The 2017 NBA Playoffs are chugging along while the Miami Heat watch from home. To make things more interesting for Heat fans, we present one free agent target from every remaining team.
For the second time in the three years since LeBron James went home, the Miami Heat have also gone home, just not to Northeast Ohio. Rather, home to watch the playoffs from their couches like the rest of us.
Miami probably deserved to make it in over the Chicago Bulls this year, but unfortunately missed out due to a tiebreaker. It is what it is, though I admit I haven’t fully gone through all seven stages of grief yet.
Anger and bargaining aside, as a Heat fan, I also find myself struggling to enjoy the postseason due to a lack of rooting interest. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way, either.
I mean, in the Western Conference, who are Heat fans supposed to pull for? The San Antonio Spurs, who single-handedly ended the Big Three era in South Florida? Or the Golden State Warriors, the group who took the premier-super-team-in-the-NBA mantle away from Miami?
And what about in the East? The Boston Celtics? The… Cleveland Cavaliers??? Safe to say, neither of those are viable options.
So to make watching the playoffs just a bit more bearable, let’s break down one player from each team still fighting for a chance to lose to the Warriors, who will be a free agent this summer, and who the Heat could very well target to fill their 2017-18 roster.
He plays a position of need for the Heat, is an excellent defender and is one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the NBA. However, since I did an in-depth look on how he’d fit with Miami last week, going in a different direction this time around only made sense.
So instead, we’ll target a backup point guard in Shelvin Mack.
In Mack, Miami would be getting a five-year vet with some playoff experience. This season, he’s averaging 7.8 points and 2.8 assists to fewer than 2.0 turnovers per contest. Is he a game-changer? Absolutely not. Are there better options out there? Without a doubt.
But at worst, he could take some pressure off of Dragic, and that’s really all the Heat would require of their theoretical backup point guard. (Not to mention he’d be a minimum-contract type, which is a major plus.)
Moreover, it wouldn’t make sense for Miami to sign him to an enormous offer sheet, just to have to wait three more days to find out if Washington planned on matching or not.
That would take away precious time the Heat could use on re-signing J. Johnson or Dion Waiters. Why risk pissing them off and make them reconsider their options when they both appear pretty set on coming back?
Trey Burke, who sort of fills that backup point guard need, will also be available. But he’s just not very good. (Burke has yet to play a minute in the playoffs.)
So will Brandon Jennings, who, unlike Burke, has received postseason playing time but has done next to nothing with it. (You know how everyone is making fun of the Wizards bench? Jennings is probably the biggest reason why.)
So that leaves us with Bojan Bogdanovic. Though he hasn’t been great for Washington, at least opposing teams have to respect his prowess from beyond the arc. As a member of the Wizards, the Bosnian wing has shot 39.1 percent from three.
In today’s NBA, you can never have enough shooting. If Luke Babbitt and Wayne Ellington were to switch teams this offseason, Bogdanovic would be a solid replacement for Miami’s bench. (Washington will likely pass on matching offers for him after re-signing Porter this summer.)
Any of the Toronto Raptors’ free agents to be would make for welcome additions to the Heat, but Serge Ibaka would fill the biggest need at starting power forward. Nonetheless, signing him would probably mean saying goodbye to James Johnson, and do we really want to do that?
Ibaka’s likely going to get a deal at — or just under — the max. He’s still just 27 years old and shooting the three better than he ever has before. Signing him would be extremely expensive for Miami.
Furthermore, the Raptors own his Bird Rights, meaning they can go past their cap space to re-sign him. Barring Toronto getting swept by Cleveland (entirely possible) and deciding to blow it up (not that likely), they’ll do everything they can to bring back their power forward.
P.J. Tucker, meanwhile, is more of a wing, but can also play spot minutes at the 4. He’s one of the best defenders in the NBA, and a just-above-average three-point shooter. The Raptors sent two second round picks (along with Jared Sullinger) to the Phoenix Suns to attain him, so they might make him a priority this summer.
That would make Patrick Patterson the odd man out. Though he’s struggled mightily this postseason with his shooting, he’s still averaging just under 20 minutes per contest. The reason? His defense. Patterson has quick feet and a sturdy frame at 6-foot-9, so he can handle chasing around opposing stretch-4’s or banging with bigger bodies down low.
That, and his ability to space the floor from his forward spot (37.2 percent from three in 2016-17), make him a very enticing option for Miami.
The Heat are probably going to lose the services of backup-center Willie Reed this summer. He quietly had an excellent season, and some team in need of a big man will overpay him. Good for him, he deserves it.
The 14-year vet has slowed down some, but he’s still an efficient scoring machine. On the year, he’s shooting 61.7 percent from the floor, while averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds nightly. He’s not the rim-protector Reed is, but he’s far more adept at getting buckets.
