What the Heat must do to stay relevant in the East

By: Jon

 

The biggest loser in the whole LeBron James saga is obviously the Miami Heat. However, the biggest winner, even bigger than the Cleveland Cavaliers, is Chris Bosh. When free agency opened a week and a half ago, many believed that Bosh’s decision came down to the Heat and taking less money (about $80 million over 5 years) or the Rockets and making the max money ($88 million over 4 years). However, when James decide to shock the world and follow the words of J. Cole “I’m Coming Home”, the consensus opinion was that Bosh would leave South Beach and head for Houston to team up with Harden and Howard and become one of the favorites to win the championship. At the end of the day, Bosh shocked the NBA world and decided to re-sign with the Miami Heat for the max deal, 5 years and $118 million. The Heat were in an incredibly vulnerable position without James and a decrepit Wade and immensely overpaid for the services of Chris Bosh.

Although Bosh has shown the capability of leading a team to the playoffs during his time with Toronto, he is not LeBron James and the Heat will need to add another star and a significantly better bench if the Heat are going to compete in the East. Since Bosh became the third wheel on the Heat four years ago, his rebounding and shooting numbers declined each year. This year, Bosh’s numbers should dramatically increase as he will likely become the number one option. If Bosh stops shooting threes and shows a willingness to bang inside, Bosh should return to putting up 20-10s almost every night for the Heat. The Heat will likely wait to re-sign Bosh or Wade because they possess their Bird Rights, which enable them to go over the cap.

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Along with re-signing Bosh, the Heat are determined and extremely likely to sign Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. After opting out of their respective short term deals, the duo, who has won three championships with the Heat, will look for long term security, while sacrificing annual money. Although Wade was set to make $20 million this year, reports state that he is likely to receive a 5 year deal worth about $60-$65 million. If Wade takes less money, it will enable the Heat to spend more on free agents during the offseason.

Although Wade’s health has significantly decreased over the past few years, he is able to occasionally play at a high level if he is given the proper rest. Although Wade does not have the knees to carry a team through the playoffs or maybe even a playoff series, he can be a good second or third option for a team that wins a series or two. Without James, Wade will probably shoot more often, which will lead to an increase in points, but likely a decrease in shooting percentage as the top wing defenders will take Wade instead of James. Although Wade has been known for his great defense in the past, he gave very little effort on defense during the Finals, which will be unacceptable next year. Haslem was set to earn about $5 million this season, but will likely sign a deal for about 3-4 years at $3-4 per year. Although Haslem is mostly over the hill, he can provide solid defense and occasional offensive output.

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With the contracts of Bosh, $20.7M, Wade, $12M, Haslem, $3.5M, Napier, $1.4M, Granger, $2M, McRoberts, $5.5M, and Cole, $2.15, the Heat have approximately $46.5M in salaries and about $15.5M in remaining cap salary and $30.5M until they hit the luxury tax, which they will definitely not pay under the current situation. Although the Heat signed Josh McRoberts, they will likely wait to sign all the players they want and use their mid level exception on McRoberts. Thus, the team will spend about $30M more during the offseason, they need to sign at least 8 more players to fill the required 15 slots.

The latest news around the Heat is that they are looking at Luol Deng to partially fill the void that LeBron left in Miami. It has been reported that Deng is commanding about $10M a year over 2 years. Although Deng still in the middle/end of his prime, 29, he has played an outstanding amount of minutes. However, the Heat would still be receiving at least one to two years of Deng in his prime and another year of above average play. Since Deng has entered into the league, he has been one of the most consistent players in the league, offensively and defensively. While Deng has the ability to be a number 2 option on a quality team, he is willing to be the number 3 option on offense, while playing great defense. Although Deng cannot reproduce the playmaking and offensive skill of LeBron, his defensive prowess cannot be understated. Even behind Bosh and Wade, Deng should average about 15 points per game while averaging about 5 assists and 6 rebounds.

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Along with Deng’s contract, the Heat should have enough money to make a play at another big time free agent. Two options that the Heat should explore are Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe. After three years as a backup point guard behind Chris Paul, Bledsoe went to Phoenix and showed that he had the capability to be an above average point guard in the league for a long time. Although he missed nearly half the season, Bledsoe averaged 18 points per game and 6 assists while playing with fellow point guard Goran Dragic. Bledsoe would be a great fit for the Heat because they do not have a very good point guard on the roster. Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, but the Suns will be reluctant to match any high offer with Dragic and Isiah Thomas on their team. Although Bledsoe will unlikely command the max, 4 year $63M, he should earn a hefty salary, 4 year $48M.

Although Monroe plays the opposite position of Bledsoe, center/power forward, he has been an extremely productive and underrated player for the Pistons over the last 4 years. Monroe has an above average inside game, which will fit with the other members of the Heat’s roster. Since Monroe has been a consistent and healthier¬†player over the last few years, he will command and receive a more expensive contract than Bledsoe. The Heat will need to offer near the max, 4 year $60M if they are going to sign the young stud. If the Heat sign Bledsoe, they will have about $8M left to sign the 6 members on their team. They will probably sign 2-3 at the league minimum and the rest for contracts at or near $2.5-3M. If they decide to sign Monroe, their bench will inevitably be less deep.

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