The Heat had a great run but their chance at 3-peat came to a crashing halt this season as I predicted. However Miami’s run as a relevant title contender has not concluded. As long as LeBron James elects to remain in South Beach, the Heat will simply reload.
My first prediction is that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will stay put…for at least a year.
Wade may want to opt-out and sign a longer term, more cap friendly team deal. I’d suspect Bosh would not, and no way LeBron would. He is in charge and has the negotiating power, and going year-by-year makes the most sense for him. If LeBron wanted max money, he’d get it. If he wanted to go elsewhere, that is what he’d do and he’d get paid as much as he wants and still be underpaid.
After that, the task for Pat Riley is as simple as it was 4 seasons ago: find talent that will mesh well with the stars. Basically he needs to find the “new” Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, and Udonis Haslem.
Norris Cole is the only player under contract, so Miami has a lot of holes to fill. They’ll presumably make and keep their first round pick, and in a deep draft, it’s possible that player may contribute right away.
Free agency is where this team will be made. Pat Riley will need to find answers to the following questions:
What else do they need?
Size, shooting, and another ball-handler.
Who can they look at to address those issues?
Channing Frye- Would be a fun fit as a stretch 5.
Emeka Okafor- If healthy, provides much-needed interior defense.
Spencer Hawes- Another floor-spacing big.
Greg Oden- Take 2?
Epke Udoh- Bust to this point, but young and athletic defensive-minded big.
Chris Anderson- Birdman still an option.
Jordan Hill- Would be much needed energy off the bench.
Patrick Patterson- Ditto.
Kris Humphries- He can still rebound.
PJ Tucker- Undersized, but a strong rebounder.
Ed Davis- Skilled, but has never blossomed.
Aron Baynes- It appears if he has skill to play more than he does.
Ray Allen- Can always bring him back if he doesn’t retire
Jodie Meeks- “Get buckets” could be a nice spark-plug for a bench in sore need of one.
Brandon Rush- Coming off injury, but still young enough to help.
Danny Granger- Does he have anything left to give?
Trevor Ariza- Full mid-level probably necessary and LeBron playing more power forward.
Mario Chalmers- He killed his own stock and can probably be kept cheaply.
DJ Augustin- Revived his dying career, and would be good in either starting or bench role.
Patty Mills- Come to the dark side.
Jordan Farmar- Battled through injuries this year, but talented.
Kent Bazemore- Very good defensive player with some upside.
Avery Bradley- Can’t shoot it, but would make for an interesting fit with Heat.
Devin Harris- Would be an upgrade, although not the best fit.
Greivis Vasquez- Would be a steal.
We’ve seen both the Spurs and Lakers reload this past decade and win titles around their star(s). Miami can pluck 4-5 of these players and be a better team next season. There doesn’t appear to be imminent threat in the Eastern Conference, so it would leave Miami as a heavy favorite and close to 60 wins likely.
The oddity of this reload? The Heat would be best served moving on from D-Wade. Ultimately it is the dilemma for most every champion: Loyalty vs. Restructure. If Miami can’t win another title with LeBron it will be because they failed to fill out the roster or D-Wade becomes an overpaid role player, which he already might be.
LeBron could choose to go to several other teams which would increase his chances of winning a title next year. Loyalty may cost him and the Heat in the short-term, but if they reload correctly, Miami might be champions again next season.