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My Offseason Plan for the Heat

The Miami Heat's 2013 offseason looks set to be very boring.

Why? Well, the Heat have no draft picks - their first-round pick was given to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron sign-and-trade (and is currently owned by the Phoenix Suns), while their second-rounder was given to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for them taking the disappointing Dexter Pittman off the Heat's hands.

In addition, the Heat are barred by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement from offering anything more than the Mini-mid-level exception of roughly $3.3 million per year to 1 free agent, plus the veteran's minimum for the remainder of their signings.

Last but not least, the Heat just won the NBA Finals, so don't expect any major moves like trades that would disrupt team chemistry. The Heat were the best regular season team in the NBA last year and the best playoff team last year. Other teams won't be interested in helping the Heat get better, so don't expect any very lucrative trade offers to come to the Heat. I've seen rumors of lottery teams offering the Heat a lottery draft pick in this year's (weak) draft class in exchange for players such as Chris Bosh, but don't expect Pat Riley to accept any of them. Riley is famous for preferring veterans over rookies when it comes to building championship contenders, so there's no way he'd contemplate trading away a valued and proven player for a draft pick in a weak draft class.

So, a team like the Miami Heat with no draft picks, only 1 contract to offer a free agent worth more than the minimum salary, and no real incentive to make huge changes is a team that's going to have a quiet offseason.

However, concern has grown that due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement's harsh penalties for keeping a team's payroll above the luxury tax, the Heat will feel pressured to get rid of a couple of role players.

I personally believe that because the Heat set records for ratings in local South Florida TV markets, the Heat's next TV deal will be generous enough to allow Heat owner Mickey Arison to pay the luxury tax without cutting into his own wealth. For the sake of argument, let's pretend the conventional wisdom that Arison will be losing money next season while owning a repeat NBA champion team with a global fanbase is accurate (and again, I don't think that's true)...

Well, amnestying Mike Miller (set to be earning $6.2 million per year for 2 more years) doesn't save *that* much more money than amnestying Joel Anthony ($3.8 million per year for 2 more years). Miller (when healthy) is still a contributor, while Joel Anthony has fallen to our third string big man rotation. Miller fits into the Heat's identity of small-ball. Joel Anthony doesn't. So I disagree with the conventional wisdom that Miller is a goner - Miller just started several games in the NBA Finals, while Joel Anthony only played in garbage time.

So if Arison demands a player be amnestied to save money, it should be Joel Anthony, who no longer fits the Heat's new guiding principle of all players on the court having to be offensive threats, even at the expense of defense. Haslem can hit jumpers, the Birdman can finish lobs and layups, but Anthony can barely catch passes.

So move #1: Let's amnesty Anthony to save Arison some money and free up a roster spot.

The roster is would then be

1. LeBron James

2. Dwyane Wade

3. Chris Bosh

4. Mike Miller

5. Udonis Haslem

6. Mario Chalmers

7. Ray Allen

8. Shane Battier

9. Norris Cole

10. James Jones

11. Jarvis Varnado

12. Rashard Lewis

Move #2: Re-sign Chris Andersen to the mini-mid-level exception of $3.2 million. That's a bit less than Andersen could get on the open market, but I do believe that like Shane Battier and Ray Allen, Andersen is willing to sacrifice a bit of money for the chance to be on a contender. Andersen was amnestied by the Denver Nuggets, and thus has been getting paid a pretty good salary (amnestied players still get paid their contract values - they just don't count against team's payrolls for luxury tax calculations).

So the Heat are up to 13 out of 15 spots filled.

That leaves the Heat with....

Point Guard: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole

Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Mike Miller

Small Forward: LeBron James, Shane Battier, James Jones

Power Forward: Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis, Jarvis Varnado

Center: Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen

Move #3: I'd reserve 1 spot either for a veteran big-man willing to take a huge paycut to play for Miami (maybe Samuel Dalembert or Greg Oden?) or for Justin Hamilton (Heat's second round pick last year). The Heat could definitely use some Big-man depth in case of injury.

Move #4: I'd reserve the final roster spot for a young guard like Terrell Harris who could help the Heat defend athletic shooting guards since while Cole is a superb defender against point guards, Cole's small size makes him a liability when matched up against bigger players. Having a defensive specialist at shooting guard would allow Spoelstra to give Wade some defensive breaks in games while up against teams like the Houston Rockets who have high-scoring shooting guards.

Move #5: Last, I'd sign Juwan Howard to be a Heat assistant coach. It looks like we're going to lose David Fizdale to another team this offseason - he's been mentioned on several short-lists for coaching positions - and I'd rather Howard provide his locker-room presence without costing the Heat a roster spot. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill just announced their retirements, and Howard should do the same.

The sum of these moves would be basically the same roster in 2013-2014 as in 2012-2013. The differences would be Anthony would be off the team (we'd be replacing him with a cheaper contributor), the Heat's depth at guard would be improved, and the Heat would stop "wasting" a roster spot on Juwan Howard, who no longer can be reasonably expected to give the team quality minutes as a backup in case of injury due to his advanced age.

The 2014 offseason should be crazy, with everyone on the roster (except from Norris Cole) either being free agents or having player options in their contracts that allow them to become free agents, but the 2013 offseason should be pretty tame. The Heat should take the opportunity to make realistic improvements in preparation for a run at a three-peat.

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