The Heat lost the best player in the game when LeBron James chose to join the Cavaliers in free agency, but they’ve done a nice job of maintaining a solid overall roster that may still very well be able to contend for the Eastern Conference crown.
Chris Bosh returned on a max contract, Luol deng is a capable All-Star who will replace James in the starting lineup, and Dwyane Wade is expected to be back, once the exact dollar figure and years on his next deal have all been sorted out.
Miami was also able to get its point guard to commit to re-sign, further maintaining a decent level of continuity despite LeBron’s decision.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
Mario Chalmers is returning to the Miami Heat on a two-year deal, sources tell ESPN
Chalmers has been the starting point guard for the Heat for the last three seasons, and while his averages of 9.8 points and 4.9 assists in 29.8 minutes per game last year are simply serviceable, there’s a comfort level there with Erik Spoelstra trusting him on the floor when the game matters most.
The short-term deals the Heat are constructing, like this one and the similar two-year deal for Deng, are being done to maintain maximum salary cap flexibility to continue to have the ability to add talent in the very near future. LeBron isn’t likely to return when he an technically become a free agent in two years himself, but Miami is going to keep its options open in case he — or other high-impact All-Stars — seek Miami as a destination when that time comes.
Miami isn’t going to be the title contenders they were last season, but they are going to be good. And interesting.
Luol Deng, who had been negotiating with Heat for days but was trying to leverage discussions from Atlanta and Dallas into more, has settled on a deal with Miami, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
After losing LeBron James, the Miami Heat have reached agreement with free-agent forward Luol Deng on a two-year, $20 million contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Deng will likely hold a player option on the 2015-16 season, a source said.
Remember that Deng reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million extension with the Bulls.
You certainly can’t say Miami has had a good offseason, but Pat Riley has bounced back about as well as can be expected.
The Heat will roll out a starting five of Norris Cole/Shabazz Napier, Dwyane Wade (he will re-sign), Deng, Josh McRoberts, and an overpaid but effective Chris Bosh. That’s a playoff team and a tough out in the first round at least in Miami.
Deng is a strong defender who can get you points as the roll man or cutting off the ball. As a third scoring option he can work.
Since losing LeBron James, Heat President Pat Riley has been aggressive in putting together what in the East should be a playoff team, a good team, led by two passing and floor-spacing big men in Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts.
But they need a small forward to fill James’ slot, and they are still trying to make that Luol Deng.
Those negotiations were hot and heavy Saturday and will pick up again Sunday reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
The Heat, sources say, want to do a two-year deal with Deng in the $20 million range to team him with the freshly re-signed Chris Bosh and soon-to-be-reupped Dwyane Wade. Sources say it’s possible Wade’s looming deal with the Heat might not be finalized until next week while negotiations with Deng continue.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has pretty much those same details.
The question is money — remember Deng turned down three years, $30 million from the Bulls. He wants more than $10 million a year and so far nobody is going there.
Both the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks — two teams that have quietly had good off-seasons — are trying to get in on Deng too. The Hawks would be an interesting fit. Remember Atlanta was the third best team in the East until Al Horford went down, and a front line of Horford, Paul Millsap and Deng with Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in the backcourt could do some damage in the East. However, some reports say talks with Atlanta have died down, and money is likely the reason.
The other team trying to get in the Deng running that also would be an interesting fit is Phoenix — he would bring them defense and his scrappy scoring style fits with their offense and deep backcourt.
Deng’s agent would be wise to try and get these teams into a bidding war (and try to get more years), but if he will not settle for what the market seems to offer this could drag out.
The Rockets missed out on a major free agent acquisition this summer, but it appears as though they’ve succeeded in securing a more than serviceable player who was far less expensive.
Chris Bosh was reportedly nearing the finish line on a four-year max deal to go to Houston, which had the Rockets pulling the trigger on a trade to send Jeremy Lin to the Lakers in order to clear the necessary cap space to make it happen.
But in the wake of losing LeBron James, the Heat came hard at Bosh with a five-year max contract that was an offer ultimately too good for him to pass up.
Houston was, however, able to add some significant talent to the roster.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
The Houston Rockets have agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with free agent small forward Trevor Ariza, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced.
Ariza had somewhat of a breakout season in Washington last year, posting numbers that were his best since (somewhat ironically) last playing for the Rockets back in the 2009-10 season. He averaged 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, while shooting 40.7 percent from three-point distance.
Ariza’s first stint in Houston was ill-fated, because the Rockets gave Ariza a generous contract that came with it the expectations of being one of the team’s primary scorers. It didn’t work out, and he was dealt after just one season.
This time around, there will be no such pressure. Ariza will be asked to defend and compliment the primary Rockets players like Dwight Howard and James Harden, and should be a nice talent upgrade for the price.
Strike one — Carmelo Anthony made it pretty clear early on that whatever he ends up choosing as his next destination it would not be the Houston Rockets.
Strike two – when LeBron James chose Cleveland it was assumed around the league and by the Rockets that they could clear out the cap space (trade Omer Asik to the Pelicans and Jeremy Lin to the Lakers) and they would give Chris Bosh a near max deal to join James Harden and Dwight Howard. Nope. Pat Riley came in with a max offer for Bosh and he took it to stay in a place he is personally and professionally happy.
The Rockets planned well, they were in the right positions, but free agency just didn’t break their way.
So now what in Houston?
They still may be able to draw a quality free agent, but not somebody as good as they just missed on. Here are five guys they can target.
• Luol Deng. The former Chicago Bull and short-time Cavalier is the best fit of the guys left in my opinion — but the Rockets are also out of the running for him, according to Marc Stein at ESPN. Deng appears headed to Miami.
• Trevor Ariza. This is the guy Houston now seems to be targeting. For my money (and it’s not my money) the Rockets would be better off with Chandler Parsons at the three and waiting to find a four, but Ariza is one option if they want to go a little smaller. He could be costly as the Wizards want to keep him and he’s everybody’s backup plan. He is a good defender who last year shot the ball well all over the court on his way to 14.4 points a game and a .590 true shooting percentage.
• Greg Monroe. This would be a bet on potential, that he could develop into an All-Star level player. The problem is he is an expensive gamble — it likely takes a max or close to it offer to pry him out of Detroit, and the Pistons still could match anyway (Monroe is a restricted free agent). Monroe has a versatile offensive game — at the elbow he can score and make good decisions he is solid in the post and runs the floor well.
• Wait. Being patient sucks. Both for fans and owners. But sometimes it is the best option. The Rockets are in position to go after big free agents in the coming years, or to make trades — as long as they don’t screw up their flexibility by overpaying for a second tier guy. Wait out the market, wait for next year’s free agent crop. The Rockets should improve after a year together and some playoff experience (if not, Kevin McHale should worry) and with Parsons back in the fold this is a dangerous team. Don’t mess up what you have just to get something.