Miami Heat Beat’s 2018 Free Agency Preview

Insight4 years ago26 min readNekias Duncan

Editor’s Note: Story will be updated as free-agent signings are reported.

The NBA 2018 Free Agency period is, once again, among us! The landscape has changed, but the goal remains the same: Find shiny new toys to improve the roster.

This has been talked about ad nauseam, but it’s worth pointing out again: The market this year is expected to be tight. The Philadelphia Sixers, Indiana Pacers, and Utah Jazz (if they do some maneuvering) stand as the three best playoff teams with cap space to do something substantial, and even that’s questionable at this point.

While last year featured guys like Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin — second-tier stars who had legit motive to move and plenty of suitors — it’s hard to get excited about this offseason. There are more talented guys at the top (LeBron James and Kevin Durant), but the market is so limited. The only person worth monitoring is LeBron and his two likely destinations.

With that said, we’ll all have our Woj/Shams/Stein (curse you)/Aldridge/Amick Twitter notifications on, waiting for any news to drop.

For the Miami Heat, don’t expect them to be in play for big names.

They’re currently capped out thanks to their, um, questionable decisions last summer. They will be one of the few teams that could have the full mid-level exception (roughly $8.6 million in year one) available to them with some tinkering, but there may be hesitation to use it with their current tax bill. Even the regular tax payer’s mid-level exception (~$5.3 million) should cause some pause, though that likely won’t stop Miami from hunting for guys in that range. There is room (and reason) for roster-balancing trades, but that’s for another piece.

Quick Thoughts

• Miami needs to figure out what to do with Dwyane Wade. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reported that the Heat may be willing to give Wade the full tax payer’s mid-level exception, which, okay. If that’s all Miami can afford, and they want to send Wade off with something, that’s the route to go. There are obvious arguments to make against doing that, but since I want you to keep reading, I’ll save those for another day.

• Miami also needs to figure out what they’re going to do with Wayne Ellington. By all accounts, both sides would like a reunion, but the cost could get out of hand. Using his Early Bird Rights for something like four years, $38 million may be fair in a vacuum, but look at the rest of the roster and that cap sheet. Should Miami really be adding another “fine” deal, or should they be going for one-year hits until things clear up? I’d argue the latter.

• Keep an eye on Derrick Jones, Jr. Miami tendered a qualifying offer to DJJ last week, making him a restricted free agent. He’s the only true small forward on the roster right now. He’s incredibly raw with a jumper that still needs retooling, but he gives me Josh Richardson vibes defensively — he has no clue where to be, but he can overwhelm you sometimes with his length and athleticism. I assume he’ll be back in the fold, and Miami should absolutely look to develop him into an average defender with upside for more.

Update: Agreed on two-year, $3.2 million deal to stay with Miami, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

What Are The Heat Looking For?

Bargains, bargains, bargains, wings, and bargains. As mentioned earlier, Miami won’t be big name hunting this summer. This summer should be about finding niche players — preferably 3-and-D wings — or young guys to take fliers on. I’d lean towards the youth movement because Miami needs to build up the treasure chest on that front.

As the league has become more switch-heavy, the need for wings has never been higher. Miami has talented (if not one-dimensional) wings, but who has the combination of skill and size? Josh Richardson may be the only guy that qualifies, but even he had to slide down to the 3. He did darn good at that spot, but he should be hounding 1s and 2s in an ideal world instead of sliding down to make room for 6-foot-4 Dion Waiters, or a generously listed 6-foot-3 Tyler Johnson.

Miami needs to get bigger on the perimeter while still staying true to their pace-and-space roots. That’s a lot easier said than done considering their cap and roster situation, but there are bargains to be had.

With the basics covered, let’s look at some realistic names (meaning no LeBron or Durant) that Miami should be in the hunt for. I have them broken down into tiers based on how the Heat may view or use them.

Yes, I’m aware that some players fit into more than one category.

Also, don’t get too caught up in the order. For example, the fourth name in Tier 4 isn’t necessarily better than the first name in Tier 5; that’s just where they rank relative to their category.

Tier 1: Youth Movement

1. Mario Hezonja Small Forward | Age: 23 | Former: Orlando Magic

After sucking for most of his first two seasons, Hezonja started to turn a corner last season. He finally got out of the doghouse, visibly gave a crap, and started banging “eff you” threes off the bounce. During the second half of last season, Hezonja showcased the blend of athleticism, skill, and flair that scouts raved about during the draft process. His stat line wasn’t gaudy (11-4-2 in 27 minutes per night after the break), but there’s a functional wing in there, waiting to be developed in a…well, an organization not in Orlando.

