The Miami Heat enter the offseason as NBA Champions, but also a team that needs to (and will) make improvements to the roster. Unfortunately for progress, the veteran Heat also enter the offseason without a draft pick, having traded away this draft, and without many trade assets. Chris Bosh is the name most rumored as a potential trade chip for the Heat, but, as I mentioned here, the Heat is unlikely to move the anchor of its defense and important offensive spacer.
Operating over the cap, the Heat don’t have much room to operate in free agency either. To be clear, it isn’t like the Heat is a team in desperation. As much as people talk about trading Chris Bosh or the Heat needing a big man to compete with the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and etc., the rest of the league is playing catchup to Miami, not vice versa.
With all of that said, the Heat do need to add at least one bigger body, and have to start thinking about 2014 — when LeBron James has a player option to opt-out.
Ray Allen also has an option to opt out this offseason. Allen would likely be able to find more money playing in a different city, but he could have found more money last offseason too in Boston and Memphis.
The Heat also face free-agent-to-be Chris Andersen, who will likely ask for (and deserves) more than the veteran minimum that he earned this past season.
With the stage set, we will operate with these assumptions throughout the rest of this piece: The Heat do not trade Bosh; Ray Allen decides not to opt out and remains in Miami for another shot at a title; the Heat use a majority of, if not all, of its mid-level exception on the Birdman; Pat Riley decides to make improvements; I don’t use anymore semicolons.
With these assumptions, the Heat can only make moves by signing players to the veteran minimum, or acuire players via trade. The Heat have two possible trade assets — Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
Cole, earning just over $1 million next season, has more room between his flattop and his ceiling than Chalmers has left to his ceiling. He is also cheaper, as Chalmers is set to make $4 million next season assuming the Heat, who hold a team option over him, bring him back.
Will Super Mario want more money when he becomes a free agent in 2014, along with an opted-out LeBron James? Can he make more money by walking away from possibly losing his job to Cleveland State, to another point-guard needy team? Is that a risk the Heat is willing to take? After considering all of this, should the Heat move Chalmers?
Case For Trading Chalmers
It is totally plausible that Mario Chalmers will ask for more money than he currently earns when he becomes a free agent in 2014. And why not? He thoroughly believes he is one of the best players on the team, he shows up in clutch situations and was the starting point guard during both of Miami’s title runs. DOES IT COME DOWN TO PAPER, MARIO?
Should the Heat rather spend money on younger talents to surround LeBron with, the Heat should move Chalmers now, go with Cole and a free agent veteran point guard next season, and get something in return for Chalmers.
What can Riley get in return for Chalmers? A draft pick, maybe? The Heat can look to move Chalmers to a point-guard needy team that has picks to spare in a week draft — such as the Utah Jazz. The Jazz hold the No. 14 and No. 21 picks in this draft. It’s unlikely they would trade the 14th pick for Rio, but the 21st pick is possible if the Jazz feel like Chalmers could be its future point guard.
The Heat could use the pick to draft a big man, stretch four or replacement for Chalmers.
But would the Jazz make that trade? Probably not without the guarantee of Chalmers signing back.
Could the Heat move Chalmers and pick up a first round pick in next year’s loaded 2014 draft? Probably not, but who knows?
The Heat could probably get a 2013 second round pick in return for Chalmers, and target a prospect like Florida forward Erik Murphy, who can become a young stretch four for Miami.
Rio for rookie Murphy? Could pay major dividends in the future. Or not.
Case Against Trading Chalmers
Cole is a nice, young player. But highly inconsistent and Erik Spoelstra didn’t trust him in crunch time against the San Antonio Spurs for a reason. Point guards in Miami’s system are relied on, mostly, to participate in pick-and-rolls — and the Chalmers/James PNR is deadly (see this story’s image for a look). Trade Chalmers, and you potentially lose a staple play in the Heat offense just short of the iso in regards to simplicity.
Let’s say the Heat trade Chalmers? With one point guard left on the roster and no MLE, how do they replace him? They could draft one. But point guard, along with center, is the hardest position to draft. They could sign a veteran like Mo Williams, Derek Fisher or Mike Bibby, and hope Cole improves enough to lock down the starting position. But I almost threw up typing those names.
The only hope for the Heat, going this route, is that a team amnesties or buys out a point guard and the Heat can pick him up for the minimum. Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey is a name to watch in this regard.
Case and Point
With everything above considered…
No. The Heat should not trade Chalmers and probably won’t. The signs are pointing to this team riding it out with this nucleus and signing players to the minimum by finding title-hungry veterans and poaching buy-outs and amnesties.
But, hey. What do you think?