NBA Free Agents 2011: 10 Free Agents to Strengthen the Miami Heat

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IAugust 24, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: 10 Free Agents to Strengthen the Miami Heat

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    We were surprised when we recognized that LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade wouldn't have been enough to win games.

    They did combine for 70% of their teams points and did possess some of the best perimeter defense in the league, but it still wasn't enough for the Miami Heat as they required assistance from time to time. The only problem with this was that their two top producers off the bench in Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem went down with injuries.

    Miller returned by late-December and never returned to form while Haslem sat out from November through May.

    Thus, the Heat had to rely on the deeper part of their bench. Juwan Howard and James Jones became the two top contributors off the pine and the big three all had to play more minutes than they originally anticipated. The roster didn't have that much consistency, not even the big three could play perfect all 82, and the team went through some down times because of the lack of help from anyone else not named Chris, LeBron, or Dwyane.

    So now the Heat must address these issues.

    Miami will be looking for centers and point guards as well as some reliable perimeter shooters and defenders. Free agency this season isn't laden with too much talent and most of the players will be affordable which is littered with role players and veterans.

    Here are ten of those players that they should make a stab at and please remember that the Heat can't really be frivolous with their funds whenever free agency does start.

Shane Battier

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    Addresses: Three-point shooting and defense at the two and three.

    Most likely considered the top pick-up of the offseason, if the Miami Heat do pursue and sign him, Shane Battier would address many of the key issues that the team had to grind through last season with limited options.

    With a veteran like Battier on the roster and coming off the bench, the Heat get that reliability off the bench that they were pining for last season when Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem went down with injuries. Without either of those players, the team was forced to rely on the likes of James Jones, Juwan Howard, and Joel Anthony as their main three-point specialists and defenders.

    Battier has been consistent as a three-point shooter and defender at the two and three over a respectable 10 year career and would be a huge asset on a team like the Heat that could greatly use both.

    Shane is coming off of a regular season where he split time between the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies—and it didn't do too much to throw off any of the main aspects of his game. He was still a terrific defender, muscling the bigger forwards and keeping up with the quicker guards, and he also managed to knock down his three-pointers at a consistent rate where he shot 38 percent between both teams.

    The soon to be 33 year old will get plenty of playing time behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with the very likely chance that Jones will depart in free agency and with the team aching for a defender off the bench that can defend shooting guards and small forwards.

Tayshaun Prince

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    Addresses: Defense and consistent shooting.

    If there's one thing that the entire Heat team greatly lacked last season, it was their inability to consistently knock down open jumpers.

    Dwyane Wade and LeBron James aren't exactly consistent jump shooters and Chris Bosh was able to pick up the slack a number of times with his mid-range game, but the team saw little help from anyone else. With their main sharpshooter in Miller ailing from various injuries the entire season, the team had to rely on Mario Chalmers, Mike Bibby, James Jones, Juwan Howard, and Eddie House as their mid-range and perimeter threats.

    None of those options worked throughout the season as the team went through a number of rotation changes in an attempt to get some consistency from just one player.

    The Heat could find that player in this years free agency class with the plethora of role players and shooters to go around. The most consistent and affordable player in free agency will most likely be long time Detroit Pistons swing man Tayshaun Prince, who has built a career on knocking down mid-range jumpers and using his length to become one of the league's top defenders at the three.

    Prince has been as consistent as any player can get when it comes to offensive production as he has averaged between 13 and 15 points for the past seven seasons and hasn't shot any worse than a little under 45 percent from the field overall. Having a veteran that can shoot as well as Prince would be a great asset to a team like the Heat where the big three command so much attention that their teammates are bound to get open.

    A veteran like Prince will get open and he will knock down his shots because he's been doing it consistently for seven consecutive seasons.

T.J. Ford

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    Addresses: Depth at the point.

    The Heat had their answers at the two, three, and four with their big three. The only problem was that they were missing out on having quality pieces at usually the two most important positions in basketball: point guard and center.