Of course, Dion Waiters has taught us — on two separate occasions! — not to fall in love with post-All-Star Break spurts. While with the Cavaliers in 2013, Waiters slapped up 19-4-4 with decent shooting splits to close out the year. Then LeBron came, Waiters became a meme, and was eventually shipped to OKC to fit in as a role player. Waiters peaked again during the second half of Miami’s 30-11 run, only to injure his ankle and never look right the following season.

I say all of this to say it’s perfectly okay — and justified — to be hesitant about banking on Hezonja’s upside. If by some chance Miami isn’t outbid, they should probably go with a 1+1 “prove it” type deal to see what Hezonja has. But this is the kind of low risk, moderate reward swing Miami should be taking.

2. Fred VanVleet Point Guard | Age: 24 | Former: Toronto Raptors

Agreed on two-year, $18 million deal to stay with Toronto, per Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Our own @Lefty_Leif reported not too long ago that the Heat have interest in VanVleet, and it makes sense. At only 24 years old, the talented spark plug can get into the lane at will and stroke threes when asked to. Those are two primary skills needed to make Miami’s offense click. He isn’t Goran Dragic, but having another guard that can puncture defenses (and has experience playing in two-PG lineups) should help take pressure off of Dragic.

3. Joe Harris Shooting Guard | Age: 26 | Former: Brooklyn Nets

Agreed on two-year, $16 million deal to stay with Brooklyn, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

There were six players that shot at least 65 percent at the rim and 40 percent on above-the-break threes last season (minimum 2.0 attempts per game in each zone): Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Klay Thompson, Otto Porter Jr., Reggie Bullock, and Harris.

That is very specific, but it should at least begin to drive home the point that Harris is more than a shooter. Shooting is his calling card, of course, and he may have shot himself out of Miami’s pay range. If, by some chance, the market dries up on him, this should be the Ellington replacement.

4. Jerami Grant Forward | Age: 23 | Former: Oklahoma City Thunder

Agreed on three-year, $27 million deal to stay with Oklahoma City, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Grant can credibly guard four positions, dunk on your head, and … sometimes hit threes. The shot is what makes him a huge question mark. Half of his attempts came from the corners last year, and he only drained 27.3 percent of those. But he’s so rangy, so explosive, and so young that he’s worth grooming. His versatility helped unlocked some of OKC’s best lineups last year, so I would expect those two to work out a deal. If not, Miami should go for it.

5. Glenn Robinson III Small Forward | Age: 24 | Former: Indiana Pacers

Agreed on two-year, $8.3 million deal with Detroit, per Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Most know him as one of the best dunkers in the league. Many know him as the son of Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, a rugged bucket-getter from a couple of decades ago. Not many have paid attention to Robinson III showing flashes of a quality jumper and competent defense in Indiana. That’s mostly because he hasn’t played much; he’s appeared in 137 games over the last three seasons.

If you want, think of GRIII as a much more defined Derrick Jones, Jr. with some off-the-dribble potential. Smart teams should be trying to buy low and see what he has with more reps.

Tier 2: Wing Creators

6. Tyreke Evans Small Forward | Age: 28 | Former: Memphis Grizzlies

Evans had by far the best shooting season of his career, cashing in roughly 40 percent of his threes on healthy volume (5.5 attempts). This is the third straight season that he’s been at or above league average from deep, so it’s safe to say he’s a plus there. His ability to penetrate defenses and find open guys on the perimeter makes him the best non-star creator in this year’s free agency class.

7. Michael Beasley Power Forward | Age: 29 | Former: New York Knicks

I mentioned him in last year’s big board as a joke, but Miami should seriously consider bringing him back this summer. Beas scored 29.3 points per 100 possessions with a healthy 51/40/78 shooting split. He’s the kind of situational scorer Miami needs to prop up their bench, and watching the Ellington-or-bust show last year was frustrating to say the least.

8. Rudy Gay Small Forward | Age: 31 | Former: San Antonio Spurs

Agreed on one-year, $10 million deal to stay with San Antonio, per Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of Rudy Gay (boy did I have to word this one carefully), but he bounced back pretty nicely from his achilles injury last season. Gay can still get to the basket, knock in middies, and occasionally hit triples. The latter is his swing-skill. If he can’t keep defenses honest from three, he isn’t good enough defensively to compensate, even if you move him to the 4.

