NBA Free Agents: 5 Veterans Who Can Help the Miami Heat Win a Title
As far as proving just how far three of the league's most dominant players could get on one team before being stopped, the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh nearly ran the table before coming two wins short of an NBA title in their first year together. The only problem with this situation was that a team effort was needed to secure a title and the Heat didn't get that out of a lackluster and injured supporting cast.
Whether it was Mike Bibby constant postseason struggles or Joel Anthony being Joel Anthony, the Heat were out of luck at the starting point guard and center positions. The bench was no better as an injured Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem proved to be the most reliable with Mario Chalmers also picking up some slack and actually earning a starting spot at the point guard position for next season.
What the Heat need over the next few seasons as a means to secure another title is to give the big three some support. The trio proved that they could co-exist and lead a team, but they also proved that some help from their supporting cast is necessary and that this one isn't going to cut it. Haslem and Miller being injured showed the NBA world that there are still flaws and that this years free agency class will be needed to help bolster this Heat roster.
Point guard, center, and the depth of the bench will all be keys to look to and these five veterans will help address each of those issues.
Injuries might have deterred Grant Hill from becoming recognized as one of the greatest to play the game, but they certainly haven't affected him over the past four years as he has become one of the Phoenix Suns most consistent mid-range and defensive specialists.
Since playing in only 47 games over the span of three seasons between 2000 and 2003, Hill has maintained good health aside from one other season where he would play in only 21 games back in 2006. Joining the Suns organization in 2007 at the age of 35, Hill has become one of the NBA's leading ironmen and has only missed three games over the past three seasons.
Hill is setting the standard for 38-year-old's everywhere as he is coming off of another solid season where he averaged 13 points on 48 percent from the field to go along with four boards and three assists per. He recently turned 39 years old and will be entering his 17th year in the NBA next year which is one off of the current leader in Juwan Howard who will be entering his 18th season.
The difference in these two's game play at the moment is staggering as Howard barely finds himself getting off the ground while Hill is still completing dunks and playing a large role on an average team.
The feeling is mutual between Hill and the Miami Heat as the seven time All-Star could find himself ring chasing next year with a championship-or-bust Heat team that is still recovering from a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the past NBA Finals. Hill won't find himself starting ahead of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, but he will receive significant minutes off of the bench as the team looks to fill the void that James Jones is set to leave behind.
Hill would be a perfect fit on a team that could use some consistency and defensive help off of the bench. Last year proved that the big three couldn't do it all on their own and that they actually do need supporting players like Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller to shoulder some of the load and it could be Hill next year playing that role alongside of those two.
A 10 year veteran that just recently turned 33 years old, the Memphis Grizzlies small forward could also find himself ring chasing along with several other veterans on the Miami Heat roster.
Unlike other ring chasers, (we're looking at you Juwan Howard) Battier would actually play a significant role on a Miami Heat team that desperately needs a hard-nosed perimeter defensive stopper off the bench like the two-time All-Defensive Second Team member. With players like Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, and James Jones attempting to fill the void of perimeter defense off the bench, a defensive-minded player like Battier would fit very well into the Heat's defensive-minded approach.
The Heat use a great deal of athleticism for their tough defense, but lack a true perimeter defender outside of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
On a team where three players do the majority of the work on both sides of the ball, it could sometimes get tiring for these players to play their fullest potential for upwards of 35 minutes for 82 games and then another possible 20 games to count the postseason. The Heat were forced to use James, Wade, and Bosh more than usual last season because of the lack of consistency on both sides of the ball from the bench and it created a rift between the upper-tier and lower-tier players.
With a player like Battier, you close off that rift and you give the two perimeter stoppers in Wade and James a chance to utilize their energy on offense rather than exhausting it on defense. Battier has always been recognized as one of the league's top individual and perimeter defenders and he has continued to enforce that even in his later years.
Not only do the Heat get their defensive stopper, they also get a consistent threat from deep. Battier is a career 39 percent shooter from deep and would see that percentage increase with the number of open looks that he'll receive with the big three attracting attention in the middle.
