Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
The Heat needn't have done much this offseason to give themselves a strong chance at another championship in 2012/13, but the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis solidified their status atop the NBA pecking order and furthered a philosophical shift that began in the playoffs. The Heat doubled down on small ball, tapping outside shooters in their two most prominent offseason acquisitions. The Heat did nothing to address their lack of reliable, traditional big men, instead committing to Chris Bosh as the full-time starting center and undersized Shane Battier at power forward. LeBron James will see plenty of time at the four, too. The trend of "positionless" basketball, reflected even in the league's new All-Star ballot, seems destined to continue unless a team with stronger, more skilled inside players (the Lakers, perhaps?) is able to take down Miami.
As impressive as the Heat looked as they took apart the Thunder in the Finals, it's easy to forget the Celtics, another small-ball team, had extended them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. That made the acquisition of Allen doubly impactful. Team president Pat Riley orchestrated a recruiting effort that allowed Heat beat out the Clippers, Grizzlies and Timberwolves, as well as the Celtics, for his services. Allen took a deal for the taxpayer's mid-level exception that was about half of what Boston was offering to woo him back. Allen's split with the Celtics became something of a sideshow in the offseason, as he spoke about his displeasure with the way the team had dangled him in trades as well as his differences with Rajon Rondo. The defection certainly fueled the Heat/Celtics rivalry over the summer, but it tilted the competition further in Miami's favor now that the games have begun.
Allen has seen consistent playing time as the team's sixth man, and is often on the floor down the stretch. The same can't be said for Lewis, who plays a more limited role on the fringe of the team's rotation. That's okay for a player on a minimum-salary contract, though, and the Heat took advantage of Lewis' $13MM buyout payment from the Hornets, as well as their status as a contender, to convince the 6'10" outside shooter to play for a relative pittance.
The floor spacing that long-distance threats Allen and Lewis give the team should allow James and Dwyane Wade to be even more dangerous offensively. Much of the intrigue early in the offseason was whether Mike Miller, whom the team signed in 2010 to provide that same shooting complement to their stars, would return. Plagued by a variety of injuries, Miller decided against retiring, and the Heat opted not to use the amnesty provision to get the final three years and $18.6MM of his contract off their books. He remains on the roster as an expensive insurance policy against injuries to others, recently filling an ailing Dwyane Wade's spot in the starting lineup. Miller is now healthy and plans to continue playing for at least the remaining years of his contract, and his presence is a luxury Miami may not be able to afford too much longer, particularly when more stringent tax rules take effect in 2014. James Jones is also back after considering retirement, and though he's no longer a part of the team's rotation, his total cost of $3MM over this season and next doesn't cause nearly as much trouble as Miller's contract.
The three members of last year's championship roster who didn't return are all big men, though the team kept a locker open for Juwan Howard, who joined the team in an advisory role while the possibility of his return to the Heat in a playing capacity loomed over training camp. Instead, the Heat decided to keep the non-guaranteed minimum salaries of Josh Harrellson and Terrel Harris, despite being linked to bigger names like Chris Andersen, Andray Blatche and Kenyon Martin. Several free agents looking for jobs at the end of the summer included the Heat on their wish lists, so the team could have probably added any of them as long as they were willing to commit to the minimum salary. Though they brought Harris back without a guarantee and for slightly less than they could have offered him via Non-Bird rights, the undrafted guard's inclusion on the roster is a strong indication of the club's confidence in him, as well as the need for Miami to develop young talent going forward.
The Lakers caused a stir when they seemed to indicate that they're angling to sign James when he becomes eligible to opt out of his contract in 2014, and some in the organization are reportedly worried about Wade's long-term health. Some day, there will come an end to the current star-studded iteration of the Heat, and that might be before the team wins the five, six or seven championships their marquee 2010 acquisitions promised in their introductions to Miami. For now, the Heat are on top of the NBA world, and while front offices must always focus on what lies ahead, the concerns this offseason were more about the immediate future. In that regard, the strong only got stronger.