Mar 16, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (left) talks with teammates guard Dwyane Wade (center) and forward LeBron James (tight) during the second half against the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Retooling The Heat

Now that the dust has settled on the 2013-14 NBA season, it’s time for the Miami Heat to focus on the offseason and look for ways to improve their roster.

Of course, a major factor in that are the decisions that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have to make on whether they’re going to exercise the opt-out options on their respective contracts. Opting-in would actually limit the Heat on what roster upgrades they can do, as their contracts equal $61,228,000. Include Udonis Haslem more than likely opting-in to his player option ($4,620,000) and Norris Cole’s deal ($2,150,188) and those 5 players will cost Miami just under $68 million. The projected cap is slated to go up to $63.2 million, so the Heat are already over that.

On Tuesday, the New York Daily News reported that the only way that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh would accept pay-cuts would be if the money went to improving the roster, and not so the Heat can alleviate their tax bill (tax line is projected to be at $77 million). The only way that can happen is by all three opting-out. Wade has the most to lose by opting-out, as he is slated to make $43 million the next two years, money he might not see if he ops-out for a new deal.

So how do the Heat get to retooling the roster? Well, this will take a group effort.

(All figures I come up with are purely my own opinions of what is a viable option.)

Restructuring the Big Three

This isn’t going to be easy, by any means.

First is having to convince Wade to accept a pay-cut, and how much money he’s willing to sacrifice. He’s 32 years old and has been dealing with various ailments the past few years. He missed 29 games because of the Heat’s maintenance program, which was supposed to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Well, he ran out of gas in the Finals. Miami can’t be put in a position to overpay someone who is going to be forced to sit a third of the season. But he’s been the face of the franchise and is an important part of what brought this together.

I’d probably offer a 4 year, $56 million ($14 million/yr) deal. This pays him an additional $13 million until the age of 36. In essence, this acts as a quasi-Kobe deal, as Wade gets more money at the end of his run as a sign of appreciation.

Bosh might not be worth a max-deal, but he has been an important part of this run. He has made statements saying he would take less to keep the band together. Maybe something like 5 years, $85 million ($17 million/yr) would work.

As for LeBron, there’s two ways of going about this.

One, he can just opt-in for one year and get his $20 million for 2014-15 and let things play out before committing long-term.

The second option is he gets a 5 year, $95 million ($19 million/yr) from the Heat, with early-termination options after years 2-4. This will allow him flexibility to walk away if he feels the Heat aren’t doing right by him.

Let’s say he goes with the latter and we total the figures up, the Big Three are locked in for the 2014-15 season at a combined $50 million. Throw in Cole’s figure and now we’re up to $52,150,188 for those four players. With the projected cap at $63.2 million, we have some money to play with.

Oh wait, there’s one issue that needs to be dealt with.

The awkward problem of Udonis Haslem

Haslem has been the soul of the team since his arrival in 2003. Fans love him and the Big Three all respect him. You can’t just discard him. But his player option throws a snag into this plan.

Maybe he’ll see the big picture and decide on not taking the option, but expects to be taken care of. How does 4 years, $8 million sound? He’s not getting $2 million a year on the open market, so he’ll make some more money and stay home. He and Wade can stay together until the end.

If this is successful, the Heat are now up to $54,150,188 in salaries. This leaves us with $9,049,812 million in cap space. Let’s see what we can possibly spend that on.

Free Agent Possibilities

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

 

Carmelo Anthony, SF/Knicks:

Kyle Lowry, PG/Raptors: The biggest, most realistic prize for the Heat. Rumors popped up about there being mutual interest between both parties. He developed nicely this year, showing off his aggressive tendencies as someone that can attack the paint, guard opposing point guards, and run the offense for a Toronto team that surprised many by winning the Atlantic Division. Miami lacked those attributes from their point guards in the Finals. Lowry would allow LeBron to play off ball and limit him from doing so much. Plus when LeBron is on the bench, Lowry is more than capable to run the offense.

