We are officially a week into NBA Free Agency!
The Miami Heat have made three additions — snagging Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris — to their roster, retained trade deadline acquisition Victor Oladipo as well as re-signing sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven.
Miami also extended star guard Jimmy Butler to a four-year, $184 million extension — which kicks in at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
However, there’s still room to complete the roster. Miami has filled 13 guaranteed roster spots, with two more to add plus two additional two-way contracts to potentially fill:
Tentative 2021-22 Miami Heat depth chart
|Positons:||Starters||2nd string||3rd string|
|Positons:||Starters||2nd string||3rd string|
|PG:||Kyle Lowry||Gabe Vincent|
|SG:||Jimmy Butler||Tyler Herro||Victor Oladipo (injured)|
|SF:||Duncan Robinson||Max Strus||KZ Okpala|
|PF:||P.J. Tucker||Markieff Morris||Udonis Haslem|
|C:||Bam Adebayo||Dewayne Dedmon||Omer Yurtseven|
If Udonis Haslem re-ups with the Heat on the minimum for the fifth consecutive season, that would increase the roster to 14 players.
Assuming that transaction takes place and Miami fills the remaining spot with a free agent — which it doesn’t have to, especially if the front office prefers to leave room for a potential buyout candidate down the road — I created a list of three potential free agents that the Heat should target.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Editors note: Dennis Schröder as one of the three, but he officially inked a one-year, $5.9 million deal with the Boston Celtics nearly three-and-a-half hours after publishing.
Wesley Matthews, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
6’4” | 220 lbs. | Seasons played: 12 | Age: 34
2020-21 stats (58 games): 4.8 PPG | 1.6 RPG | 33.5 3P% | 51.7 TS% | 7.2 PER
Matthews has drawn interest from the Heat in the past, which has been a common theme among the free agents they’ve signed this offseason.
Matthews signed a bi-annual exception with the Lakers last year, undergoing the least productive and efficient season of his career. He tallied career lows in points (4.8), rebounds (1.6) and player efficiency rating (7.2), among other statistics. He took a career-high 78.2 percent of shots from 3-point range, but netted a career-low 33.5 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game; his deep-ball efficiency dipped to a measly 28 percent with a 75.4 3-point rate in six playoff games.
The Lakers, who were overwhelming favorites to repeat entering last season, suffered cataclysmic injuries throughout the shortened schedule and couldn’t generate much team chemistry. Despite the down season, in the limited action he saw, Matthews still displayed that he can still defend on the perimeter while being a spot-up 3-point threat. He shot 34.7 percent on catch-and-shoot triples last year and a combined 38.0 on said attempts across the last three seasons.
If Miami were to sign him, he would provide spacing — opening up lanes for key bench cogs Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo (when returns from injury) — as an immediate shooting threat off the bench, while adding to its surplus of multi-positional defenders.
Josh Hart, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
6’5” | 215 lbs. | Seasons played: 4 | Age: 26
2020-21 stats (47 games): 9.2 PPG | 8.0 RPG | 43.9 FG% | 32.6 3P% | 56.6 TS% | 12.2 PER
Adding Hart would be a difficult obstacle to hurdle because he is a restricted free agent — giving New Orleans the right to match any offer, which wouldn’t be pricey (as noted above).
In a vacuum, Hart would fit Miami like a glove.
As I’ve noted before, the Heat were a poor rebounding team last season, for a multitude of reasons. Some schematic reasoning, along with some Miami-typically-switches-their-tallest-onto-the-perimeter-without-other-compensating-size reasoning.
The Heat recorded the seventh-fewest rebounds per 100 possessions (42.5 rpg), the 9th-worst rebounding percentage (49.1 percent) and the 12th-worst defensive rebounding percentage (73.3). Though he’s listed at just 6-foot-5, Hart, a scrappy player, is one of the best rebounders in the league for his size.
Among players who are shorter than 6-foot-7 that played at least 36 games, Hart ranks second in the league in rebounds per contest — trailing only Russell Westbrook, who dominates the glass (11.5 rpg) year-after-year. Hart also places second in rebounds per 100 possessions (13.2), rebounding percentage (13.8) and defensive rebounding percentage (23.4).
In short: Hart mitigates a glaring flaw.
He’s also shown flashes as an above average defender who can hold his own against bigger players. Miami’s shown affection for versatility players — no matter the position — and Hart fits the bill perfectly. He sports moderate efficiency; he’s shot 33.6 percent on 4.6 3-point attempts per game over the last two seasons, after knocking down 39.6 percent of his triples on 3.1 attempts as a rookie.
Without much money or long term contracts to offer, it may be a tough sell to sign any of these three free agents but Heat execs Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg may have another trick up their sleeve to land Hart.
Tyler Johnson, Guard, Brooklyn Nets
6’3” | 186 lbs. | Seasons played: 7 | Age: 29
2020-21 stats (39 games): 5.4 PPG | 1.2 APG | 39.3 FG% | 36.4 3P% | 54.6 TS% | 8.2 PER
Anyone like reunions?
Johnson spent his first four-and-a-half years with the Heat. In 257 career games (56 starts) with them, he averaging 11.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals in 26.5 minutes per game, shooting 43.7 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from deep.
Three years into a poison-pill four-year, $50 million extension — an offer sheet that Miami matched from the Brooklyn Nets in July of 2016 — it dealt Johnson along with sharpshooter Wayne Ellington to the Phoenix Suns for Ryan Anderson, who played just 44 career minutes with Miami.
After eight enticing games with the Nets (everything came around full circle, huh?) in the NBA Bubble — adding 12.0 points on 38.9 percent shooting from 3-point range — they re-signed Johnson to a one-year minimum deal. He tallied 5.4 points on 36.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 39 contests (3 starts).
Given Brooklyn’s myriad injuries to its three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, Johnson provided a catch-and-shoot boost off the bench. Nearly 64 percent of his shots came off spot-up 3-point attempts — netting them at a 35.9 percent clip.
Johnson’s role with Miami wouldn’t be much different. Johnson would likely have to play with a couple of creators on the floor; realistically, in terms of an all-bench unit, he would have to play off of Tyler Herro — who is likely expected to make a leap as a creator — along with Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo, when he returns.
The 6-foot-3 guard might not be the thrilling specimen he was over a half-decade ago. But with the free agent market dwindling down, a Johnson-Heat re-marriage for the minimum isn’t the worst idea, especially since Erik Spoelstra and Co. know what they’re going to get.
Lou Williams gets $5 M from Atlanta, more than Heat had to offer. Not many NBA-quality swing guards still available who would take minimum. Heat has had reunions before; a case could be made for another, at the minimum, with Tyler Johnson (5.4 points, 36.4 percent on 3s for Nets)— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) August 5, 2021