    Center was a huge problem by itself since the lack of a big man that couldn't play consistent defense or put in any sort of offensive contribution hurt the team when they played opposing squads that had quality front courts and a big man in the middle.

    The point guard could be filled in by Wade or James, but it would sometimes hurt the team on defense as it limited what the two players could accomplish on the offensive end since they were too busy chasing an agile point guard. They were forced to guard opposing point guards at times because of how dismal the defense was from either Chalmers, Bibby, House, or Carlos Arroyo when he was a member of the team.

    What the team needs is some sort of consistent help from a point guard. There aren't too many in free agency this season and the team will have to be savvy with how they spend their money since obtaining a point guard usually isn't a cheap task to complete unless you find a lower-tier guard or a player waiting for the chance to go ring chasing.

    Look no further than T.J. Ford, who could offer some competition towards Mario Chalmers while providing some consistency off the bench at the one spot.

    Ford is coming off of two injury plagued seasons where he played in 88 games combined, but is only a few seasons removed from having the best years of his career where he averaged as much as 15 points and eight assists per game in separate seasons. He's capable of running an offense and he can score from within the perimeter and that's really all the Heat could use as far as a point guard goes with the free agent point guards this year.

Kwame Brown

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    Addresses: Size in the middle and rebounding.

    Have the Heat officially hit rock bottom when looking for a center? We thought they were desperate when they signed Erick Dampier in the middle of last season, but now players like Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown are actually legitimate options?

    I can't vouch for a player like Curry who has played 10 games in the past three seasons, but I can for the notorious draft bust in Brown who is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career in his first year with the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Starting in 50 of the 66 games he played in, Brown was actually a solid and legitimate big man in the middle for the 'Cats. The eight points per game he posted was his highest since the 2006-'07 campaign and the seven rebounds per he was averaging was the most he had since the 2003-'04 season, the only other time in his career that he averaged seven boards a contest. Kwame also shot the ball at a consistent rate at a modest 52 percent from the field.

    This isn't a sign of desperation, this is just the smartest move the Heat can do with the crop of centers in free agency this year. There aren't many affordable options outside of Brown and a few others and he could be the best find that's willing to take as much as the Heat can offer.

    The Heat went through a myriad of centers last season with Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier, Juwan Howard, Chris Bosh, Jamaal Magloire, Udonis Haslem, and Dexter Pittman all playing at the position one time or another during the 2010-'11 season. None of these options worked as they were either too short, too small, or too old.

    Brown stands at 6'11, 270 lbs and will only be 29 years old next season and would be a good fit in the middle for a team that just needs a center that can play some defense and catch the ball and finish when called upon.

Aaron Gray

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    Addresses: Size in the middle and defense.

    Just because he's listed at 7' could mean that Aaron Gray will be out of the Miami Heat's price range.

    At 270 lbs as well, Gray is a huge body in the middle that could do some damage as far as intimidation goes with his wide frame clogging up the paint and deterring opposing guards and forwards from entering at will as they did last season when the Heat sent out 6'9 Joel Anthony and the slow-footed Zydrunas Ilgauskas as their main centers for the season last year.

    In four years, Gray hasn't done much and is already on his second team after being given up by the Chicago Bulls after two sub-par seasons where he didn't get too much playing time. His statistical highs came in his rookie season when he played the most amount of games he's played in a season—61. He averaged four points and three boards per in 10 minutes a night while not showing too much offensive prowess.

    For the Heat, they don't need a center with any sort of offensive prowess. As long as he can catch a ball near the rim and either make the easy shot or pass it to an open man, the center is fine. Believe it or not, it's harder than it sounds to find a player like this with the lack of big men that stay in the post these days.

    Gray is coming off of playing 41 games with the New Orleans Hornets where he averaged three points and a career high four boards per contest. It might not even be possible that we have seen the best out of Gray either considering he'll be 27 next year and has yet to be given a legitimate shot aside from the 18 games he started in his sophomore season.

