As the Heat caravan rolls down Biscayne Boulevard today for the victory parade, many will cheer, but Pat Riley is already plotting. Miami’s legendary president knows that idle time is lost time in the NBA.
Riley remarked after Game 5 that this championship “buys us our freedom.” He was more specifically speaking of his players, but the statement also applies to the orchestrator of this roster.
With very little room under the cap, winning will be one of this franchise’s only reliefs. Most of the squad remains intact as the Heat already have 78 million in salaries committed for next year.
The most interesting player movement could occur based on decisions Mike Miller and James Jones make. It was rumored throughout the playoffs that Miller’s back injury was too severe and he could consider retirement. Jones, only 31, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson that hanging it up was something definitely on the table.
After Miller’s 23 point Game 5 performance it would certainly be fitting to walk away and he would save Miami a lot of money by doing so. Losing either sharpshooter means the Heat would have to go out and find another three point specialist.
Ray Allen makes the most sense in this role but Miami must find someone willing to take less money in hopes for a title. Other players like Michael Redd and Grant Hill could also be perimeter possibilities.
Another position the Heat would like to upgrade at is center. It sounds likely that they will use Chris Bosh more in that role next year, but adding size behind him is a must.
Joel Anthony is under contract, but Ronny Turiaf has a 1.2 million player option and Dexter Pittman plus Eddy Curry are both free agents. Miami would probably like to see Turiaf, Pittman, and Curry all move on.
One would assume the most likely route of improving the frontcourt lies in the draft. The Heat own the 27th pick and would like to have similar success as last year’s Norris Cole addition with the player they select.
Guys like Syracuse’s Fab Melo and Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli could be the bigs Miami ultimately gets to develop. If they go the free agent route, Jermaine O’Neal or Marcus Camby might be options. Former number one pick Greg Oden also looms as an intriguing possibility, but in an interview with Grantland.com, Oden stated he would sit out the 2012-13 season to get healthy.
Whatever moves Riley makes, one has to believe this Heat team is as primed a group to repeat as any in recent years. With Derrick Rose out for a significant portion of the season and all other main Eastern Conference contenders for next year being dispatched by Miami this year, the path appears clear to return to a third straight Finals.
In fact, the majority of preseason projections should pit Heat-Thunder against each other in a championship rematch. It does appear that this developing rivalry could prove to become as legendary as Lakers-Celtics in the 80s.
Whatever the case, one gets the sense that the first title from the Big Three gives them the “freedom” to chase after greatness.