Plus, he’s one of the most intimidating players in the NBA.
James Johnson and Nene on the same team? No one would mess with the Heat ever again.
I mean, seriously? I have to pick from that steaming pile of you-know-what?
No, I refuse. Instead, I’m gonna go with Hard Pass, and offer my sincerest apologies to you, the loyal reader. There’s simply not a single guy on that list who would help the Heat in 2017-18. None. Zero. Zilch.
Kyle Korver can shoot, but literally do nothing else. And he’s already 36. No thanks.
Dahntay Jones? The Cavs signed him to be the first guy off the bench; no, not in the sixth-man sense, rather in physically getting up off the bench first to offer up towels, Gatorade and applause for his teammates who actually get to play. The Heat already have Udonis Haslem to do that. (Minus the “handing out towels and drinks” part. Nothing but respect for U.D.)
James Jones? Nah. Walter Tavares? (I honestly have no idea who that is.) Flat-out no.
Of all the players listed, I guess Deron Williams would be the most appealing. But he’s 32, plays like he’s 37, and is in the ring-chasing portion of his career. Doubt he would have any interest joining a young team like Miami.
So yeah, I’m sticking with Hard Pass. Final answer.
Like Houston, the Spurs gave us an easy choice in Patty Mills.
He can play the role of Dragic’s backup, or play off the ball thanks to his three-point shooting (41.3 percent from deep this season). He’s also an underrated defender despite his diminutive size.
I don’t think I have to describe his game in much more detail, though. At least not to the Heat fans reading this, since I’m sure they all remember what he did to Miami in the 2013 and 2014 Finals.
Mills will likely receive a deal worth around $12-14 million annually, and that may even be low-balling it.
Considering how much money the Heat have committed to their guards over the next few years (not just Dragic, but T. Johnson’s contract explodes in 2018-19, which is the same year Richardson will be due a new agreement — yikes), it wouldn’t be prudent to give a free agent guard a contract of that size.
But the Spurs need Jonathon Simmons’ length and athleticism, so they’ll likely match any offer sheet to keep him. What’s more, this is probably Manu Ginobili’s last year in the NBA, as well as Joel Anthony’s.
So, it was either Mills or another Hard Pass. And I’d never do that to our loyal readers twice in one slideshow. You have my word. Mills it is.
I was leaning towards choosing Kelly Olynyk, but he’s currently playing a ton of minutes for Brad Stevens, is still only 26 and will be a restricted free agent. The Celtics seem to like him, so prying him away would be unlikely, barring a huge offer sheet. Pass on that.
So big man hybrid Amir Johnson is our selection.
The 30-year-old power forward can play either frontcourt position. His numbers don’t jump off the page (6.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks nightly), but Boston plays better when he’s on the floor.
During the regular season, the Celtics were 9.3 points per 100 possessions better with A. Johnson on. Some of that may have to do with the fact that he started next to one-man-supernova Isaiah Thomas for most of the year, thus skewing his overall numbers. But regardless, it’s an impressive mark.
Presently, A. Johnson is on the final season of a two-year, $24 million contract. That’s a lot more than Miami would like to spend on a reserve big, but thanks to his reduced role in the playoffs (just 46 minutes of action through eight games), his asking price for 2017-18 and beyond should go down.
If the Heat can sign him for something like $4-5 mill annually (maybe using their mid-level exception), it would be a bargain for such an experienced role player. The 11-year-vet understands his limitations, and wouldn’t hurt Miami’s chemistry. That’s the most important thing any incoming free agent could offer.
After we immediately remove Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry (since there’s zero shot they leave Golden State), we’re still left with a few intriguing options.
Andre Iguodala is one, but he’s getting up there in age, and probably only interested in playing for a contender at this point in his career. Ditto Shaun Livingston. Both guys will likely get decent-sized deals this summer, anyways. Too rich for Miami’s liking, at least.
Skimming through the rest of the list, one guy that stands out is Ian Clark. The Belmont grad actually played with the Heat’s Summer League team in his first year out of college.
Though he doesn’t really do anything besides shoot (37.4 percent from three in 2016-17), what team couldn’t use more of that off the bench? Clark’s somewhat low production (averaging 18.6 minutes and 8.0 points in the playoffs) could lead to smaller offers than he probably deserves in today’s market.
In addition, remember that Pat Riley and Co. like to target guys they have experience with (Willie Reed, anyone?), so it’s entirely possible they already have an eye on him. He’d be a solid (and cheap) candidate to take Wayne Ellington’s role next season.
Or, maybe they aren’t interested in him, or any of the other guys we’ve listed, and this was all for naught. At minimum, now you have a reason to watch the playoffs with more gusto, thinking of potential future Heat Lifers.