While it is difficult to consider a season culminating in an NBA Finals berth to be a failure, that is how many think of the Miami Heat last season. The Heat went through many trials and tribulations, but they were able to make it to the Finals in a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs ultimately took control of the series and won the NBA championship, leaving LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Miami's "Dream Team" empty handed. With that said, the Heat will be right back in the mix this season, but they could certainly use a role player or two to help out.
With three elite All-Stars already on the team, there isn't a whole lot the Heat can do to improve, and their salary cap situation won't allow for much. They will have the mid-level exception at their disposal, however, so here are three veteran options that could play a vital role in Miami's run to a title.
One of the Heat's biggest issues last season was the lack of an intimidating force in the low post. The issue with that, however, is that there aren't many such players in the league, and there are even fewer available. With that said, Miami could certainly use a big man that can spread the floor a bit. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was supposed to do that last season to some extent, but he played very sparingly down the stretch.
Troy Murphy would make for an interesting experiment as a sweet-shooting big off the bench. Murphy had a nightmarish campaign split between the New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics last season, but he was a double-double machine in the two seasons previous.
Murphy won't cost much at all, and he can come off the bench for the Heat as a three-point shooter and a high-volume rebounder. Even if it doesn't work out, the investment will be negligible.
Undersized center Chuck Hayes seems to be getting some interest around the league, but his skill set would fit in fairly well with the Heat. At just 6'6", Hayes isn't a prototypical NBA center, but he makes up for that with his positioning and tenacity beneath the basket. Miami already has a pretty similar player in Udonis Haslem, but a team like the Heat can never have too many capable bigs coming off the bench.
Miami often turned to Joel Anthony at center last season, and while he is a plus shot blocker, he is a major liability on the offensive end. Hayes isn't going to set the world on fire offensively, but he can most certainly pitch in when needed. The height of Bosh would also help Hayes be effective as he could do all the dirty work that a center does while guarding the smaller player.
It's unclear whether the mid-level exception would even be enough to land Hayes, but the Heat can stand to add some toughness on the interior, and Hayes would provide just that.
Which would be the best signing for the Heat?
Perhaps the most coveted veteran role player on the market is small forward Grant Hill. For many years Hill has been a very serviceable, and at times spectacular, player in the NBA. At this point in his career money likely means very little, so he will probably be willing to sign with the contender of his choice on a mid-level exception. That bodes well for the Heat as they have to be one of the more attractive situations for any veteran looking to get a ring.
While the Heat may seem set in terms of perimeter players, Hill bring a certain experience and savvy play that Miami's other bench players don't. This, of course, could be contingent upon the Heat using their amnesty cut on guard/forward Mike Miller who was a disappointment last season.
Even if Miami keeps Miller, however, it will be able to use its full mid-level exception. Hill wouldn't be more than a role player with the Heat, but he does everything well and has seen it all as a player in the NBA, so he would be an invaluable asset in Miami's search for a title.