After pulling off the draft-night acquisition of former University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier, the Miami Heat turn their attention to improving the rest of their roster this offseason.
"The whole league continues to get better every single year," James told reporters. "Obviously we would need to get better from every facet, every position. It's just how the league works."
With 14 of 15 contracts either set to expire or not guaranteed, Miami has a lot to check off the to-do list.
Do Wade and Bosh Opt Back In?
Both can opt in and make more than $20 million next season. Or, they can opt out and sign long-term deals either with the Heat or another team. Both have until June 30 to make a decision. Free agency begins on July 1.
Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will have a better idea of how much money is available to them once Wade and Bosh make their decisions.
Of course, James already opted out of his deal and will play the market. All the moves Miami makes will be aimed at retaining him.
Upgrade at Point Guard
The most obvious position of need is point guard. Incumbent starter Mario Chalmers was benched in the final game of the season and Norris Cole has spent a majority of his three seasons as a reserve.
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is an unrestricted free agent, and the Heat are interested in adding him.
"The guy who has mutual interest with the Heat and plays a position of need would be Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors," reported ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. "But that, again, is a long shot unless these guys take big pay cuts."
Lowry was one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference last season, averaging 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game.
Adding Lowry would take much of the pressure of initiating the offense off James and Wade, and turn a position of relative weakness into a bonafide strength.
After drafting Napier, Miami is looking at a competition between him, Cole and possibly Chalmers if the team decides to re-sign him.
Other free agents include Kirk Hinrich, Shaun Livingston, Patty Mills and Ramon Sessions.
Find a Center Who Fits
The Heat also need to address the center position. Miami played at a below-league average pace last season, hardly jiving with the team's perception of playing fast and in transition.
Part of that slowing pace has to do with the Heat possibly taking it easy during the regular season, but it also has to do with its aging roster.
|Four Slowest NBA Teams in 2013-14|
|Miami Heat||93.26 possessions per 48 minutes|
|Chicago Bulls||92.72 possessions per 48 minutes|
|New York Knicks||92.59 possessions per 48 minutes|
|Memphis Grizzlies||92.25 possessions per 48 minutes|
Pace is one thing, but Miami got away from its signature blitzing style defense in favor of a more conservative strategy against offenses.
Bosh's length and quickness were ideal for trapping ball handlers, but when the Heat sag on pick-and-rolls, it might be better to have a bigger body in the way of potential drives to the basket.
Here are the Heat playing conservative:
And here they are being more aggressive:
If the Heat decide to dedicate themselves to the more conservative approach, they need to find a center who fits that identity.
Free agent centers include Marcin Gortat, Emeka Okafor and Jordan Hill. The Washington Wizards will be able to offer Gortat more money than Miami and Okafor is coming off an injury.
Hill, 26, could be the ideal fit for Erik Spoelstra. The 6'10'', 235-pound big man averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. He is an excellent rebounder, who led the Lakers in rebounding percentage and rebounds per 48 minutes according to NBA.com. He can block shots and is a decent scorer who can run the floor, clean up the boards and get put-backs.
Even though the pace might be in question, the space is not. Miami will still want to have plenty of shooters on the floor at all times. Adding shooters to a team that shot just 40 percent—28 percent from three-point range—in the final game of the season will be a priority.
Shane Battier retired, and Rashard Lewis, James Jones and Michael Beasley are set to be free agents.
Ray Allen said he would be interested in returning to play another season with James. If James resigns, Allen probably signs along with him.
Miami will still need more shooters, though.
Guys like Anthony Morrow, Marvin Williams, Shawn Marion, Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng can all help space the floor and add valuable depth on the wing.
Sales Pitch to Big Three
This may happen before, during or after the Heat check off the aforementioned priorities, all of which are designed to keep the Big Three in Miami.
Pat Riley doesn't need to throw his rings on the table to convince James, Wade and Bosh. Like he told reporters, "they can drop their own."
What he does need to convince them of, though, is that these moves will lead to more championships.
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