5 Veteran Free Agents the Miami Heat Can Still Pursue
Within the next 24 hours, we should know if Greg Oden is going to be the Miami Heat's big free agent splash of 2013.
Oden has been one of the few free agents that has generated interest from a Heat team that's more concerned with the offseason of 2014 than the current one. With luxury tax penalties impending and nearly an entire roster set to become free agents next season, Miami has had to be cautious in its approach to this year's offseason.
The only moves that have been made thus far were the utilization of the amnesty clause on Mike Miller and the drafting of Long Beach State swingman, James Ennis. Otherwise, the Heat have remained extremely quiet, and for good reason. They have little to spend outside of the veteran's minimum and a mid-level exception.
Even after two consecutive championships and an utterly devastating regular season run, the Heat still have areas of improvement to make, thus why Oden is being considered. Miami ran into problems defending the likes of Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan on their way to the title, constantly giving up high-percentage looks and offensive rebounds to All-Stars that make a living around the rim.
If there's any area of concern, it's under the rim. The Heat's small lineups and lineups based on spacing obviously work, but they also came a few free throws and offensive rebounds away from being failed experiments because of the influence of the bigs of teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.
I've read people clamoring for a Miller replacement, but those suitors could already be on the team in the forms of James Jones and Rashard Lewis, both of which are extremely apt at replacing Miller from a shooter's standpoint.
However, what the Heat could use is a hard-nosed, nuisance of a perimeter defender. A player that could annoy future potential opponents in the postseason and has had a history of doing so would be solid insurance to add to the end of the bench.
Oden isn't included in this article because it's already implied there's mutual interest. This list is more focused on players the Heat should consider to fill in one of the four roster spots that are currently open.
Since we're all so antsy to get to the start of the regular season already, let's take a look at five players that are worthy of some consideration by the Heat front office.
With Mike Miller out of the picture, the Heat are now short a perimeter player.
It's already been addressed that Miami does have two excellent shooters that can take his place on the offensive end, James Jones and Rashard Lewis, but you can't say the same when speaking of the defensive end.
Like Jones and Lewis, Miller is also guilty of providing porous defense. But we'll let that slide since he was reduced to cadavers at some of his lowest points. What he lacked on defense, ranking 415th in points per possession given up, he made up for in intangibles, such as rebounding and ball-handling.
The Heat won't find much of that on their current bench outside of Ray Allen and Norris Cole. However, they can look to outside sources for one of those missing traits: strong perimeter defense from someone who may have a retirement date for next year. Fortunately for the Heat, there are still plenty of free agents who can provide such a perfect complement to their elite defense.
One of those free agents, Dahntay Jones, would seemingly fit in right away with the Heat's band of top-notch perimeter defenders.
Per Synergy, Jones was one of the league's top overall defenders, ranking 87th and allowing defenders to shoot 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from deep. His greatest strength derived from his defense on pick-and-roll ball-handlers, who he held to 30 percent shooting, albeit on only 30 field-goal attempts in his time with the Atlanta Hawks.
In 50 games with the Dallas Mavericks, who he spent the first-half of the 2012-13 season with, Jones ranked 205th and allowed ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll to shoot 47 percent. He did manage to hold spot-up shooters to an impressive 37 percent on 67 field-goal attempts.
No stats of Jones last year were more impressive than his isolation defense numbers. The 32-year-old ranked first in the league in PPP given up and allowed assignments to shoot a meager 22 percent on 27 field-goal attempts.
Yes, the sample sizes are small, but do you know what else is going to be small? His playing time if he does sign with the Heat.
Jones wouldn't be a big-time rotation player. He'd mostly be relegated to specific situations where the services of a perimeter defender is needed to combat a scorer at the two or three position. Miami may have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier to provide such services, but having insurance like Jones at the bench, for a low price, wouldn't hurt.
