Following the news that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have decided to join LeBron James in free agency (and Bosh is confirmed, despite some conflicting reports), Miami will only have one player, Norris Cole, under contract when free agency starts. With that also comes a record amount of cap space available to spend in many different ways.
Now, first and foremost, it would appear that Bosh, James & Wade are planning to return to Miami and paying them would be a top priority that would serve as the basis as to how Miami would approach free agency. Restocking the team will be priority number two and here we'll look at some reasonable options for Miami, though it is hard to speculate without knowing the Big 3's plans.
Former Heat Players Expected to Return
Ray Allen SG - I wrote on Allen's situation earlier and it seems he will return to the NBA rather than retire. Miami will probably offer him a contract similar to Udonis Haslem's (see below), but he could command more elsewhere as his shooting is still potent enough to distort even the best defenses.
Chris Andersen C - The Birdman opted out of his deal as well. Following a dynamite regular season, injuries eventually caught up to the 35 year old, and he was a detriment in the Finals. Even though he's 35, he often plays like he's 10 years younger when he's healthy, but you wonder if his age will now catch up to him. Still, a quality big man off the bench is hard to find, so I'd expect Andersen to return for one last dance. Furthermore, he was an amnesty player when Denver waived him, so he was still receiving money for the length of that contract (5 years, signed in 2009). Like last season, he could be had for the veteran's minimum.
Mario Chalmers PG - Still a tricky situation for Miami, especially after drafting PG Shabazz Napier. Chalmers made $4 million dollars last season and was due for a small raise considering the solid season he had, but after a ghastly abomination of a Finals and the resulting benching, Miami may now let Chalmers walk.
Udonis Haslem F/C - Haslem opted out of his deal and was due $4.6 million next year. In turn, expect him to sign a 3 year deal in the $8-9 million range and retire with the franchise once the contract is completed. As a player, Udonis probably isn't worth more than the veteran's minimum anymore, but considering how much money he's left on the table over the years as well as his role as captain and enforcer of the team, this is a fair deal that would save Miami some cap space, but also give Haslem more long term stability. Once the contract expires, expect Haslem's jersey to go up to the rafters.
James Jones F/G - Jones, like Haslem has helped Miami in the past by opting out of better deals only to return. Expect the same from the sharpshooter.
Rookies to sign
James Ennis SF - The 2nd round pick whom Miami stashed in Australia last season is ready to come to the NBA. The 23 year old is coming off a stellar season for the Perth Wildcats, averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds on 47% shooting. Ennis is the type of athlete Miami has stated a desire for, one who can both stretch the floor and also defend multiple positions. If Ennis impresses in Summer League and training camp, Miami could have a bargain of a rotation player ready to replace the retiring Shane Battier.
Shabazz Napier PG - Napier, as a 1st round pick, will receive a guaranteed rookie scale contract. He will make around $1 million dollars his rookie year, with small raises in subsequent years. Will likely be a four year deal, with options in years three and four.
Expensive free agents to look at
Carmelo Anthony F - Seems more and more unlikely, as Carmelo wants max money. Phil Jackson wants him to take a discount to stay in NY, but that discount is still well out of what Miami has to work with. Miami would have to get extremely creative and the league would likely cry outrage. The pipe dream is over folks.
Trevor Ariza SF - The formerly inconsistent Ariza just put together his best individual season with the Washington Wizards. The rangy 29 year old splashed in a career high 180 three-pointers on 40% from downtown, and 45% overall which is kind of amazing if you were familiar with Ariza's player profile when he first entered the NBA (a horrendous shooter). Still, Ariza did this all in a contract year, and you wonder if, after a big payday, he would revert to the inefficient chucker his has been through most of his prime. Miami should still take a look, as Ariza can defend multiple positions and cause havoc in the passing lanes. As long as he receives proper coaching, his poorer tendencies of the past can be reigned in. His poor seasons were often a result of him having to do too much, and in Miami that will not be the case. Will make anywhere from $6-9 million a year in my estimation so Miami has a punchers chance.
Pau Gasol F/C - The Spaniard put up his usual 17/10 numbers on an awful Lakers team last season, but his defensive effort waned badly and his efficiency has started to slip. Gasol has made nearly $160 million dollars through his NBA career and it appears his days with the Lakers are over, especially with them drafting rugged PF Julius Randle. Some have floated Miami's name as a destination and his versatility, size, and skills would be an asset to Miami, but he'll probably command just under an 8 figure deal and Miami may opt for a younger player.
Marcin Gortat C - UPDATE: Gortat has signed a 5 year $60 million dollar contract to stay with the Wizards.