9. Will Barton Small Forward | Age: 27 | Former: Denver Nuggets

Agreed on four-year, $54 million deal to stay with Denver, per Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

Barton can get buckets, and he grew as a playmaker last season. He also has tunnel vision and tanked pretty much every lineup he was in on defense. You know how hard it is to make Denver’s defense noticeably worse? That takes talent.

The “good” news is that Barton and Denver appear to be fine with running it back, so Miami doesn’t have much to worry about on that front.

10. Lance Stephenson Small Forward | Age: 27 | Former: Indiana Pacers

I mean … high variance can be a good thing sometimes? Stephenson can create and defend. When he puts it together, he can swing a handful of games for you. The antics get in the way, though, and outside of a quick stretch with the Clippers, he hasn’t proven he can be competent outside of Indiana. Buyer’s beware.

11. Jordan Crawford Shooting Guard | Age: 29 | Former: New Orleans Pelicans

Ah, yes, the better Crawford.

Crawford has some juice off the bounce and can knock down threes. He’s more of a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” guy, but he should be available for the minimum.

12. Gerald Green Small Forward | Age: 32 | Former: Houston Rockets

Agreed on one-year, $2.4 million deal to stay with Houston, per Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle.


He still jumps high, plays with high energy, and has a “2K is cheating, so I might as well throw up junk” shot selection. He is what he is. To his credit, he was mostly fine in Houston, so much so that I think he’ll be too caught up in the hometown reception to actually want to leave.

13. Jamal Crawford Shooting Guard | Age: 37 | Former: Minnesota Timberwolves

One of the best people in the league. A genuinely great person. I cannot say enough about the character of this guy. He’d improve the morale of any locker room.

Also, he can dribble really, really well.

(Keep him off of this team.)

(He is not good.)

(Don’t let the dribbling or four-point plays confuse you.)

(Do. Not. Do. It.)

Tier 3: 3-and-D Wings

14. Dante Cunningham Forward | Age: 30 | Former: Brooklyn Nets

Cunningham isn’t a name, and he doesn’t have much upside at age 30. Still, he’s a high IQ guy who can defend both forward spots and hit threes from the corners. There’s almost no way he commands more than the minimum, making him one of the best bargain bin options in this year’s class.

15. Jeff Green Forward | Age: 31 | Former: Cleveland Cavaliers

Green sort of put it together last year. He played mostly-solid defense across both forward spots (also played some center), finished well at the basket, and, well that’s about it. The 3-point shot (31.2 percent) was an issue for most of the year, and he was still better than he was last year (27.5 percent). LeBron making him serviceable longer than a month is probably his greatest achievement. That’s not hyperbole.

(Okay, maybe it’s hyperbole.)

(It’s certainly in the top five, though.)

16. James Ennis Small Forward | Age: 27 | Former: Detroit Pistons

There’s familiarity here. Ennis is a 3-but-not-much-D wing that would probably look better slotted next to other plus-defenders. It also helps that Ennis can actually dribble now, so he could attack some close-outs in Miami’s drive-and-kick system. This would be price-dependent of course, but this would be a nice addition.

17. Arron Afflalo Small Forward | Age: 32 | Former: Orlando Magic

Afflalo is still trucking along, bullying guards in the mid-post and sprinkling in threes. He’s an end-of-the-bench guy on a great team, but he’s a decent eighth man on a good team. That’s where Miami is.

Tier 4: Back-up Initiators

18. Seth Curry Point Guard | Age: 27 | Former: Dallas Mavericks

Curry missed all of last season with a leg injury, so he should be one of the premier “prove it” deal candidates. The last time we saw Curry on the floor, he did this on offense.

Yeah. Sign that guy.

19. Isaiah Thomas Point Guard | Age: 28 | Former: Los Angeles Lakers

I’m very torn about Thomas. It’s not that he doesn’t try on defense, it’s that his frame literally makes it impossible to be just bad. He’s destined to be awful, and that severely caps his ceiling.

Thomas is also one year removed from one of the best offensive seasons in the past decade. Even as he worked off the rust last year, you saw a guy that could drain triples off the bounce and convert tough shots at the rim. If he would buy into a bench role, on purpose, for a year, he could transform a bench. He’d certainly help Miami in the first 36 or so minutes of the game. He’d just have to be okay with sitting the crucial moments of the fourth quarter.

