Friday, January 23, 2009

The Miami Heat & The Free Agent Market

Looking ahead to the 2009 NBA off-season, I see many opportunities for the Miami Heat to address a few positions that they lack in strength and depth. Here's a list of free agents that will be available after the 08-09 NBA season and might be of interest to the Miami Heat. They are in no particular order, but you can decide who should be a priority and who shouldn't.

Height: 6'2
Years Pro: 10 Seasons

Bibby would either replace Mario Chalmers at the PG position or make a serious threat off the bench for the Heat. His strengths are in his passing skills, three point shooting, and steal ability. Bibby's presence will bring veteran game management skills to the Point Guard spot and create a perimeter threat to opposing teams. Whether the Heat have a chance to acquire Bibby, or if they are willing to pay up for his acquisition, that's another story. We'll see how things play out.

Height: 7'3
Years Pro: 10 Seasons

Zydrunas Ilgauskus, or "Big Z," would be a definite upgrade for the Miami Heat at the Center position. Not only does "Z" bring the inside presence, which amounts to rebounds and blocked shots, but he also provides a mid-range jump shot threat to the other teams in the league. I'm sure Dwyane Wade can find ways to facilitate "Z's" performance just as LeBron James has done in Cleveland. I'm fairly confident that the Heat will make the Center position a major priority, especially if the trade talks for Jermaine O'Neal don't materialize.

Height: 6'11
Years Pro: 4

Anderson Varejao has been known for his energy off the bench in Cleveland. His height and rebounding prowess gives him an advantage when it comes to "cleaning up the boards" on both ends of the court. In Miami, he will bring much needed support in the rebounding department, especially when the Heat have been greatly out-rebounded this season by "taller teams" around the league (i.e. Lakers, Magic, Celtics, etc.). His contract shouldn't be too pricey and he would definitely fit into the fast break offense/disruptive defense mindset that Erik Spoelstra and the Heat are trying to execute.

Height: 6'8
Years Pro: 3 Seasons

This high-flying slasher young gun has great athleticism and energy to bring to the table for the Miami Heat. He's definitely no starter for the team, but as a back up Shooting Guard/Small Forward I like what he can potentially contribute to the team on fast break opportunities. The one-time Slam Dunk contestant has shown his vertical leap to the NBA Nation before and has proven that he can dunk with the best of them. His style of play is still in question, but with time and effort he can mature into a solid back up player in the league. I'm wondering if Pat Riley will take a risk on him - let's just hope he's not the next Dorell Wright. Sorry Dorell, but Jameer Nelson was a much better pick than you were to this point.

Lamar Odom (SF/PF)
Height: 6'10
Years Pro: 9 Seasons

This could be the return of Odom to Miami after his successful season in 2004 with Dwyane Wade, Caron Butler, and the up-and-coming Miami Heat. In Los Angeles, Odom has been fairly streaky and has been plagued with injuries that have stopped him from being consistent. Nevertheless, he's proven to be a great player when he's on his "A" game as a member of the Lakers. Pat Riley would probably consider an Odom acquisition, to bring a little more height and strength to that front court. I'm not sure about the salary numbers, but if Riley really wants him, then the deal will work out somehow (never underestimate Pat's ability to get the players he wants).

Height: 7'0
Years Pro: 7 Seasons

I know, I know, Chris Mihm isn't what comes to mind when you think of the "cream of the crop" at the Center position. The truth is that L.A. has no need for him know that Andrew Bynum is developing quickly and Pau Gasol is one of the elite players in the league. He's unlikely to be re-signed by the team for that very reason and the Heat can bring a seasoned veteran to support the front court with height and rebounding skills. Let's not forget, when Mihm was the main Center for the Lakers, he was averaging 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a game (in 05-06) - racking up a significant amount of double-doubles in that time span. I don't see him as worn out or unhealthy, so his presence in the Heat would be fairly appreciated by Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and Jamal Magloire (not a very prestigious group when you think of "Dominant Big Men").

Height 6'11
Years Pro: 3 Seasons

Charlie V. has always caught my eye since he played college ball for the Connecticut Huskies. His innate ability to grab rebounds, defensively and offensively, was intriguing and his post skills (put-back ability, footwork, and elusiveness) brought positive attention to him by many NBA scouts. Now in the Milwaukee Bucks, he's been averaging 25 minutes per game, racking up 6.2 rebounds a night, and contributing 12.5 points per game. With Villanueva on the Heat, Michael Beasley and Udonis Haslem can have a young, productive back-up that will provide much-need points and rebounds off the bench. He's not the "home run shot" that the Heat is looking for in the free agent/trade market, but a definitive contributor - he is.

Height: 6'7
Years Pro: 2 Seasons

Here's another energy guy that has some "hops" as well. He may not score a lot, and he may not rebound enough, but there's no doubt that this guy can run the court, defend the ball, and jump out of the building with his slam dunks. In Minnesota, Carney has only averaged around 13 minutes a game and has had little opportunity to develop his game around a lack-luster Timberwolves team. In a re-tooled Heat team, he may fit in better and be able to adapt to the defensive mindset as well as embrace the fast break styled offense. I can see quite a few Wade- to-Carney alley-oops in the 09-10 season if Riley takes a chance on the youngster.

Chris Wilcox (PF/C)
Height: 6'10
Years Pro: 6 Seasons

Here's a guy that I really would like to see in a Miami Heat uniform. When I think Wilcox, I think of a hard-nosed rebounding hustle player that can average a double-double on a regular basis. He's big enough to rebound with the others "bigs" in the league, and tough enough to physically outlast and defend them as well. His contract numbers would likely be pretty high, but I'm sure we will see more cap space open up either during or after this 08-09 season. Pat Riley has always liked having a big man "down low," and although Wilcox might not be the prototype Forward-Center that Pat likes, he would definitely be a solid part of a better Miami Heat team.

Height: 6'11
Years Pro: 8 Seasons

Picking up the likes of a Hedo Turkgolu would be an instant upgrade for the Miami Heat and would possibly raise them to the status of "Eastern Conference Contenders." The two main problems with acquiring Hedo are: 1) The Orlando Magic would likely want to re-sign him and not allow him to go to a division rival (i.e. Miami Heat, Charlotte Bobcats, etc.), and 2) The Heat would likely be facing a loaded, long-term contract that may or may not be appealing to the team's front office. The chances of him coming to the Heat seem slim, but the possibility is still out there and in these times it's never too farfetched to imagine the possibilities. Bottom line: Hedo is a big man with a deadly three-point shot, decent rebound ability, and versatile playing style (he can assist and dribble fairly well).

Height: 6'9
Years Pro: 6 Seasons

Here's a definitive game-changer for the Miami Heat and a topic of interest since last off-season. Boozer is averaging 20.5 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game, which means he's out-performing the typical NBA Power Forward, with the exclusion of Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, and similar players. Although he's only 6'9, Boozer has been known to defend the bigger men in the league and has the ability to effectively box out taller players for rebounds. It's not just a strike of luck that this man racks up over 10 rebounds a night - it's skill and a skill that the Miami Heat desperately needs to bring to their roster. Once again, if Jermaine O'Neal does not become part of the Heat by this season, I see Boozer as the next viable option for the organization to consider.

I see some good opportunities for the Miami Heat this off-season and I'm sure there are plenty more unforeseen opportunities in the trade market as well. We will just have to sit back and watch what the team's front office decides is best for the team and the organization as a whole. One thing's for certain, Pat Riley aims high and with the current team we have, it seems like change is inevitable.

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