Saturday, February 9, 2008

Riley Reloads the Heat

With the trade last week of Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Marcus Banks and Shawn Marion, Pat Riley has began to reload the Miami Heat in a short period of time.

Here is a look at the contracts:

Marcus Banks
2007-08 $3,888,000
2008-09 $4,176,000
2009-10 $4,464,000
2010-11 $4,752,000

Shawn Marion
2007-08 $16,440,000
2008-09 $17,180,000

Shaquille O'Neal
2007-08 $20,000,000
2008-09 $20,000,000
2009-10 $20,000,000

In 2007-08, Miami takes on $328,000 of additional salary and in 2008-09, they take on $356,000 of additional salary. However, in 2009-10, when Marion's current contract expires, the Heat will only be tied to two more minimal years of Banks contract. At the same time, the Suns will still be paying O'Neal $20,000,000 at the age of 38.

After this season, the Heat will be locked into Dwyane Wade, Mark Blount, Udonis Haslem, Daequan Cook, and then Marion and Banks' contracts. Additionally, they have a team option on Alexander Johnson ($687,456) and qualifying orders to Smush Parker ($2,400,000) and Dorrell Wright ($2,425,086). Likely, Parker will be freed to go elsewhere and they will likely offer Wright the qualifying offer.

So with a core of Marion, Wade, Haslem, Banks, and Wright, the Heat are in position to contend in the East next season with a few other moves.

The Heat have a handful of expiring contracts now that they can leverage into more talent. If I were Pat Riley, I would look to add a scoring post presence for the new-look Heat. Below is a three-team trade proposal that I think would benefit each team:

Knicks get:
Jason Smith $1,233,840, 2 Years Remaining
Kevin Ollie $3,441,900, 1 Year Remaining
Herbert Hill, $427,163, 1 Year Remaining
Samuel Dalembert, $10,251,435, 4 Years Remaining
Smush Parker $2,250,000, 1 Year Remaining
2009 Heat First Round Pick

76ers get:
Ricky Davis, $6,819,000, 1 Year Remaining
Randolph Morris, $810,000, 1 Year Remaining
Jerome James, $5,800,000, 2 Years Remaining
Mardy Collins, $967,320, 2 Years Remaining

Heat get:
Louis Amundson, $687,456, 1 Year Remaining
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining

In this trade, the Knicks would exchange Eddy Curry, an offensive-minded center, for Samuel Dalembert, a defensive-minded center. They would also free themselves of James' contract, who has been a huge disappointment in New York. The Knicks would also acquire 2007 first round pick, Jason Smith along with a 2009 Miami Heat first round pick. Although the pick should not be a lottery pick once the Heat rebuild their team in this offseason, it is still an asset. Dalembert starting next to Zach Randolph with David Lee being the third post player would be a nice fit. Dalembert and Randolph are opposite type players and would be able to work well together.

For the 76ers, the key to this deal would be exchanging Dalembert's contract for James' contract. In this exchange, Philadelphia is saving more than thirty million dollars. Additionally, the team would be receiving nearly eight million dollars in expiring contracts this season. This would give Philadelphia even more cap flexibility in their attempt to rebuild. Perhaps, they would have the ability to sign both Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand this summer.

The Heat would be acquiring the best player in this trade. Curry would be able to provide exactly what the Heat would be lacking: offensive post presence. He would fit nicely next to two defensive-minded forwards in Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion. In this trade, the Heat would be giving up expiring contracts and a first round pick the year after next. Ideally, the Heat will be very competitive by that time and that pick would not have much value.

After this trade, the Heat would be starting with Banks, Wade, Marion, Haslem, and Curry as its starters. Daequan Cook, Dorrell Wright, and Mark Blount would be keys off the bench for the Heat.

The key part of this is that the Heat are currently the worse team in the NBA, with a record of 9-39. Although their standing would likely improve, the Heat will still have one of the top picks in the upcoming draft. They would be in position to add either a point guard to compete with Banks and play next to Wade, or a big man to fit in with Haslem and Curry. This draft is loaded and both of these spots. The Heat would certainly consider Michael Beasley, DeAndre Jordan, Brooke Lopez, Hasheem Thabeet, Kevin Love, or Darrell Arthur. If they choose to go with a point guard, Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, and Darren Collison would all likely be possibilities.

Although the Heat have the worse record in the league right now, they have the ability to reload in a hurry. By this time next season, the Heat could be on the top of the Eastern Conference.

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