winner, and Lewis wanted some hardware. It worked out for everybody.

    The same can be said for this summer's offseason. The Heat are the defending back-to-back champions with the league's best player and an upcoming summer full of rest for each and every key player, but they must remain vigilant and counter the free-agency moves being made by future postseason opponents.

    Say, a team like the Indiana Pacers? Or perhaps one like the Chicago Bulls? The Pacers, thus far, have only improved by adding point guard C.J. Watson and could only continue to boost the stock of their bench if they can steal Chris Copeland from the New York Knicks. Although not hugely significant additions, they are huge step-ups from D.J. Augustin and Sam Young.

    The Bulls will have Derrick Rose back. Whether it'll take him a few months to get acclimated back to the pace of the NBA, it's still better than Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague. By a lot. Even without Rose, the Bulls pushed the Heat in three out of the five games they played in their semifinals series.

    Both those teams share the characteristic of heavily relying on their frontcourt on both sides of the ball. The Bulls possess arguably the league's Defensive Player of the Year last season in Joakim Noah, as well as a solid scorer in Carlos Boozer and defenders in Nazr Mohammed and Taj Gibson.

    Meanwhile, the Pacers were nightmare fuel to the likes of Chris Bosh and Shane Battier in their Eastern Conference Finals series. Roy Hibbert, who posted 22 points per game and 10 rebounds per game in the ECF, and David West, 17 points per game and 9 rebounds per game, were nearly unstoppable through stretches of their series against the Heat.

    Miami treated Hibbert like he was Dikembe Mutombo, refusing to drive into the lane, and allowed West to get as close as he wanted to get to the rim for high-percentage looks. They were bullies, and Miami's frontcourt had its lunch money taken a few times, giving a clear indication of what the Heat are going to need to look for in the offseason: a defensive-minded center.

    "But what about Chris Andersen?" you're probably asking. Well, 'Birdman' is a great defender when it comes to weak-side blocks and defending the pick-and-roll, but he was repeatedly abused by guys like Roy Hibbert and even Tim Duncan once the NBA Finals rolled around.

    According to SynergySports, Andersen ranked 169th defending post-ups and gave up a shooting percentage of 44 percent.

    The Heat are going to run into guys like Hibbert, West and Noah over the next few postseasons. Indiana and Chicago are going to continue to be potential matchups for the Heat, and that means having to deal with the likes of the 7'2" Hibbert and the rangy, never-quit attitude of Noah.

    The Heat will need to find a center to attempt to neutralize the influences of those two players, who were the best players on their respective teams against Miami. It's one thing if we're talking about neutralizing perimeter players such as Carmelo Anthony or Paul George, but they're also not taking high-percentage shots near the rim or grabbing every offensive rebound that comes their way.

    Guys like Hibbert and Noah are only going to continue to improve with the experience they get from playing Miami. Miami has to find a way to limit their influences, from their ability to grab nearly every offensive board, scoring in high-percentage areas with little resistance or nearly shutting down Miami's primary method of scoring by driving and kicking out.

Who Do They Get?

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    Don't expect the Miami Heat to make moves anytime soon. They're going to wait for all the other teams with money to overspend on free agents, which will then leave the leftovers that Miami will give a mid-level exception or veteran's minimum to.

    Let's take a look at a few of the players who have been discussed in Heat circles:

     

    Greg Oden

    The former No. 1 pick has been the popular choice among not just fans of Miami, but also within the organization. The 7'1", 250-pound center has said to have been looking healthy, and it's prompting the attention and interest of not only the Heat, but up to eight teams supposedly.  

    However, Marc Stein reported that the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are the current frontrunners for the services of Oden. While some may assume Oden would chase money now, since he hasn't played the past two years, it would be wise of the former Portland Trail Blazer to take baby steps in getting re-acclimated with the league.

    Oden could take a lucrative deal from a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers that could end up starting him and playing him heavy minutes, but is that what he needs in his first few weeks back from a temporary retirement? Miami could sign him to a deal for a year or two and allow him to play 15-20 minutes per game, while still playing a large role on both ends of the floor.

    Plus, LeBron James will be a teammate, and every last player that has spent time with James has had nothing but good things to say.

     

    Samuel Dalembert

    The Miami Heat and its fanbase knows all too well of the exploits and talk that comes from Samuel Dalembert. But as much as we want to think that Miami being close to Dalembert's birthplace of Haiti, that has played no factor in Samuel's decision-making of choosing other suitors over the Heat.

    In case you don't remember, Miami attempted to employ the services of Dalembert in the offseason after losing the NBA Finals. Before ending up with Shane Battier, Dalembert was a possibility, but ultimately signed with the Houston Rockets for a deal that gave him $7 million per year, far more than what the Heat were offering, which was the mid-level exception.

