The Miami Heat are one of the many teams poised to make a big splash in free-agency this offseason.
Heat President Pat Riley needs to show Dwyane Wade that he is willing to build a championship team otherwise it’s very likely Wade will sign elsewhere.
Despite all of the discussions regarding the New York Knicks and LeBron James, Miami has the greatest chance to build a contender this summer.
The Heat have only five players under contract: Michael Beasley, James Jones, Deaquan Cook, Mario Chalmers, and Joel Anthony.
The team also owns the 18th pick in this year’s draft and three second round selections.
The first thing I would do, if I were Pat Riley, is trade Beasley to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee.
Riley has never been sold on Beasley ever since the Heat won the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
He wanted Derrick Rose, and when it was obvious Rose would go No. 1 Riley tried everything in his power to move the draft pick.
There are a number of reasons to trade Beasley.
First, this trade gives Miami an extra $3.3 million in cap space this summer.
Next, McGee is a legitimate 7-footer and he is very good shot blocker and rebounder. He put up solid numbers at the end of the season once the Wizards moved Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison.
Finally, Beasley plays best at power forward and most of the Heat’s free agent targets this summer play the same position.
This would mean that the Heat would have about $11.2 million in salary committed to six players, including the team’s first-round draft pick, going into the summer.
The salary cap is projected to be approximately $56.1 million next season, down from $57.7 million.
For salary cap purposes, when signing free agents, teams are counted as having a minimum of 12 players on their roster.
If the team has less then 12 players, each empty spot is filled with the minimum salary for a player for no NBA experience.
That figure for 2010-11 is $473,604.
The Heat would have six players under contract, therefore in order to determine how much cap space the team has available the other six positions automatically get counted at the minimum annual salary amount.
This means that Miami has approximately $14 million in salary for next year.
Therefore, the team has $42.1 million in cap space to sign free agents.
As a result, Miami will have the ability to sign two players to max-contracts and a third player of substantial value.
It is obvious the Heat want Dwyane Wade to stay in South Beach next year.
He has been fantastic since being selected 5th overall in the 2003 draft. He was the 2006 NBA Final MVP. He was a six-time All-Star and was named the 2010 All-Star game MVP.
Wade is an Olympic gold medalist and has been named a member of the All-NBA first, second, and third team.
Wade is eligible to receive a six-year, $130 million contract.
A player with his experience under this deal would have a starting salary of $16.83 million, or 30 percent of the salary cap.
As for the other max contract, the Heat have a couple options.
The team could try to lure LeBron James down to Miami; however, the more likely scenario is adding an All-Star power forward.
The Heat will likely try to sign one of Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, or Carlos Boozer.
This is assuming they all opt out of their contracts, as is expected.
All three of those players would be eligible for a starting salary at the same level as Wade, $16.83 million.
However, if Miami was to sign them outright and not part of a sign-and-trade the contract could only be for five years and less total money.
That is because teams re-signing their own players are permitted to give larger annual raises than any other team.
Next Level Free Agents
After signing two max-contract players the Heat would still have roughly $10 million in cap space to sign another quality player.
The best option would be to offer Rudy Gay a five-year $65 million deal. He is an athletic small forward out of the University of Connecticut.
Gay's career stats: 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
Rudy Gay is a restricted free agent this summer, which means that the Memphis Grizzlies can match any offer he receives.
However, Memphis is a small market team and may not be willing to match an offer sheet that high.
Gay and the Grizzlies were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension prior to the start of the season.
Reportedly, the team offered him a five-year, $50 million deal, but Gay was seeking a contract similar to the one LaMarcus Aldridge received, which is same as the one I am proposing.
Now, if Memphis did match the offer sheet, there are a number of other players the Heat could pursue, including Josh Howard, Travis Outlaw, Mike Miller, and Hakim Warrick.
None of whom are as talented as Gay, but likely would not cost as much either.
Minimum Level Players
If the Heat were able to sign three of the above mentioned players they would be left to fill out the remaining roster spots with minimum contract players.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement allows teams, which are over the salary cap to sign players for the veteran’s minimum, based on their individual years of experience.
Miami would not be able to take advantage of either the Mid-Level Exception or the Bi-annual Exception, as these are just that, exceptions.
The CBA permits teams already over the cap to sign players using these exceptions.
Since the Heat will enter the summer under the salary cap the team does not qualify.
First, the Heat should sign Raja Bell.
Bell has made it known that Miami is his first choice. He is coming off of a wrist injury, but was once thought of as a lockdown defender.
Bell will be 34 years old when the season starts and isn’t as mobile as he once was, but he still would be a good addition to the team.
Second, Miami needs to add a veteran big man to round out the frontcourt rotation.
There are three players that could definitely fill this role—Joe Smith, Kurt Thomas, and Shelden Williams. All are unrestricted free agents and did not receive much playing time this past season.
Therefore, it is possible any or all of them will look to sign elsewhere and could sign with Miami for the veteran minimum if it looks like the team is capable of contending.
Next, there are a number of young wing players available.
The Heat could look to bring in Antoine Wright, Rodney Carney, or Joe Alexander. All are former first-round draft picks, none of whom have had much success in the league to date.
Wright has developed into a solid defender and may not be willing to sign for the minimum, since that would be roughly half of what he made this season in Toronto.
Alexander was the No. 8 pick in the 2008 and was described as the most athletic player in the draft.
However, because of injuries, the Milwaukee Bucks did not pick up the option on his contract.
Finally, the Heat could use another point guard.
Wade is capable of handling the ball, but at this point in time Mario Chalmers is the only true point guard on the roster.
I believe that any team in need of point guard help this summer should take a serious look at Shaun Livingston.
He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Livingston was considered the next great point guard before suffering a devastating knee injury. He has been rehabbing his knee over the last few seasons and has played limited minutes with a few different teams, including four games with the Heat in the 2008-09.
However, Livingston signed with the Wizards at the end of this season and really flourished after taking over the starting spot.
Second Round Players
The other option Miami has to fill out its roster is with second round draft picks.
The Heat have three second round picks in this year’s draft. Additionally, the team owns the rights to last year’s second round picks, Robert Dozier and Patrick Beverley.
Both of those players spent this past season in Greece, and neither one did anything that a team should take notice about.
Riley could bring either one over as the 13th or 14th man on the roster, but they shouldn’t be counted on to play a major role on the team.
In the end, Pat Riley will have plenty opportunities to upgrade the Heat roster and build a team that can compete for a championship for a long time to come.
1. Anthony has a player-option in his contract and Chalmers has a team-option, therefore it is possible that Miami could only have three players under contract going into this summer.
2. James Jones is scheduled to make approximately $4.5 million next season, both Chalmers and Anthony will make $850,000, Deaquan Cook’s salary is $2.2 million, McGee will make $1.6 million, and the team’s first-round draft pick’s salary under the rookie scale is $1.2 million.
3. Miami owns the rights to its own second round pick and receives a second round pick from both the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Hornets.