He won’t, so this is mostly moot. But hey, it’s worth exploring anyway.

20. Shabazz Napier Point Guard | Age: 26 | Former: Portland Trail Blazers

Napier was mostly a non-factor in Miami, showed flashes in Orlando, then became one of the best back-up point guards in the league in Portland. Napier still has that daredevil handle and “eff you” pull-up in his bag. The fact that he’s actually good now makes him an intriguing option for Miami.

21. Rajon Rondo Point Guard | Age: 31 | Former: New Orleans Pelicans

Rondo is a fantastic passer, serviceable defender when he wants to be, and has quietly become a solid spot-up shooter. After his stint in New Orleans, on-and-off the court, it’s hard to argue he can’t be a solid back-up option.

22. Elfrid Payton Point Guard | Age: 24 | Former: Phoenix Suns

Payton can’t shoot, and despite his athleticism, can’t really defend either. But good lord, is that man fast. He can go end-to-end at the snap of a finger, and he’s a better finisher than percentages probably indicate — especially with spacers around him. I’m interested to see what the haircut will do for his shooting numbers, as Miami Heat Beat producer Brian Goins would proclaim.

23. Mario Chalmers Point Guard | Age: 32 | Former: Memphis Grizzlies

Do I really need to explain this one? It also helps that Rio expressed interest in returning during his pod appearance on the Five Reasons Podcast with Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham.

You should listen and subscribe if you haven’t already!

(That is the first and only plug of the piece, I promise.)

24. Jameer Nelson Point Guard | Age: 36 | Former: Detroit Pistons

Nelson doesn’t have much left in the tank, but he can still snake around picks and knock down shots off the dribble. I, for one, am here for him giving Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson some pick-and-roll pointers.

25. Shane Larkin Point Guard | Age: 25 | Former: Boston Celtics

He has Miami ties, he can shoot, and he can get busy in the pick-and-roll. That’s the only argument I need, Shawn!

26. Derrick Rose Point Guard | Age: 29 | Former: Minnesota Timberwolves

Agreed on one-year, $2.1 million deal to stay with Minnesota, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

I would not be pleased if Miami signed him, but there’s reason for intrigue. Rose proved he can get to, and finish at the rim at a high level — not an elite level, but a high one. Miami desperately needs a guy that can break down a defense. At bare minimum, and for the minimum, Rose could do that.

27. Tim Frazier Point Guard | Age: 27 | Former: Washington Wizards

He didn’t really move the needle last year, but he didn’t hurt. He can get guys in their spots and has plus-vision in the open court. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a little over 3-to-1. You could do worse.

Tier 5: Spacers (Perimeter)

28. Pat Connaughton Shooting Guard | Age: 25 | Former: Portland Trail Blazers

Not only can Connaughton shoot, he’s one of the most athletic guys at his position. There’s upside to be explored here.

(Brief aside: We complain about Miami’s summer last year, and we should, but good lord is the summer of 2016 hitting Portland hard.)

29. Marco Belinelli Shooting Guard | Age: 32 | Former: Philadelphia 76ers

Agreed on two-year, $12 million deal with San Antonio, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

I mean, hey, Ellington torched Miami on off-balance threes to the point where they immediately signed him from Brooklyn the next summer. Similar reasoning could apply here.

30. Doug McDermott Small Forward | Age: 26 | Former: Dallas Mavericks

Agreed on three-year, $22 million deal with Indiana, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Dallas decided not to tender a qualifying offer to McDermott, but that’s more about Dallas’ cap crunch with a potential DeAndre Jordan signing than anything about McDermott. The guy can shoot off the catch and off movement, making him an interesting Ellington replacement if he prices out of Miami’s range.

31. Nik Stauskas Shooting Guard | Age: 24 | Former: Brooklyn Nets

Agreed on one-year, $1.6 million deal to stay with Portland, per Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Stauskas will never live down his early draft slot, which obviously isn’t his fault. Though he’s been worse than expected, he can shoot. He’s drilled roughly 38 percent of his threes over the last two years. Brooklyn electing not to use him much should bode well for Miami snagging him for cheap — if they want him.

32. Nick Young Small Forward | Age: 33 | Former: Golden State Warriors

On any given night, Young can explode from three and swing a game for … actually, never mind. After those cocaine comments, even flirting with the idea of Miami signing him is a level of enabling I’m not comfortable with.

