Help wanted: Possible Heat free-agent or trade targets
The Miami Heat expected to have a competitive roster this season even with the departure of LeBron James.
Instead of a top-heavy roster, the idea was that franchise cornerstones Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would continue to lead the team. Newcomers Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger would balance out the roster with returning veterans Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers and promising youngsters Shabazz Napier, James Ennis and Justin Hamilton.
The Heat — though certainly not as big of a threat in the East with the dissolution of the Big 3 — still appeared to possess enough depth and experience to have a winning record and battle for one of the top seeds in the wide-open East.
That was the hope at least.
The master plan to remain competitive hasn’t derailed just yet. But at 15-20 ahead of a tough January, there is no doubt reinforcements are needed in the wake of injuries and a better understanding of how the roster plays together.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra explained the decision to release rookie shooting guard Andre Dawkins was so that the Heat could have roster flexibility. They also possess a $2.65 million Disabled Player Exception because of Josh McRoberts’ torn meniscus injury that ended his season to help in their search.
Which players represent a clear upgrade for Miami versus others who would just be change for change’s sake?
Here are five of the more intriguing options for the Heat.
Yes, Michael Beasley is also in China, but the Heat have already tried twice and failed to get the best out of him. In Blatche, they would get a veteran who can score in bunches and brings some needed size either as a starter or off the bench.
A bit of a head case — there’s a reason why he’s not in the NBA after opting out of his Brooklyn Nets contract last summer — Blatche, nonetheless, could bring some valuable production for a playoff team and the Heat can’t exactly afford to be too choosy before their season comes apart either.
The exception comes in handy here for the Heat in order to offer him more than the veteran’s minimum, but he won’t be available until he finishes the Chinese Basketball Association season with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in March. Plus, there are other teams that also have bigger exceptions to dangle but the Heat could offer a bigger role.
The big man is available after being waived by the New York Knicks earlier this week and could provide much-needed defense, rebounding and shot-blocking for the Heat. They’ve enjoyed good production as of late, but starting a 36-year-old Andersen with a promising but still raw Hassan Whiteside may not be sustainable over the long term.
Dalembert’s skills may be fading, but he can still provide insurance in case of injuries to the power rotation even if he doesn’t play steady minutes in Miami.
Dawkins had his chance when he made the opening day roster over the likes of fellow undrafted rookies such as Johnson, but with the opportunity to now sign players to 10-day contracts it now makes sense to give him a shot as well.
Johnson impressed during Summer League and preseason with his athleticism and energy, which are in short supply in Miami off the bench at his position. He’s been having a strong season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and it won’t be long before another NBA team gives him an opportunity first. A 10-day contract would be ideal to see what he can contribute and if he can back up Wade with steady play in limited minutes.
Lewis had his moments last season with the Heat and is already familiar with the system, which would help expedite his assimilation back on the team. His corner 3-point shooting would help the team tremendously to help spread the floor and he provides more size and rebounding prowess than Shawne Williams.
He should be reasonably healthy at this point after offseason surgery on his right knee nullified his freshly signed contract with the Dallas Mavericks back in July. Though he is 35 and has a lengthy injury history, Lewis was a reliable contributor in his two seasons in Miami and could be had at a salary-cap friendly veteran’s minimum.
Veteran leadership is needed at the point guard position with the Heat struggling to win, in large part because of a weak start to the season for both Chalmers and Norris Cole. The Boston Celtics recently acquired Nelson as part of a package for Rajon Rondo, but they already have several guards on their roster and their team is going nowhere this season.
However, Miami doesn’t have much to offer the Celtics aside from a future pick and/or a swap of point guards. But Nelson’s contract at $2.75 million, with a player option next season for $3.25 million, is both reasonable and doesn’t cut into the Heat’s 2016 free agency plans.