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The Little Flame That Could: The Miami Heat's Off Offseason

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The Little Flame That Could: The Miami Heat's Off Offseason
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The NBA offseason is upon us and with the draft only a few days away (Thursday, June 25 2009; 7 p.m.–12 a.m.) I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss the Miami Heat’s big plans for the next few months. What exactly do they include? Well how about a big fat pile of…nothing.

Let me explain.

NBA Draft—the main focus of every team for the next week is the draft. Great teams are built through the selection of top high school, international and college talent…or so I am told.

I try not to live in the past but aside from the coup that was Dwyane Wade in 2003 and the potential star duo of Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers from last year, Miami’s drafts from the past ten years have been unspectacular.

Either they never panned out  (Tim James, 1998; Pape Sow, 2004; Wayne Simien, 2005), no longer play for the Heat (Eddie House, 2000; Caron Butler, Rasual Butler, 2002) or the team is still waiting to see what they have on their hands exactly (Dorell Wright, 2004; Daequan Cook, 2007 via trade draft night).

This year’s draft will be more challenging than usual for team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra. The Heat are without a first round pick and are armed with only two late second round picks (43, 60). This is an exceptionally poor situation for a team with needs everywhere aside from shooting guard.

They were arguably the weakest playoff team this past season with Wade carrying most of the load as he did all season.

I mean, what does it say about Miami when they were blown out in Game seven by an Atlanta team who was embarrassed in four straight by the Cavs?

The Heat could improve in all aspects; offensively, they ranked 19th with 109.4 points per game average; defensively, they ranked 14th with a 109.1 points per game against average. Considering the roster as it stands, the Heat’s most pressing issue is the lack of an inside presence.

Miami is small, and have a tough time scoring points in the paint unless it’s D. Wade barreling into bodies like a bowling ball and either scoring on a nifty move or breaking his neck and hobbling to the free point line.

Hopefully the development of forward Michael Beasley as the second go-to guy, especially from short range, continues smoothly and this becomes less of a sore spot next season.

That being said, any big man not considered a project will be gone by the time the Heat select. Therefore, the team seems to be examining other needs: a true starting point guard and three-point shooting.  This past week they worked out PG A.J. Price from UConn and PG/SG Jack McClinton from Miami.

Price is a 6’2" senior projected to go in the middle of the second round. He’s a strong perimeter player but has become shy about his interior game. He creates opportunities for teammates but struggles on defense. He’s had some off-the-court issues with the law and there have been questions about the health of his knees.

I can understand the Heat taking an interest in him, but I think they’re on the right track developing Mario Chalmers for that starting PG spot.

Jack McClinton is another story. I watched him play here in South Florida and this kid is a gamer. He’s a downtown assassin.

If the Heat are fortunate to snatch him up, I believe they won’t be disappointed. Although he would serve best as a bench player since he is mostly a scoring threat but (as of right now) a liability on defense, McClinton is definitely NBA-ready.

By the way, the reason the Heat are so limited in this year’s draft is because of the trade that occurred in January of 2006. Miami swapped three players (Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien, Antoine Walker and a first round pick) for two Minnesota players (Ricky Davis and Mark Blount).

How did that trade fare for Miami? Ricky Davis plays for the Clippers and Mark Blount averaged 10.4 minutes a game this year. Oh, and Miami has no first round pick. Did I mention that already?

Free Agency

Things don’t look much better for the Heat in terms of this summer’s free agency strategy. The team is strapped for cash and have some key decisions to make this offseason internally but are more concerned with summer 2010 as is the rest of the NBA.

The great bidding war/spending spree of the 2010 offseason that will see such free agents as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, basketball-god-king-as-crowned-by-the-NBA-marketing-department LeBron James and, possibly, Dwyane Wade. There have been rumblings recently from Pat Riley that the Heat won’t make any major free agent moves until the team has locked up Wade to a contract extension.

“Heat president Pat Riley won't authorize any drastic roster changes until he has Dwyane Wade's signature on a contract extension.

Riley, speaking at length Thursday about the team's offseason plans, said he has prepared the proposal he will forward to Wade and his agent one minute after midnight July 12, the earliest Wade can sign an extension.”

Source: MiamiHerald.com June 18, 2009

Wade’s response?

“A day after President Pat Riley said Miami could not initiate a major roster overhaul this summer without knowing Wade's long-term fate with the team, Wade countered with the opposite point, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Wade thinks an aggressive personnel approach by the team this summer could persuade him to ink a contract extension.”

Source: ESPN.com June 20, 2009

In other words, Wade is telling Riley, scratch my back and I’ll sign on the dotted line.

There have already been unsubstantiated rumors that the Heat are interested in dealing for Toronto Raptors F Chris Bosh, which have been repudiated by Bosh personally.

Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but the point is that at least someone out there realizes that if Wade doesn’t receive help, the team will sink back to a 15-win team as they watch their best player walk away.

And, trust me, he’s considering it. One of the possible landing spots is home sweet home in Chicago. Read this interview and tell me he hasn’t at least given it some thought.

As for retaining their own free agents, center Jermaine O’Neal has exercised his player option to remain with the team, his wages being $23 million for the 2009-10 season. They have yet to make a decision on restricted free agents C Joel Anthony and F Jamario Moon and unrestricted free agent C Jamaal Magloire.

I feel the team will find a way to keep all three even with its limited cap space. Moon really seemed to invigorate the team when he was healthy, and Magloire is a solid defensive presence at center. Besides, the Heat won’t do much better in free agency.

The bottom line is they’re saving their pennies for the big fish coming next year. Now all they have to do is convince the big fish they currently have from jumping ship.

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