Moooving on …

Tier 6: Spacers (Front Court)

33. Anthony Tolliver Power Forward | Age: 33 | Former: Detroit Pistons

Miami should sign Tolliver, if for no other reason than to ensure he doesn’t have a random 14-point half against them.

On a more serious note, Tolliver is one of the league’s best shooters in pick-and-pop situations, and can defend both forward spots without making you worry. He’s also one of the most respected players in the league, a guy that’ll improve any locker room. That has value.

34. Quincy Acy Power Forward | Age: 27 | Former: Brooklyn Nets

Acy has always been one of my favorite role players. He’s an energizer bunny that has pretty much taught himself how to shoot on the fly. He has knocked down 36.4 percent of his threes over the last two seasons and can mix it up inside defensively. Odd, but fun player.

35. Mike Scott Power Forward | Age: 29 | Former: Washington Wizards

Emoji Man had a breakout campaign off the bench last season, propping up an otherwise awful Wizards bench with threes, surprise drives, and some switchability on defense. He’d be a great get for Miami as an eighth or ninth man.

36. Nemanja Bjelica Power Forward | Age: 30 | Former: Minnesota Timberwolves

Before digging into the basketball fit, I must ask: How the heck is this man 30 years old? I’ve been thinking of him as some project/prospect for Minnesota all this time, only to find out he wouldn’t be one of the eight youngest players on the Heat.

Anyways, he can shoot, and he’s mobile enough to hang on the perimeter in a pinch. Not more than a pinch, because he’ll tank your defense, but that pinch is enough to raise eyebrows.

37. Marreese Speights Center | Age: 30 | Former: Orlando Magic

Agreed on six-month, $2 million deal with Guangzhou Long-Lions (China), per Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

The good news: Speights shot 36.9 percent from three on 4.5 attempts, making him one of three big men to reach those benchmarks.

The bad news: He did literally nothing else well, and he’s getting older. But hey, you can do worse for the vet’s minimum.

38. Channing Frye Center | Age: 35 | Former: Los Angeles Lakers

He’s a great locker room guy, but still can stroke threes in pick-and-pop situations. He’s probably a year away from becoming a podcaster or something full-time, so I would expect him to latch onto a contender somewhere.

Tier 7: Fliers

39. Nerlens Noel Center | Age: 24 | Former: Dallas Mavericks

Miami doesn’t need a center unless they find a taker for their current starter. If a big-for-wing trade opens up, why not take a flier on Noel? When upright, he’s proven he can be a versatile defender with rim-running chops. Give that man some #HEATCulture.

40. Treveon Graham Small Forward | Age: 24 | Former: Charlotte Hornets

An obscure name from an underachieving team, Graham filled in admirably when Nicolas Batum was out with injury to start the year. Graham drained 41.2 percent of his threes, though that came on very low volume. He’s got some shake to him. He combines oddly-timed drives with brute force and surprising touch. I’m intrigued.

41. Duncan Robinson Small Forward | Age: 24 | Former: Michigan Wolverines

Miami has been enamored with him all year, and they’ll get a closer look at him during Summer League. Solid size, solid stroke. We’ll see.

42. Wenyen Gabriel Forward | Age: 21 | Former: Kentucky

File this under “G-League project,” as he’s a late bloomer. Gabriel has “tweener wing” size, a high motor, and defensive upside. If the jumper comes, he could be a solid two-way rotation piece down the line. Shoutout to Jackson Hoy of The Stepien for first introducing me to him in his draft big board.

43. Josh Magette Point Guard | Age: 28 | Former: Atlanta Hawks

Magette is a serviceable back-up point guard that did some stuff on that Hawks team you absolutely didn’t watch last year. Insane assist-t0-turnover ratio: He averaged 9.5 assists to only 1.5 turnovers per 36 minutes. Can’t shoot to save his life, but he can run an offense.

44. Marcus Georges-Hunt Shooting Guard | Age: 24 | Former: Minnesota Timberwolves

He’s mostly wasting away in Minnesota. Maybe that’s a sign. Still, he showed some promise as a scorer at Georgia Tech, and lit it up during a D-League (now G-League) stint before getting signed. At the very least, a two-way deal or some time in Sioux Falls would be nice.

45. Bruno Caboclo Small Forward | Age: 22 | Former: Sacramento Kings

He was two years away from being two years away when he was drafted. That means he should be ready

this summer!