Money will be an issue, as Lowry played extremely well (17.9 ppg, 7.4 apg) after bouncing around the league for a few years. He’ll probably want to maximize the amount of money he can get (rumors say he could get $11 million, per year), so the Heat offering $8-9 million might not get it done. The Heat could tweak their offers to the Big Three if they feel they have a strong shot at signing Lowry. Lowry’s chances of playing for a contender increase greatly with a move to Miami.

Trevor Ariza, SF/Wizards: Front and center during the Wizards run in the playoffs, Ariza improved as a wing defender, as well as refine his perimeter game. He’s essentially become a much, much better version of what the Heat hoped to get out of Shane Battier. Much like Lowry, Ariza might want to cash in on his 2013-14 season (14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals), and Washington has cap space to take care of him and Marcin Gortat. But the Wizards do have the third pick of the 2013 Draft, Otto Porter, waiting for his chance, yet the Wizards seemed down on him. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.

Spencer Hawes, C/Cavaliers: File this one under “mildly intriguing”. The Heat got burned by the Spurs’ big men because of their ability to pass the ball with great efficiency. Well, that’s what Hawes can do (3 assists per game). He also has an ability to stretch the floor (42% from downtown, in 2013-14), as well as a solid rebounder (8.3 per game) and shot blocker (1.2). Versatile big man are hard to come by, so price could be an issue.

Long shots

Apr 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (25) is defended by Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) during the second quarter in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler Parsons, SF/ Rockets: Beyond intriguing. Parsons has proven to be a good shooter, with good athleticism on the wings. He’s awful defensively, so he’s going to have to be hidden. Otherwise, he fits in well as a viable option for the Heat. Wade might have to slide into a Manu Ginobili role as a sixth man (I’m sure convincing him to take less money AND coming off the bench would be a delightful conversation) to make this work.

Downside? He’s a restricted free agent, so Houston has the right to match any offer. Thing is, the Rockets are trying to make a play for Carmelo Anthony and need money available for him. Houston is trying to move the albatross contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik so they could sign Carmelo and Parsons, but this is going to need to get done by ASAP. An immediate $8-$10 million offer from a contender could make the Rockets sweat, if they’re not able to create the necessary cap flexibility to pull off the signing of both he and Carmelo. It’s a dice roll.

Greg Monroe, PF/C, Pistons: I’m biased towards Monroe, as I think he’d be perfect as an interior presence for the Heat. He took a bit of a step back this past season, but he had to deal with the flaming pile of garbage that was the Pistons. Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith just couldn’t work. I think a change of scenery would benefit him.

Same issues as Parsons – he’s a restricted free agent – so Detroit can match any offer. Do the Pistons give it a whirl one more time or let him move on? Also, will Monroe look to try and break the bank? If that’s the case, Miami isn’t going to work.

Filling out the roster

Assuming the Heat get one of the above – they’re not going to be left with a lot. Since they’ve paid the luxury tax the last three years, Miami won’t have the full Mid-Level Exception. However, they have the tax-payer Mid-Level Exception ($3.28 miillion) at their disposal. Someone like a Shawn Marion or Patrick Patterson could be an option for this. Either way, the Heat are using that exception.

Now the Heat would be over $66 million, after using the exception and if someone is willing (drunk?) enough to take the remainder of the Heat’s space. That’s seven players. The rest of the roster is filled out with minimum salary veterans – up to $1.4 million, depending on a player’s tenure (options include, but not limited to: Michael Beasley, Greg Oden, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, and Mike Miller) – plus a first round draft pick. This will get them over the tax line, but Heat management is going to have to give a little to make this work.

I don’t know how this will play out, but it can be done. A lot of my hypothetical offers probably would need for players to weigh the cost of winning over money. It’s just going to take some work from all parties to make it happen.

Good thing the Miami Heat are known for hard work.

Cap information via Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ blog. Free agent list and team salaries via HoopsHype

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