    He's not much, but size in the middle that can actually give some sort of positive reinforcement to the team is all the Heat could ask for from a player that wants to man the fort in the paint.

Michael Redd

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    Addresses: Possible three-point shooting off the bench.

    Now this signing might be a bit of a stretch. Not because he won't be affordable, but rather because he's only played in 61 games over the past three seasons.

    It's been quite the fall from grace for Michael Redd who has dealt with countless surgeries since the middle of the 2008-'09 season. The Milwaukee Bucks have continued to attempt to integrate Redd back into the rotation but injuries keep piling up and it's led to his eventual demise as a former elite player in the game.

    Redd was averaging at least 20 points per game for six consecutive seasons with his career high coming in the 2006-'07 season when he averaged 27 points per while tying a career high in three-pointers made with two per game. He was a lethal and consistent shooter from anywhere on the court and the way he shot the ball made it nearly impossible to block as his quick release constantly foiled defenders attempts to deter him from nailing every shot from the perimeter.

    Since the 2008-'09 season however, Redd has dealt with injuries to his MCL and ACL. He tore it in late-January of 2009 and then went on to re-tear the same MCL and ACL in January of 2010 which would end his season for the second consecutive season.

    Redd came back last year and didn't do anything to hurt himself anymore as he played in ten games averaging only 13 minutes a night and scoring four points per. It's understandable from a player like Redd to be hesitant upon returning from his latest injuries since it's most likely that one more injury to the same ACL and MCL could result in the end of his career and perhaps much worse.

    If Redd is healthy and passes his physical, then the Heat organization could get him for cheap, since it's obvious that the Bucks want little to do with the sharpshooter anymore. It would be a risky move, but it could pay off huge if he does actually return to half the player he was back in the mid-2000's when he was a consistent 20 point a night type of player.

Samuel Dalembert

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    Addresses: Size in the middle, catching and finishing, rebounding, and defense.

    The best case scenario for the Miami Heat as far as signing a center goes, acquiring Samuel Dalembert would easily be the biggest splash of the offseason.

    I stated earlier that Battier would be the top acquisition if the Heat do end up getting him, but Dalembert would make the biggest impact out of any player that the team does sign, considering he can fill up the paint while providing so much more than any Heat center did last season. He was considered one of the league's best shot blockers for a time averaging over two three times in his nine year career and finishing in the top five twice in overall blocks.

    The Haitian product would be the defensive stopper in the middle that the team was looking for last season. Joel Anthony was the main defensive threat last year, but he was limited against the bigger centers since he was only 6'9. Dalembert is currently listed at 6'11, 270 lbs and has had plenty of defensive experience against the top tier centers.

    Dalembert also provides plenty of production from a rebounding and scoring stand point as well. He's averaged eight rebounds per over his career with a career high of 10 coming in the 2007-'08 campaign where he also averaged nearly four offensive rebounds per, which was good enough for third in the league. He hasn't lost a step either as he most recently averaged eight per while only starting in 46 out of the 80 games he participated in.

    His offense isn't anything extraordinary, but it's certainly plenty more than what any other center on the team provided. He has a decent mid-range game and is most known for his ability to finish off alley-oops, where he became a quality finisher around the rim in his lengthy time with the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Dalembert recently averaged eight points and eight boards per game last year in his first season with the Sacramento Kings. The chances of the Kings picking him up would be unlikely with the team more centered around the construction of DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, and Hassan Whiteside.

Roger Mason

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    Addresses: Three-point shooting off the bench.

    Coming off of the worst year of his career, the New York Knicks might just allow sharpshooter Roger Mason to walk after playing in only 29 injury-plagued games and averaging only three points per on 34 percent from the field overall.

