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Foreign players that could change Pat Riley’s thinking

I like the homegrown product, I just do. I feel comfortable with it. And maybe somewhere in free agency or via some trades, we may have missed somewhere along the line, but I just felt I just like the players here. That's where I've gone. I'm not saying that we're not going to ever draft a foreign player or sign one, but it hasn't been at the top of our priority list.
Pat Riley’s reluctance to utilize foreign players over the years came into the forefront during Riley’s press conference last month that raised some eyebrows even though it was nothing revelatory for those that have followed the Heat during his tenure. And no you can’t really count Jamaal Magloire and Joel Anthony who are from Canada. In honor of those that haven’t had much of a chance thanks to Riley’s prejudice, here are a few foreigners who could help fill those upcoming empty roster spots and provide good value for their productivity. Should maximum contracts be thrown at the heaviest hitters in free agency with little left to spare for the rest of the roster, Riley should expand his thinking and re-consider his stance. Rudy Fernandez, Portland TrailBlazers The quick Spaniard with the distinguished last name has made his displeasure over his second season with the Blazers known and needs to go to another team. Whether he’s bought out and returns to play back home remains to be seen but as it stands he has an NBA contract that is a paltry and extremely reasonable $1.2 million. At 6-5 and only 25 years old he brings length, athleticism and basketball IQ who is a proven champion in European and national competitions. Even from a marketing perspective, Fernandez could prove to be a fan favorite much like Carlos Arroyo was last year. Whether he’s included in a trade package or could be pried away with a draft pick, perhaps Toronto’s pick from the Shawn Marion trade or two 2nd round picks, it would be a bargain for the Heat and get Wade a young and athletic running mate. He may not be Manu Ginobili but he could play a similar role for the Heat at a fraction of the price. Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs/Saski Baskonia The 7-footer from Brazil is said to be the best center in Europe and is primed to finally break through in the NBA. But his rights are held by the San Antonio Spurs (who have no aversion for foreigners) after drafting him in 2007. He can opt out of his current deal in Spain this summer and is free to sign a contract without a rookie scale because it’s been three years since he was drafted. If the capped-out Spurs can’t afford him (remember they just signed Ginobili to an extension and are still on the books one more year to the tune of $15 million for Richard Jefferson) then he could theoretically be moved to the Heat who desperately need a skilled big man. OK, every NBA team besides the Los Angeles Lakers could use one of those. Walter Hermann, Saski Baskonia The Argentine Fabio-like Hermann had a nice rookie campaign for the Charlotte Bobcats a few years ago that was good enough for All-Rookie Second Team and then fell off the NBA radar after sitting on the bench in Detroit before leaving for Spain. By filling a need as a backup small forward perhaps behind Dorell Wright (if he re-signs with the Heat) he would bring instant offense and good range from the 3 point line at a minimum contract which the Heat will need plenty of players in that scale if their dream scenario unfolds next month. His defense might not be outstanding (though our new free agents should help with that) but he could also be a fan favorite in South Florida’s large Argentine community and because of his hustle and tenacity. Soon to turn 31 years old, he may not have the explosiveness he had when winning the 2004 gold medal with Argentina but at that price he would be a low risk and could score in bunches which is something the Heat could have used many times last season. Josh Childress, Atlanta Hawks/Olympiacos Piraeus OK, he’s an American but is now making a nice living playing in Greece and doesn’t seem to be enamored with returning to the NBA to play for the Hawks who were outbid by Olympiacos in 2008. He has until July 15th to opt out of his current contract and the Hawks will make a qualifying offer to Childress to retain his rights. The one-year, $4.8 offer isn’t something he’ll sign off on so it’s more likely he would be used in a sign and trade transaction. The Heat has plenty of cap space to spend some of it on a 6-8 player who can play shooting guard when Wade is either playing the point (or on the bench) or he can slide over to small forward which is a position of great need. Instead of signing another Hawks shooting guard in Joe Johnson to a max deal, shouldn’t the Heat target this one instead at a much more affordable contract? Childress might also be convinced to play in Florida so he doesn’t have to pay income tax like he doesn't have to do in Greece (his team pays his taxes). Linas Kleiza, Olympiacos Piraeus The Lithuanian-born forward also had a nice run in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets but they were outbid by Olympiacos and he might be open to a return if the price is right. His 2-year contract signed last year has an opt-out clause that allows him to become a restricted free agent this summer. Should more viable options be exhausted to no avail by the end of the summer and the Heat still have around 5 million left to upgrade at the forward position then they would do well to look into acquiring his services. He won’t be an All-Star but his contract might be a third of what Bosh or Stoudemire may end up signing for and the Heat arguably have other positions to worry about. Luis Scola, Houston Rockets Scola is a restricted free agent from the Houston Rockets that apparently want him back as he was a vital piece to their squad that surprised many this past season after losing their star players Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. But even though he only made 3.4 million last year he’s looking for a pay raise that may make the Rockets think twice about matching. Because of his free agency status, if there was an offer to be made to Scola it wouldn’t be at the beginning of free agency as the money being offered would be tied up for a week while his former team contemplates matching it. Or another less likely option would be a sign-and-trade with Udonis Haslem or Dorell Wright that could match up with a three-year deal for the multi-talented 6-9 power forward/center from Argentina because the Rockets are capped-out thanks to their midseason trade with Sacramento for Kevin Martin. Sergio Rodriguez, New York Knicks The unrestricted free agent from Spain could attract some interest from the Heat as an upgrade over Carlos Arroyo should big money be gone if they land a max free agent or two. The so-called "Spanish Chocolate", after former Heat guard Jason "White Chocolate" Williams, the 24 year old has yet to receive big minutes in the NBA but could provide quality minutes off the bench at a reasonable price. A pass-first point guard who has the quickness and creativity that last year’s crop of Heat point guards didn’t have, he could be a great engine for the second unit and would run the floor well with Wade. Rodriguez made less than 2 million last year and likely could be had for the same price.