HHH Roundtable: What's next for the Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference?

Alexander Tamargo

The writing crew here at Hot Hot Hoops ponder the immediate future of the defending world champions.

1) Dan Le Batard wrote a column saying that "only a little luck separated the Heat and Spurs." Is he right?

Surya Fernandez: Sure, but you always need some measure of luck to become the champions in any sport. Just like Tim Duncan's point blank shot at the rim over Shane Battier rims out, an expertly-kicked shot by Lionel Messi that's off by inches could be the difference between a game-winning goal for Barcelona or hitting the crossbar. Le Batard did frame the argument well, saying that Heat players were just like us spectators, simply watching and hoping that the Spurs would miss free throws on their own, which both Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard did. But that doesn't take away the accomplishments of the Heat for gutting out those tight victories and being able to capitalize on those opportunities. Ultimately, the Spurs misfortune gave the Heat life at the end of Game 6 but it still took skill for LeBron James and Ray Allen to knock down those timely threes, not luck.

Matt Pineda: I believe he is right to an extent. In the series, the difference was a little bit of luck. A few bounces here, missed three throws and a fortunate rebound and corner three saved the Heat, which can be classified as luck. But what I also believe is that if the Heat are healthy, as in Dwyane Wade, then they are far superior than any other team. That wasn't the case, and so the difference was a bit of luck.

Jay Ramos: He's absolutely right. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs were worthy champions, and only one team can win. Despite a few blowouts, it was a consistently contested series, since the blowouts went both ways. Miami earned the title, but so did San Antonio. The Heat were a few bounces away from being considered a failure by a portion of the influential media. Miami winning or losing a Finals series in seven games doesn't make them better or worse. It means a result in which only one team can win didn't go their way.

Diego Quezada: Dan LeBatard's column was sound -- this Finals series was as close as they get. These two teams were very evenly matched, and the entire trajectory of the series came down to a few plays in Games 6 and 7. There's no doubt, for example, that a Tim Duncan hook shot in the paint against Shane Battier is a better shot attempt than a LeBron James 19-foot pull-up jumper. But James' shot went in and Duncan's attempt didn't; the result was better than the process for Miami. It doesn't diminish the Heat's championship, but says that a lot comes down to simple luck and randomness. So much rhetoric falls on the result of chance in sports. Just as the Lakers won championships with a lot of luck in 2002 (the Kings series) and 2000 (the Blazers series), the Heat did this year.

2) Chris Andersen said, "Let's try to go for a three peat next year" at the parade. Do you expect him to return to Miami on the mini mid-level exception? Would you feel comfortable with Miami using its only chance to sign more than minimum-salary guys on Andersen instead of another player?

Ramos: In a perfect world, he would take the minimum, but his stock seems to have slightly exceeded that with his performance this season. It's hard to know without being involved, but what is fair to say is that he's better than a minimum player. The Heat will have to craft a creative pitch, and they have the winning to back it up.

Fernandez: Beg him to take the minimum, seeing as he is still owed $4.8 million next season anyway courtesy of the Denver Nuggets via the amnesty cut. That collectively should be more than enough for his tattoo budget.

Pineda: I would be very surprised to see Pat Riley give the full mid-level on a 3 year deal to a 34 year old big. If he opts to stay for less, than I'm sure we would do that in a heart beat. I also believe that Riley will take a good, hard look at Greg Oden.

Quezada: Re-signing Chris Andersen should stand as the Heat's offseason priority. He's the perfect fit for a Miami Heat backup center. Unlike Dampier, Curry, Magloire and Pittman, Andersen can run the floor well, block shots and finish around the rim with off-the-charts efficiency. He's definitely played himself out of the minimum-salary realm, so the Heat will probably offer him a deal starting at the mini midlevel exception of $3.1 million. Other teams may offer Andersen higher starting salaries, so Miami may have to offer Andersen a two- or three-year deal. There's a realistic possibility that Andersen will choose to leave, but Miami should do all in its power to keep him here. If Andersen doesn't re-sign, the Heat should perhaps look at Samuel Dalembert. I've always liked Lamar Odom and wouldn't mind him coming along, but his stock has cratered so much since his 2011 Sixth Man Award that Miami may sign him for the veteran's minimum.

3) Do you think Ray Allen will opt-in?

Ramos: It would be odd if he opted out. Just a year ago he decided he wanted to play for a contender with a lesser role, and every single thing he was promised has been fulfilled. He's made a lot of money in his career, so it would just be very odd to me if 12 months after deciding to take the mini mid-level, he opted out at age 38 for some more cash after winning a title.

Fernandez: Yes, seeing as this is his best option and his decision to come down to Miami was validated with the championship. What other situation is going to be better than here? Back to Boston and their rebuilding project?


Pineda: Yes, I believe Ray is healthy enough to go another year and winning a championship only solidifies his reason to stay with the heat.

