2011 NBA Offseason: 5 Moves the Heat Must Make to Get Back to the NBA Finals
Well, it didn't take long for questions to arise.
Should the Heat trade Chris Bosh so that they can surround LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with more quality players? Will Pat Riley replace Erik Spoelstra as Miami's head coach before next season? Should the Heat dismantle its core of the LeBron, Wade and Bosh, and hope that they can build around one of the stars?
The answer to all of those questions, is simply, no.
Yeah, the Heat didn't meet everyone's expectations in their first season together; but Miami did reach the NBA Finals and held a commanding 15-point lead over Dallas with seven minutes remaining in Game 2 before squandering the lead and the potential 2-0 choke hold on the Mavericks.
So, it's not like the Heat had a terrible season. You can't tell me that the 28 other NBA teams, who didn't make the NBA Finals, wouldn't have loved to be in Heat's position: playing for a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
But, if that's the case, then why are sports writers—like Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock—calling for a total upheaval of Miami's core?
Look, I hated the idea of the Miami Heat even before their preseason celebration, but even I think it would be ridiculous for Miami to break up its core of James, Wade and Bosh. All three of Miami's stars are still relatively young—James (26), Bosh (27) and Wade (29)—so it's not like their window of opportunity is closing.
However, if Miami wants to get back to the NBA Finals in 2012, they need to do a better job of surrounding The Big Three with role-players that complement their style of play.
Here's a look at Miami's roster during the 2010-11 season:
SG: Wade, Mike Miller
SF: James, James Jones
With the contracts of Chalmers, Bibby, Howard, Dampier and Magloire expiring on June 30, and Ilgauskas debating retirement, Miami has only eight players—assuming that Jones and House will pick up their player option—under contract for the 2011-12 season: House, Wade, Miller, James, Jones, Bosh, Haslem and Anthony.
Thus, to fill out its roster, Miami will have to acquire players who are willing to sign a mid-level exception, bi-annual exception or a minimum salary exception. At the same time, the Heat have to be smart about who they sign, and shouldn't throw contract offers at the likes of Bibby, Dampier or Magloire just because they will sign for the minimum salary exception.
Here's a list of the five offseason moves that will propel the Miami Heat back into the NBA Finals.
1. Sign Samuel Dalembert to Mid-Level Exception
After they signed the Big Three during the 2010 NBA offseason, Miami knew they had to go out and acquire a center, who would help solidify their defense with his low-post defense, shot-blocking presence and rebounding ability.
So, the Heat acquired Joel Anthony, Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire. Of the four, only Anthony proved to be capable of playing at a mediocre level. But, by no means is he a starting center in the NBA.
Thus, the Heat must sign another free-agent center this offseason.
At 6'11, Dalembert would provide the Heat with a big body on the inside, who is known for being a tremendous shot-blocker and rebounder. Consequently, Dalembert would take a lot of pressure off Bosh, and would allow James and Wade to leak out early to jumpstart Miami's fastbreak.
Although he isn't much of a scorer, Dalembert is a terrific offensive rebounder and will provide the Heat with numerous second-chance opportunities.
Because of his unique skill set, Dalembert is a perfect fit for the Heat, whom are looking to strengthen their already elite defense.
Signing Dalembert should be the Heat's No. 1 priority heading into the offseason, and according Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Heat are already targeting Dalembert.
2. Re-Sign Mario Chalmers
Although Chalmers underwhelmed during the 2010 NBA regular season—shooting just 39% from the field – his postseason success showed that he can be a quality player and the starting point guard for the Miami Heat.
Chalmers demonstrated that he is a reliable shooter from down-town—even in crucial moments—averaging 39 percent from three-point range during the postseason, and hitting clutch three's in Game 3 en route to a 88-86 Heat win.
Not only was Chalmers' three-point shooting impressive, but also was his ability to drive past his defender to create his own shot as well as open looks for his teammates—as evidenced by his nine free throw attempts in Game 6 and his total of 15 assists in Games 4-6.
In fact, in Game 6 – the only game of the postseason in which he started—Chalmers was arguably the most efficient player on Miami, finishing with 18 points, seven assists, three steals and three rebounds. In addition, Chalmers +5 rate was the highest plus-minus rate of anyone on Miami, including Wade, who finished with +3.
Chalmers does need to work on his mid-range game, especially his runner, in order to become a more complete point guard. There were at least five times during the NBA Finals in which Chalmers was able to get past his defender but couldn't convert because he missed the floater in the lane.
Re-signing Chalmers should be Miami's No. 2 priority heading into the offseason. As it is, Miami's only point guard under contract is Eddie House, and he clearly isn't the answer they are looking for.
3. Draft Darius Morris with the 31st Overall Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft
On June 23, 2011—the day of the 2011 NBA Draft—the Miami Heat will have one point guard on its roster.
Needless to say, the Heat need to add a point guard in this year's draft.
Unfortunately for Miami, the top point guards in the draft, such as; Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and Josh Selby will likely be off the board by the time the Heat pick at No. 31 overall.
Morris, who is listed at 6'5", is an elite defender who would fit right into Miami's aggressive man-to-man defense. In addition to his height, Morris' 6'8" wingspan allows him to use his long arms to clog the passing lanes and bother opponents.
As good of a defender as he is, Morris is just as capable of getting the job done on the offensive end. During his sophomore campaign at Michigan, Morris averaged 15 points, 6.7 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
Although Morris isn't a great three-point shooter, he showed that he has the ability to improve his jump shot: increasing his three-point percentage by 71 percent from his freshman to sophomore season.
With Morris, Miami will get an excellent on-ball defender as well as a terrific ball-handler and a willing passer.
4. Sign Grant Hill to Bi-Annual Exception
Surprisingly, the Phoenix Suns did play basketball this past season. They were just that bad that no one really noticed.
In his 15th year in the league, Hill averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In addition, Hill demonstrated that he still can be an elite defender, and as a result, he was often asked to guard the opponent's best perimeter player.
Despite his age—Hill will be 39-years old by the start of 2011-12 season—Hill still has the ability to be an effective player in the NBA. In fact, Hill finished the 2010-11 season with a 13.61 efficiency rating, the third highest rate on the Suns.
To get an idea of where that would place Hill among the players on the Heat last season, take a look at this statistic. Aside from James, Wade and Bosh, no one on the Heat finished the season with an efficiency rating of more than 10.
So, will Hill accept a low salary from the Heat?
Well, consider this: In his 15 years in the NBA, Hill has never won an NBA championship. Do you think he might sacrifice some of salary for a chance to play for a championship contender?
I'd say so.
5. Sign Anthony Carter to Minimum Salary Exception
Yes, you read it correctly. I said the Heat should sign Anthony Carter, a career backup who has never started more than 70 games in a season during his 11-year career.
However, the Heat aren't signing Carter for his talent. What he will bring to the Heat can't be measured by statistics.
Although Carter won't play much behind Chalmers and Morris, his leadership, toughness and work ethic will set an example for the young point guards.
With Carter, the Heat will gain a reliable guard, who understands his role as well as his limitations as a player.