The Polish Hammer had a stellar season for the young Washington Wizards and will go into free agency as one of the most coveted big men out there. The 29-year old is a pick and roll maestro, having worked with Steve Nash and John Wall in the past and is also a force on the defensive end that would give Miami some essential bulk. Still, signing a pure center like Gortat would signal a shift in Miami's floor stretching philosophy and he will command above $10 million dollars per season. Furthermore, Miami hasn't opted for many foreign players since the mid-90s.
Kyle Lowry PG - Lowry is among the top free agents available, a two way pitbull of a point guard with excellent shooting range and someone who should've made last year's All-Star team. There have been some erroneous rumors linking Lowry to Miami in the past and considering Lowry is due a big raise following his breakout year, this is still a long shot.
Alan Anderson G/F - Anderson has had some spats with Miami in the recent Nets/Heat playoff series, but the 31-year old is a decent 2-way veteran to come off the bench, defend, and hit some threes. Will likely opt out after madness that is ensuing in Brooklyn.
DeJuan Blair F/C - Blair has been linked to Miami in the past. The undersized big man rebounds and finishes reasonably well inside despite some unorthodox moves. Still, he has no shooting range and has fallen in and out of the rotation for both the Spurs and Mavericks.
Steve Blake PG - Udonis Haslem's former high school teammate would be a decent fit in Miami. The 34-year old can run an offense and hit open 3s. If Miami is unsure with the young combo of Napier and Cole, Blake is worth a look and can be had for the minimum if he wants to contend.
Vince Carter G/F - The 37-year old has turned into a peerless role player. Far removed from his high flying days as Vinsanity, Carter has become a solid long range marksmen and a good secondary ball handler and creator. You wonder how much longer he can keep it going, but the future Hall-of-Famer is still without a championship so don't rule out anything.
Darren Collison PG - The undersized Collison has faults, but he is just 26 and is coming off a great season for the Clippers as a sometimes starter sometimes spark plug off the bench. Probably can't defend up to Miami's standards though.
Channing Frye F/C - Miami would be all in on the floor spacing model if they signed Frye. The big man can heave from three without hesitation and makes them at a good enough clip. Gave the Phoenix Suns the kind of spacing that allowed guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic to flourish. Still an inconsistent player with bouts of showing up and disappearing.
Spencer Hawes F/C - Channing Frye 2.0. Hawes fired 308 threes and made 128 of them, both by far career highs. Skilled, but motivation can be an issue.
Jordan Hill F/C - Really would be on board with this one. Hill is a hellacious rebounder, shot blocker, and high energy player. Not much of a shooter, but if Miami opts against bringing back Chris Andersen, Hill would be more than an upgrade as he is only 26 years old. Has made between 2.5-3.5 million in each of his first 5 seasons, and if he wants a similar payday, he would be right in Miami's price range. Has some past injury concerns however. Has only played in over 70 games twice.
Kirk Hinrich G - Solid veteran combo guard. Has had to shoulder too much in Chicago due to injuries and efficiency has dwindled. Decent 3 point shooter and defender. Would probably be a better fit 5 years ago, but still worth a look.
Shawn Marion F - The Matrix returns? Marion was much younger during his first Miami stint, and even then the fit wasn't great. Can still defend multiple positions and started firing those ugly 3s again, making a decent 36%.
Jodie Meeks SG - UPDATE: Meeks has signed a 3 year $20 million dollar contract to join Stan Van Gundy in Detroit.
Would be a nice replacement for Ray Allen. Meeks can really shoot from the perimeter, but offers little else. Only 26 years old, the former 2nd round pick may be expecting a bit of a pay raise from the minimum salary he previously commanded.
Anthony Morrow G/F - All in on this one. Morrow is as one dimensional as they come, but secretly could be the greatest 3 point shooter on the planet. Shot 45% from three last season, the third time he's done that in a season. Was a former Heat summer league player. Poor defender.
Brandon Rush SG - Missed most of last two seasons battling injuries, including a torn ACL in 2012. Could be had for cheap and was formerly an excellent 3 point shooter and solid defender. The type of player Miami could use if his injuries are behind him.
Anthony Tolliver PF - Former D-League star worked his way into NBA. Had a career year from beyond the arc with the Bobcats last season. His NBA career is too disjointed to ascertain much else. Works hard and good locker room guy, but is undersized.
Mo Williams PG - LeBron's former running mate in Cleveland was not too happy when his buddy left. Skills have diminished, but can still hit the three ball.
Anyone think Miami should target that I forgot to mention? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below.