Quezada: Chris Bosh's statements at the parade certainly made it seem like Ray Allen will return. Allen himself also said that he felt welcomed in Miami, so I would expect him to opt-in to the final year of his contract. Allen won a championship with Miami, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to leave a team for the second time in as many years. Since Allen turned down greater offers to sign with the Heat, it seems unlikely that he would opt-out just for the chance to make more money this year.

4) Should the Heat amnesty Mike Miller (or someone else)?


Pineda: No, I think Miller's value was increased in the playoffs and despite his lack of playing for most of the year, I doubt Miami will dump him. I wouldn't be surprised to see them amnesty someone, maybe Joel Anthony. But either way, the Heat are still over the cap and will be hit with the luxury, it's just a matter of how much.

Fernandez: Doesn't make such sense from a basketball standpoint as Miller was extremely useful when called upon but I do understand the financial aspect of it. Ultimately, do the Heat view Miller as expendable when they already have Battier, James Jones and Ray Allen? Another candidate could be Joel Anthony, who could theoretically be "replaced" by a player like Jarvis Varnado or even bring in another project like last year's draft acquisition Justin Hamilton.

Quezada: With the more punitive luxury tax kicking in next season, it makes sense for the Heat to amnesty a solid but ultimately expendable player in Mike Miller. Miller spent most of the 2012-13 championship run on the bench and only received playing time in the conference finals because Shane Battier was mired in a shooting slump. But Battier made 136 3-pointers during the regular season (for comparison, Ray Allen made 139) and plays great defense. With Battier, Ray Allen and even James Jones on the team, the Heat can afford to amnesty Miller's $6.2 million.

Ramos: Joel Anthony is a better option from a basketball standpoint, but Miller is paid more, and it makes more sense financially. It won't make a big difference, but using that clause on Miller would give Miami some relief.

5) With Doc Rivers now gone from Boston, do you expect the Celtics to trade Kevin Garnett and/or Paul Pierce? Can they become playoff contenders again?


Pineda: I expect both Pierce and Garnett to be gone. Boston should go to full rebuilding mode immediately.

Quezada: The Celtics executives didn't want to pay a coach $7 million if they weren't going to be competing for a championship, so I would expect the Celtics to trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (Boston may buy out the remainder of his contract). The Celtics do have a young core consisting of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. It remains to be seen what the Celtics can get in return for Garnett, especially if they try to unload a bad contract or two (Jason Terry, Courtney Lee). But since Boston has never been an attractive free agent destination, they'll need to either rebuild through trades or the draft.

Fernandez: The rebuilding process is definitely underway and I expect those two to be goners. Danny Ainge knows this is his last chance to acquire assets for them. There are still too many variables to know if they will be a contending team in the near future. Will they build around Rajon Rondo or also shop him around? As they currently are built, I don't see them being more than a first round victim, if they can even make the playoffs.

Ramos: This Celtics core will never contend again. Garnett and Pierce are still good players, but as a team they cannot muster enough offensively to contend as currently constructed. Plus, you would expect that at some point these veterans will have to decline more.

6) What moves do you expect the Pacers and Bulls to make to improve this summer? Can any other East team like the Knicks compete in the playoffs?

Pineda: Obviously the Bulls are getting their star player back, but they need a bit of shooting as Rip Hamilton is done. I see them adding a wing and hoping Jimmy Butler plays like he did in the playoffs. The Pacers, I believe, should entertain moving Danny Granger. If they can find value for him, they just might. Either way, they need to resign West and find some scoring off the bench. It seems as though the Knicks will continue to be surpassed by the Bulls and Pacers unless they can find a taker for Amare Stoudemire.

Quezada: The Pacers' offseason priority should be to re-sign David West. The emergence of Paul George makes Danny Granger's $14 million expiring contract an obvious trade chip. Indiana should trade Granger for a couple of good bench players, and will still be a contender in the East if they retain West. The return of Derrick Rose will undoubtedly improve the Bulls, but his supporting cast remains a big question mark. Regardless of whatever each East team does, the Heat will enter the 2013-14 season as the favorites.

Ramos: In Chicago's case, they are in a really tough spot financially. Without trading on of their veteran pieces (Or an amnesty), they cannot afford to add an impact player in free agency. Luol Deng, who has a year left on his current deal, seems like trade bait. Indiana does have substantial room under the cap, but they must tend to keeping power forward David West. Other than that, they could really use some ball handling and creating on their team to take the next step. The Knicks will not be a contender next season barring a roster upheaval.

Fernandez: It will be fascinating to see how Derrick Rose returns from injury because that's the difference between the Chicago Bulls being a contending team or not. One day the Bulls seem to be shopping Luol Deng, another day they're trying to negotiate an extension, and now his agent says no extension talks are happening right now so it's difficult to project just how good the Bulls team can be right now. Pacers need to definitely re-sign David West and it remains to be seen what role Danny Granger has on this team. Knicks won't ever seriously contend if Carmelo is their best player on that team, I just don't see that happening. The future looks bright for the Heat, at the very least in the East.

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