Offseason Grades: Miami Heat
The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.
Additions: Greg Oden
Losses: Mike Miller (amnesty clause)
Other Moves: Re-signed Chris Andersen, retained Ray Allen (opted in), retained Mario Chalmers (picked up team option), retained James Jones (opted in), retained Rashard Lewis (opted in), drafted James Ennis (No. 50; expected to play overseas this season)
What Went Right: The frantic, furious pace with which Miami came back to close out its 2013 championship against San Antonio gave way to a summer that was practically serene. The two-time defending champions entered the offseason with the knowledge that a vast majority of their rotation would be back for another go. The chaos that could come next summer, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all become free agents, is still well off in the distance.
This year’s biggest question marks — small by comparison to those coming into July 2014 — were erased in short order, without much fanfare or drama. Allen, Game 6 hero, decided to return for the second year of his deal (worth $3.2 million) rather than test the free-agent market again. Andersen, the zany, crucial X-factor who helped the Heat to a 54-8 record during the regular season and postseason after signing in January, agreed to come back on the cheap (two years, $2.8 million).
Once those two locked back in, there wasn’t much left to halt the three-peat talk from raging on. Toss in Lewis, a 2012 summer addition like Allen who also chose to opt in for a second season (worth $1.4 million), and the Heat will return their top-eight players by minutes played and 12 of the 13 players who logged at least 55 minutes for them during the regular season. This returning group is responsible for playing more than 94 percent of the team’s regular-season minutes. In other words, the 2013-14 Heat should be a well-oiled machine and a familiar beast for opponents.
With continuity reigning supreme, few roster-spot holes to plug and cap flexibility at a minimum, the Heat were free to spend their summer downtime picking up their favorite hobby: big-man reclamation projects. This year’s longshot is Oden, the No. 1 pick in 2007, who hasn’t played an NBA game in 1,347 days because of knee injuries. Like Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman before him, Oden has struggled with his weight, although reports indicate that he will enter training camp in good shape and that his struggles with alcohol abuse are also behind him.
Miami doesn’t need anything from the 25-year-old Oden, whose return date is unknown after accepting a minimum deal, but the Heat would love for him to mix it up with the likes of Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler during the playoffs. Given his extensive injury issues (the former Ohio State star has had five knee surgeries, including three microfracture procedures), the Oden signing qualifies as more of a “Why not?” move rather than a slam dunk, but it adds another undeniable level of intrigue to a team that was already the league’s most fascinating.
What Went Wrong: That whole “competitive balance” concept that the NBA spent months harping on during the 2011 lockout finally reared its ugly head for the Heat. We already noted that 12 of the 13 players who played at least 55 minutes last season will be back. The lone exception is Miller, who was amnestied in an effort to cut down on luxury taxes.
Miller was set to make $6.2 million in 2013-14 and $6.6 million in 2014-15, but the real costs started kicking in thanks to the NBA’s new graduated tax system, which installed much harsher penalties for teams like the Heat whose payroll significantly exceeded the $70.3 million luxury-tax line. While Miami will still pay Miller the money owed to him, The Associated Press estimated that the Heat could save as much as $30 million over the next two seasons by parting with the 33-year-old swingman.
Although injuries limited Miller to 139 of a possible 230 regular season games (60.4 percent) during his three years with the Heat, his greatest asset was his timeliness. The sharpshooter scored 23 points (including seven three-pointers) in Miami’s series-clinching victory against Oklahoma City in the 2012 NBA Finals, and he shot 11-for-18 (61.1 percent) from beyond the arc against San Antonio in last season’s Finals. The Heat will miss his floor-spacing ability and gutsy, determined play, but it would be a stretch to call this a crippling loss, especially when James, Allen, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers all shot better than 40 percent from deep last season.
Grade: C. After an A++++ summer in 2010 (the Big Three) and an A+ summer in 2012 (inexpensively adding Allen and Lewis to a title team), the Heat, hemmed in by the new collective bargaining agreement, had little choice but to take a slight step back this time around. Their offseason will look much rosier in hindsight if Oden manages to pan out, but “ifs” don’t get much bigger than that in the NBA.