He wouldn't be needed for his offense, since he can't really perform such a service these days. What he would be needed for is to be a nuisance. Say, like a DeShawn Stevenson or even a Shane Battier. His role would be designated to being as annoying a defender as he can be, frustrating high-volume scorers and taking them out of their rhythm.
Jones has only once averaged more than ten points per game since being drafted in 2003 and also shoots 33 percent from three over his career. How else do you think he keeps getting jobs?
It's not the most attractive of names, but it does belong to someone that could be of some use down the line.
There are two positions that are going to attempt to torment the Heat in the coming postseason: point guard and center. Take a look at each contender out East that could knock Miami from their throne perched high at the top of the conference. The Brooklyn Nets with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Pacers with George Hill and Roy Hibbert and the Bulls with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah could all present potential challenges in the future.
Miami has the defenders to lockdown point guards. For centers, however? Not too much.
If the Heat want to reach a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, they're going to have to run through teams such as Indiana and the revamped Nets. That's going to require defending arguably the league's most offensively-gifted center in Brook Lopez or finding a way to not get jump-hooked to death again by the 7'2" Roy Hibbert.
The series against Indiana last year proved Miami needs some sort of answer for Hibbert. And not just for scoring, but for keeping him away from getting his fingertips on the offensive glass. Neither Chris Bosh nor Chris Andersen could get the job done, allowing Hibbert to average 22 points and 10 rebounds per game in their Conference Finals journey, and Miami suffered as a result.
We already talked about one pest of a defender in Dahntay Jones. So, if Greg Oden decides to sign elsewhere, why not take a look at another gargantuan, that also doubles as a pest, being in Kyrylo Fesenko?
At 7'1", 288-pounds, Fesenko is what you would call a large man. He's a huge, pale mass that takes up the entire paint and isn't afraid to deliver a hard hit, or annoy the ever-loving hell out of your star player. This is a guy that simply doesn't care and that's perfect for Miami.
Naturally, he has his shortcomings. He didn't play in the NBA at all last year, has played three games in the past two years and is just as offensively-inept as Joel Anthony. What he is, however, is gigantic. The majority of the players on this list are purely for specific situations.
Fesenko's role would be to do whatever he can in his power to limit the likes of a Hibbert or a Lopez, which also takes the defensive burden off of Bosh, whose energy could be utilized in places better suited for his strengths.
Plus, at only 26 years old and with no suitors, Miami ends up getting a player with some youth in him for an extremely low price.
Richard Hamilton's career seemed in doubt when the Chicago Bulls were electing to play the likes of Marquis Teague and Daequan Cook in their series with the Miami Heat this past postseason.
But then the Bulls inserted Hamilton into the rotation and, sure enough, the former NBA champion had plenty left in the tank. He dropped 11 points, shot 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and dished out four assists in Chicago's Game 4 loss, and then followed that up with an impressive 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting in the series-clincher.
Hamilton ended up playing 22 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively, in those final two games. He no longer has the caliber of a starting shooting guard on a championship team, but there is obviously still something there.
'Rip' had a 30-point game as recent as early on in the 2012-13 campaign when he shot 12-of-24 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Coach Tom Thibodeau may be one of the league's best coaches, but his decision to limit Hamilton to four postseason games, two of those games where he played less than seven minutes, may have kept the Bulls from stealing another game or two from Miami.
As a result, Hamilton was disgruntled, and now he's a free agent that has yet to receive any interest. Aside from the postseason run, the Bulls also failed to get what they wanted out of Hamilton when signing him in the 2011 offseason. He has spent more time on the bench with injuries than actually playing in games, missing 54 games in the 2011-12 campaign and 32 the past season.
Hamilton's had injury problems in the past two years, but he was also given the responsibility of being a starter on a Chicago team that places an extremely heavy emphasis of effort on the defensive end. As a 33 and 34-year-old with Chicago, expelling a maximum defensive effort every single possession may not have been in the best interests of Hamilton.
But that doesn't mean he didn't measure up to the challenge. Per Synergy, Hamilton ranked 107th in the league in PPP given up, including ranking 46th in isolation settings and 24th off screens last season.
