Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HEAT Check: Best NBA Free Agent Options

Miami HEAT have 11 players from the 2012 championship roster signed for the title defense. Who are the best NBA free agents available for the last 4 spots on the roster?

This article uses Estimated Wins Produced. Since an average team's winning percentage is 0.500, an average player produces 0.100 estimated wins per 48 minutes (est.WP48). A star player produces 0.200 est.WP48 and great players produce 0.300 est.WP48. See the HEAT Produced Page for more information on Estimated Wins Produced.

What's Needed?
According to the HEAT Produced Page, the least productive positions for the HEAT in the regular season were PG (0.090 est.WP48) and C (0.091 est.WP48). Erik Spoelstra got above average production from every other position. In the playoffs, Spo's rotation with Chris Bosh at center provided above average production at every position except PG.

Norris Cole lack of production (-0.049 est.WP48, -1.3 est. wins produced) was the problem at PG last season. The HEAT could use a third PG if Cole doesn't improve next season or he and Mario Chalmers aren't lucky enough to stay healthy.

After PG, the position that needs the most help is center. While Bosh improved the position in the playoffs, it was still barely above average at 0.105 est.WP48 due to the struggles of Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony with bigger opponents.

Additionally, UD's age is starting to impact his ability to finish at the rim and his jumper was M.I.A. for most of the season, so now seems to be a good time to start looking for his future replacement in the lineup. Juwan Howard likely retirement also means the HEAT will need another insurance option at PF/C.

The threat of Mike Miller retirement or future injury problems also mean it wouldn't hurt to add another shooter to the roster at SG/SF.

Now that it's been established the HEAT need a PG, PF/C and SG/SF (in that order), the final criteria that needs to be defined is what type of player should they look for at those positions?

The HEAT were the 6th-oldest team in the NBA in 2012, according to Hoopism.com while their opponent in the Finals, the OKC Thunder, were the 5th-youngest. If the goal is to really establish a dynasty and win Not 5, not 6, not 7 championships, then the HEAT need to get younger to hold off Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and crew.

Who's Available?
The spreadsheet below ranks the available free agents that are 27 years-old or younger by Wins Produced in 2012. Restricted free agents with qualifying offers that exceed what the HEAT are allowed to spend under the salary cap rules were also excluded (i.e. more than $3 million).

Below is a list of the top players available at each position the HEAT need to address:

Personally, I'd be satisfied if the HEAT don't sign any of the players listed above. As stated on the Free Agency HEATcast, I think Riley's staff should go out and sign an unknown player like the Spurs did two years ago with Gary Neal. The HEAT don't HAVE to sign a well-known NBA free agent just because the salary cap rules say they have $3 million to spend. Sometimes, using the mid-level exception can be the Definition of Insanity.

If the HEAT sign an NBA free agent that's not listed in the spreadsheet below, then they are not building for the future, they're building for the short-term. If the HEAT sign an unproductive player from the spreadsheet, then they're probably making a mistake.

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