    Since then, Battier has won two titles and Dalembert has been on two teams that don't want him. He was traded by Houston the year after signing that lucrative deal and is now buried on the bench of the Milwaukee Bucks, losing time to younger options in Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

    Dalembert made waves during the Heat's dismantling of the Bucks in the first round without getting off the bench. Before his team was swept, Samuel was already speaking of possibly joining the Heat next season.

    Having an excellent shot-blocker that has a decent offensive repertoire would be huge for the Heat. However, Dalembert has constantly chased money his entire career and his complaining on the end of Milwaukee's bench may not bode well if he plays on a Heat team that has been known to have players go from starters to benchwarmers in the span of a few weeks.

    The last thing Miami need is a bench player that it will need to complain about minutes. This team is a tight unit, and one rotten apple could spoil the bunch.

     

    J.J. Hickson

    I entirely recognize that this is a long shot. Hickson will be 25 years old next year, has proven he can play effectively at the 4 or 5 and is one of the most athletic players to play those positions. Plus, he's coming off of an excellent bounce-back season with Portland after a rough go in Sacramento.

    He made $4 million last year, but any player who averages 13 points and 10 rebounds per game is going to get a lucrative offer coming their way. If it worked for Kris Humphries, it's going to work for Hickson.

    However, the Heat have a former teammate of Hickson's in LeBron James. J.J. played the first two years of his career with James as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, going from seldom-used bench player to starting power forward in the span of a year.

    Hickson averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his final season with LeBron. Although nothing has been brought up between Hickson and the Heat, it would be worth a look for Miami to at least take a stab at adding a young player who would be worth keeping around for the future.

But What About These Guys?

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    Chauncey Billups

    The Heat and Chauncey Billups have been linked ever since 'Mr. Big Shot' let it be known that he was interested in playing with Miami next season.

    It seems like the perfect match, right? An aging veteran who can shoot well with only a few years left in him looking to retire in Miami? The Heat nearly have an entire bench filled with players that fit the bill. But that's the problem. Adding Billups is redundant with this Heat team already employing more shooters than they could use.

    Ray Allen and Shane Battier are the only veteran shooters getting consistent minutes, while Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller and James Jones hardly see time. Even if Billups plays at the 1 and 2, that's going to make it even more difficult for him to find time with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole already playing point guard.

    Billups would be a great addition for veteran leadership, but would it be worth it when he's taking minutes from the developing Cole? Norris made some great strides in the playoffs, especially against Chicago, and it would be upsetting to find him behind Chauncey in the depth chart.

     

    Andrew Bynum

    This idea of the Heat possibly adding Andrew Bynum is a thing, and I'm not sure why. 

    When healthy, Bynum is the league's second-best center behind Dwight Howard. With that offensive repertoire of his, he may even arguably be the best. The problem, however, is he's never healthy. He didn't play at all last season and has only played in more than 65 games once in an eight-year career.

    Bynum has already made $67 million during his NBA career, but why would he not continue to chase money before his career is potentially derailed by the recurring and nagging injuries that have plagued him in the past?

    Also, Miami isn't looking to add another scorer. They're more interested in a center whose mindset is more focused on defense, with the capability of catching and scoring on offense. Adding Bynum would only seem to clog the lane for LeBron and Dwyane Wade, and a possible lack of minutes and touches would only upset the 25-year-old that took in $17 million to sit and wear suits last year.

     

    Sebastian Telfair

    Miami already has two wildly inconsistent point guards. Why would they want to add another? 

    If the Heat are going to add another shooter, it should only be Billups and not the career 32 percent shooter from deep.

What Are They Doing Within Their Own Roster?

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    Before they dip their toes in the free-agency pool, the Heat have made it their primary objective to re-sign the services of Chris Andersen.

    And why wouldn't they? Andersen was instrumental in the final months of the regular season and throughout the postseason, playing a key role in Miami's 27-game winning streak and their series against the huge frontcourts of Chicago and Indiana. He even had a streak of six consecutive games without missing a shot, converting 17 shots in a row from Game 5 against Chicago to Game 6 against Indiana.

    There wasn't much of a clamoring from the Heat fanbase to bring back Joel Anthony into the rotation. The Heat finally found a center that not only could play defense, but could also receive a pass, catch it with two hands and put the ball through the basket.

    That sounds easy, but Anthony going up for layups was the equivalent of getting a cigarette put out in your eye. Painful to every part of your body, but especially to the eyes.

    Andersen was a huge relief to the Heat in context of having an actual big man threat who could finish around the rim, and he ended up playing a huge role in several stretches during the playoffs where a slasher could drive and dump off or alley-oop to the constantly-cutting Andersen.