Overall, he held opponents to 37 percent shooting.
Hamilton's seen better days on offense, though. Last season produced the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season, averaging only 9.8 points and shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc. His three-point percentage has gradually dropped over the past three seasons.
There's still something there, even if it may end up being relegated to an out-of-the-rotation role on a Heat team that isn't feverishly looking for another aging veteran to play the perimeter.
An unsigned 28-year-old that specializes in annoyingly-impressive perimeter defense? This guy has veteran's minimum written all over him.
Ronnie Brewer, who split time between the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder, has received little interest in the free agency market after a disappointing end to the year. After starting 34 out of 46 games for the Knicks, Brewer became a garbage-time regular with the Thunder, playing only 14 games and averaging less than a point per game.
Yeah, I didn't think it was possible either, but Brewer managed to average 0.9 points on 26 percent shooting. Before joining the Thunder, he was averaging 3.6 points, shooting 37 percent from the field and 31 percent from deep.
And those were starter numbers.
That's one of Brewer's problems and why he has yet to be signed. He can't shoot all that consistently. He's a 26 percent three-point shooter for his career, which dates back to 2006, and has apparently forgotten how to put the ball in the basket over the past few years.
Since averaging double-digits with the Utah Jazz in two of his first three NBA seasons, Brewer's numbers have significantly decreased to the putrid stats he was putting up last season. After starting out his career with three consecutive years of shooting 50 percent, Brewer's numbers with Oklahoma City almost seem like a prank he's pulling on all of us.
Is the joke over yet? Because shooting 26 percent on 23 field-goal attempts is never funny.
Miami wouldn't want Brewer for his shooting prowess, or lack thereof, but for his defensive capabilities where he continued to shine last season. As a starter for the Knicks, Brewer ranked 47th in PPP given up and held opponents to shoot 38 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Want some more impressive Ronnie Brewer defensive numbers? I thought you'd never ask.
He also held spot-up shooters to 35 percent, isolation players to 35 percent and pick-and-roll ball-handlers to 36 percent.
Like Dahntay Jones, and the player you'll see next, Brewer would simply be a situation player that specializes in attempting to limit high-volume scoring shooting guards and small forwards.
I just realized this now, but I have compiled a list of players that have irked Kobe Bryant in some way.
That's a good thing. That means the players on this list specialize in perimeter defense and perform the necessary service of annoying their assignment. If you've ever seen Shane Battier work his magic on defense, you'll notice that there are few players in this league who want to see him as their matchup for the night.
Battier has a way of getting under people's skin, and it's turned into a productive career that has resulted in two championships.
Raja Bell is also a player that has done a fantastic job at getting under opposing player's skin. Somehow, that ideal characteristic of his game didn't result in a job last season. This, even after averaging 6.4 points and shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc in the 2011-12 season.
He's also had his interest peaked in the Heat before.
Bell's one of the few players on this list who can provide something on both ends of the court. He's a noted defender that can effectively guard both backcourt positions, and even small forwards in certain cases, that can also shoot the rock with the best of them, converting at a 41 percent clip over a career that has spanned 12 years.
Injuries ended up playing a role in Bell's absence last season. He only played 34 games in 2012 and was limited to 23 minutes per game, the lowest he's garnered since his first stint in Utah in 2004.
But Bell, like Hamilton, is also a recent starter that is now looking for a job. Raja was the starting shooting guard of Utah in his two seasons with the club, averaging more than 30 minutes worth of playing time as recently as the 2010-11 season.
Unlike guys like Dahntay Jones and Ronnie Brewer, Bell can shoot. He hasn't shot less than 35 percent from three since 2002, his second year in the league.
Bell is probably scaring off suitors knowing that he's going to turn 37 before the 2013-14 season begins, but he would be given a minor role if he were to sign with Miami. Once again, let's not forget that any of these free agents that are signed will most likely not end up with a role in the rotation.