Grant Hill and Shane Battier might want to go ring chasing, but don't expect that out of Tayshaun Prince who already has a ring after helping to lead the Detroit Pistons to an upset victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
It's no reason to not expect the Heat to make a significant run for the 31-year-old and nine year veteran, Prince fits the bill of the perimeter defender that the Heat need off the bench and he could be the best fit over other veteran focuses in Hill and Battier. Prince is younger than the two, produces on offense at a higher rate, and could challenge Battier as one of the top veteran perimeter defenders.
Prince's arms that seem to swing down to his ankles allow him to keep his assignment in front of him at all times and it's perfect for a Heat team that could use some length and athleticism off the bench as opposed to just looking for Mike Miller and James Jones to complete tasks that they have never been looked to for.
During a dream season where the big three should have taken the NBA by storm, the result was a tropical depression as the team's flaws were pointed out more than anything. That's also due to the fact that the majority of the population outside of Miami wants to see the team lose, but it's also because the team does have a great deal of flaws including the lack of a defensive presence on the bench outside of Udonis Haslem.
Prince would be the perfect fit for a Heat team looking for defense and even some offensive help off the bench. He has averaged between 13 and 15 points for the past seven seasons and could bring that consistency to Miami where he would receive plenty of open looks from the mid-range and from deep. Prince has shot 46 percent from the field for his career to go along with an impressive 37 percent from beyond the arc.
The Miami Heat had some trouble last season as far as finding consistency off the bench and an offensive rhythm, but those pale in comparison to the desperation that the organization had at finding a capable center.
Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Erick Dampier all made significant pushes as attempting to land a consistent starting job until their greatest flaws were exposed and the team went in a different direction at trying to find the player for the job. Whether it was Anthony's lack of offensive skills, Ilgauskas' lack of movement on defense, or Dampier's lethargic movement, the Heat were out of luck when it came to finding a center and it was the 6'9" Anthony taking over the starting job by the end of the year.
No team with a center that stands at 6'9" and averages less than two points is going to do much and it's a miracle of science that the Heat even came close to winning a championship with a big man that can hardly produce on offense and is too small to defend any center.
With a few centers set to play the free agency field, the Heat no doubt have their eyes on Sacramento Kings big man Samuel Dalembert. The longtime Philadelphia 76er joined the Kings last season and averaged eight points, eight rebounds, and nearly two blocks per game in his lone year with the squad. Dalembert has always been recognized as a notable rebounder and shot blocker and would be a perfect fit for a Heat team desperately looking for a center.
While Nene Hilario would be the cream of the crop of this free agency class when it comes to centers, the Heat won't have near enough money to sign the Denver Nuggets center. Dalembert may come a little expensive too considering that teams will be on the lookout for a capable starting center, but the attraction of winning a title while also being near his native Haiti could be the key factors to attract Samuel to Miami.
At 6'11", capable of finishing shot opportunities near the basket, and the ability to play solid defense against the average NBA center, Dalembert should be the Heat's main free agent focus as the team goes on a lookout for their soon-to-be starter at the five spot.
He'll be greatly overlooked by teams looking to secure a point guard such as J.J. Barea, Anthony Carter, or even Patrick Mills, so it would be wise in the Miami Heat's best interest that they sign Utah Jazz point guard Earl Watson for the veterans minimum.
32 years old and a 10 year veteran, Watson has jumped from team to team over the past few years and has actually played with three different teams over the past three seasons with stops in Oklahoma City, Indiana, and most recently in Utah. Prior to those stops, Watson was a solid contributor off the bench with Memphis and the former Seattle Supersonics.
His stats have never been captivating, his career highs include 11 points and seven assists per, but he's just what the Heat could use at the point guard position when it means signing a point guard that is capable of coming off the bench to lead an offense while giving Mario Chalmers some competition. Chalmers always seemed to respond to pressure very well and a veteran like Watson could provide that along with some veteran leadership.
The Heat were lacking at the point guard spot just as badly as they were at center. They went through three different starters at the one with Chalmers, Mike Bibby, and Carlos Arroyo all getting a start with Chalmers now set to be the projected starter for next season after Bibby's disappearance in the 2011 postseason. Bibby was expected to be the veteran help that could consistently hit shots and lead an offense, but was a monumental bust as he failed to contribute anything throughout the post season.
Watson isn't going to be a savior, but he's a cheap option that will give the Heat some needed depth at a position where they could really use a veteran capable of leading an offense and playing some sort of perimeter defense off the bench at that position.