The Miami Heat's executives met with free agent Ray Allen Thursday, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Despite legitimate questions over Allen's age and defensive deficiencies, the NBA's most prolific 3-point shooter would provide some much-needed scoring off the bench. Moreover, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have apparently signed off on the idea of playing with Allen. The likelihood of this pairing appears to be good; the Celtics plan to start Avery Bradley, and recently acquired shooting guard Jason Terry will get significant playing time. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers opted to sign Jamal Crawford to fortify their backcourt.
But one free agent the Heat plan to meet raises a few more concerns. David Aldridge reported Thursday that Rashard Lewis will meet with Miami this weekend. Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida even said that a perfect Heat scenario would include signing Allen for the taxpayer mid-level exception - approximately $9 million over three years - and adding Lewis at the veteran's minimum.
I'm sorry, but I beg to differ. Miami could clearly use some help on the frontline. Shane Battier won't be able to defend stronger players like David West for a full 82-game season. Udonis Haslem's foot injury from 2010 appears to have robbed Haslem of some of his explosiveness, and he struggled with his jump shot all year long. It would behoove the Heat to find Haslem's replacement this offseason to build championship-contending teams for the foreseeable future. James, Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers all have multiple good years left, so the Heat should look for one or two more role players who can contribute for several years.
And Lewis, who will turn 33 by the time training camp rolls around, isn't the replacement for Haslem. For some casual fans, the previous sentence may seem dubious. Lewis is a two-time All-Star, while the biggest individual accolade Haslem has garnered is constantly being called a "warrior." Although Lewis would space the floor with his 3-point shooting if he did sign with the Heat, the former Seattle Sonic plays poor defense and doesn't rebound well for a 6-foot-10 guy. Lewis has never averaged more than seven boards per game in his career despite playing nearly 40 minutes per game for several seasons.
Erik Spoelstra's decision to put Battier in the starting lineup confounded Serge Ibaka, and the NCAA and NBA champion knocked down 15 3s in the Finals. Battier essentially played the role of a "stretch four" for the Heat, dragging Ibaka to the perimeter and opening driving lanes for Wade and James. But Battier's defensive versatility was just as instrumental to the Heat's postseason success as his shooting was. Fans tend to overvalue a player's offensive skills and ignore his work on the defensive end. Laker fans may feel ecstatic that Steve Nash will join their team, but they should keep in mind the Oklahoma City Thunder will finish games with Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant on the perimeter. Nash would have a lot of trouble matching up with any one of those players.
Lewis would provide some outside shooting and floor spacing for the Heat, but his bad defense and rebounding will likely keep him in a limited role. Signing someone at the veteran's minimum to play limited minutes isn't a bad deal. But Riley should look for a young power forward in the mold of Haslem who can rebound, defend and make the open jumper. Lewis isn't that guy.