    Chris and Juwan Howard are the only free agents on the Heat roster this year. Don't expect the Heat to make any moves concerning Howard, who played a much larger role as a locker room presence than he did as a player.

    More of a concern to the Heat is the possibility of dumping a pair of salaries that could clear out upwards of $20 million in luxury tax penalties. No two salaries are more of a pain to Miami than Mike Miller's, set to make over $13 million over next two years, and Joel Anthony's, set to make over $10 million in the same time.

    Anthony's role has been replaced by Andersen with flying colors, while Miller's role, memorable and admirable albeit, could be filled by shooters on the team and in free agency. Miller is the fourth-highest paid player on the Heat, but has yet to play in more than 59 games in any of the past three seasons.

    He has shot at least 41 percent from beyond the arc in the past two seasons, but his minutes have spiraled down to a meager 15 per game this past season with the inclusion of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

    As beloved as he is in Miami, whether it's for his Game 5 in the 2012 finals or his shoeless three in Game 6 of the past finals, the wisest move would be to package him in a deal that could bring a few picks in return.

    Anthony, however, is a much tougher sell. His defense on the pick-and-roll, on post-ups and blocking shots is extremely underrated, but his offense is abysmal, and it obviously hurts any team that's attempting to stretch the floor, such as Miami. The Heat are reduced to playing four-on-five on offense when Anthony is a part of the lineup.

    There's no need for Joel, especially if Andersen ends up re-signing at a far cheaper price, and the use of the amnesty clause could be in his future. Riley made it known that he would prefer not to amnesty Miller, who is constantly rumored as the would-be victim, but there is still some value to him, even if injuries have devastated his career.

    Teams will just look at games like Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder or even his 5-of-5 three-point shooting in Game 3 against San Antonio as proof that Miller still has it. And with Miami not looking to add on any salaries, teams could get Miller for the low price of a few draft picks and some undeveloped talent.

    Considering how old this team is, it wouldn't hurt to bring in some of the draft picks that were lost in the deals to obtain LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Miami Heat Summer League

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    Still boycotting the Miami Marlins? Could care less about the Miami Dolphins' or Miami Hurricanes' upcoming mediocre seasons? Don't know what hockey is? Then the Miami Heat summer league is where you're going to get your fill of South Florida-based sports.

    For the first time in the Big Three era, there is a larger emphasis being put on the development of young talent in the summer league. Miami has given opportunities to those such as Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman and Jarvis Varnado to produce and possibly become a young part of the rotation, but have struck out with the exception of Cole, who has come along nicely.

    Remember when I mentioned this Heat team is old? Well, there are a few facts about that which should concern you for the future. Of the 15 players on last year's roster, 10 of those players are either 30 years old or older. Only five players are under 30, with two of those being LeBron James, who turns 29 in December, and Chris Bosh, who will be 30 in March.

    Mario Chalmers (27), Norris Cole (24) and Varnado (25) round out the rest of the players that could be described as youthful. Even more concerning is the fact that key rotation players like Shane Battier and Ray Allen could be retiring after next season, leaving the Big Three with opt-out clauses and a gutted roster.

    You're starting to see why this year's summer league is the biggest one, yet? Plus, there are actually some interesting names on the Heat roster. While you won't see last year's draft pick Justin Hamilton playing, a hamstring injury and some "uneven" play in Europe last year, we will get the opportunity to witness Miami's latest draft pick, James Ennis.

    Out of Long Beach State, Ennis is a 6'7" high-flying forward with a solid jumper, which allowed him to shoot 36 percent on five three-point attempts per game in his final season with the 49ers last year. He also averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

    For a late second-round pick, Ennis isn't a bad pickup for a Heat team that didn't even have a draft pick going into the night.

    Joining Ennis in playing for possibly one or two spots on Miami's final roster will be Texas guard Myck Kabongo, who has a business relationship with LeBron's agent, Ricky Sanchez, acquired in the deal that sent Pittman to the Memphis Grizzlies, the 46-inch vertical of D.J. Stephens and Varnado, competing for a roster spot after failing to impress enough to earn another contract.

    Kabongo may be the dark horse who finds himself with a roster spot. Even if he is another point guard, his ability to do it all on the floor should help boost his stock. He averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in his lone season with the Longhorns, but struggled to shoot and converted less than 30 percent of his three-point attempts.

    D.J. Stephens will be fun to watch in the open court, and anybody who declares Ricky Sanchez as the 'Puerto Rican Dirk' needs to be bludgeoned.

    Expect Ennis to earn a roster spot by the end of the summer, and maybe Kabongo if the Heat strike out in free agency.