    It was a disappointment to say the least from the former San Antonio Spur who impressed the NBA world with a terrific 2008-'09 season where he averaged 12 points per while shooting a career high 42 percent from beyond the arc. He then saw his production greatly decline as he went on to average only six points per while connecting on only 33 percent of his three-pointers the very next season.

    Mason played sparingly over the course of the season with short stints that usually lasted once or twice of game time a month. It wasn't until March that Mason began to actually play and get legitimate minutes where he would make somewhat of an impact with five games of two three-pointers and a ten point effort, his high for the season.

    He would play in three of the Knicks four post season games where he would connect on 38 percent of his three-pointers while shooting 39 percent from the field overall.

    It's tough to judge just how well Mason will play next season, after the injury he dealt with the majority of last season and the sudden drop off in production from the 2008-'09 season to the 2009-'10 season where he completely lost his shot and his confidence. Either way, the Heat will find out once they get Mason on the floor playing alongside the big three.

    He'll get as many open three-point shots as he's ever received and only then can we judge just which type of Roger Mason the Heat will pick up. He's a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc who could possibly give the Heat some reliable minutes if he's able to take advantage and capitalize on the open opportunities he does receive.

Grant Hill

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    Addresses: Defense and consistency.

    For someone about to turn 39 years old, Grant Hill sure doesn't have the look of someone that's only a few years from a mid-life crisis.

    He might still be playing in the NBA by that time anyway.

    Hill was widely considered as one of the most tragic stories in recent NBA history after succumbing to a number of injuries that occurred during what was supposed to be his prime years. He was considered as one of the next best players in the game and appeared to be well on his way after averaging a career high of 26 points per in the 1999-'00 season as a 27 year old.

    Once he got traded to the Orlando Magic the next season, it all went downhill as Hill missed all but four games. The trend would continue the next two years as he would only participate in 43 games and he would never be the same after that point. He was 32 years old the season after and averaged a bit under 20 points per. Hill would then play in 21 games the next season as injuries took their toll on his weathered body yet again.

    Since the 2006-'07 however, Hill has maintained great health and has played in at least 65 games in every season since then. He isn't nearly producing at the same rate he did when he was healthy and in his twenties, but he is producing at a rate to be recognized as a quality role player. He has spent the past four seasons with the Suns and is most recently coming off of an impressive season where he averaged 13 points and four boards per.

    The most impressive stat though? Hill has only missed three games over the past three seasons.

    Coming off the bench, Hill would add quality defense at the two and three, as well as providing some needed consistency on offense. He's a career 49 percent shooter from deep and has recently averaged more three-pointers per game than ever before in the past two seasons.

Tracy McGrady

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    Addresses: Scoring off the bench.

    This free agency class does bring about some similarities to that of last summer. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Amare Stoudemire aren't heading up this class, but rather the former superstars of years past.

    Former All-Stars like Michael Redd, Grant Hill, and two-time scoring champion Tracy McGrady head up the lengthy list of veterans that could take a spot on a bench or on an extremely desperate team, excluding Hill who could actually start on a number of teams.

    The oft-injured 31 year old McGrady is actually coming off of a starting gig with the Detroit Pistons where he actually spent time starting at point guard for the first time in his career. It was by far the worst season of his career however as he averaged a career low eight points, four rebounds, and four assists per while playing only 23 minutes a night.

    It was only in 2007-'08 when McGrady was still consistently averaging over 20 points a night, but injuries have taken their toll and have now reduced the former All-Star to a shell of himself. He only played in 66 games between 2008 and 2010 and is just now getting back into shape after playing in 72 game last season with the Pistons.

    Between 2000 and 2008, McGrady was one of the league's most prolific scorers. He averaged over 20 per game for eight consecutive seasons with two consecutive scoring championships included where he scored a career high 32 the first time around and 28 in the second season. Since then, McGrady's production on both sides of the ball has declined and just recently hit rock bottom with the career low in points.

    McGrady could still be capable of scoring upwards of ten per night and that's all the Heat could ask for when calling for him off the bench.