The addition of Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat roster is a step in the right direction for the franchise. But the offseason work by president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg isn’t over. To make the trade for Butler really matter in 2019-20, the team has to acquire an important piece or two to round out their roster.
The Heat’s decision to acquire Butler was the franchise’s way of saying they have no intention of going through the long and arduous road of rebuilding. Instead, Riley is intentionally choosing to remain competitive while building up the roster toward playoff and championship contention.
But as the lukewarm reception to potentially adding Chris Paul to the team shows, Miami is not about to sacrifice its future in order to achieve this goal. The Heat were even reportedly reluctant to include rookie Tyler Herro in any deal for former MVP Russell Westbrook because of the University of Kentucky alum’s potential to become a star in the league.
Unless they can make a trade for Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (which could still happen, by the way), the Heat may want to focus on free agency. Many free agents remain unsigned and a couple of them could turn out to be key pieces to bringing the team closer to becoming a threat in the Eastern Conference once again.
Miami has to contend with a hard cap due to the Butler acquisition, so any addition would have to be for cheap and non-guaranteed contracts would have to be waived. Here are three free agents the Heat should consider.
3. JR Smith
2017-18 Key Stats: 8.3 PPG, 37.5 3P%
Smith’s 2017-18 key statistics are highlighted here instead of his 2018-19 numbers because he only played in 11 games last season. Although Smith has made some costly mistakes over the years, (see Game 1 of the NBA Finals two years ago), he’s also still a stellar 3-point shooter.
His back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third quarter of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals were instrumental in the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the championship that year.
Smith could come off the Heat’s bench to space the floor and provide capable defense on the wing. Butler would have more room to operate with Smith around. When he gets hot, even for just a quarter, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard can turn the tide during a crucial moment in a game.
2. Dwight Howard
2017-18 Key Stats: 16.6 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 55.5 FG%
Like Smith, Howard’s 2018-19 season wasn’t indicative of what he’s capable of after dealing with various injuries. His rebounding skills have not diminished and he can be a threat to score down low when healthy. Howard is only 33 years old and deserves an opportunity to show he can still contribute to a team’s success.
The Heat should look into adding the eight-time All-Star as their backup center, especially now that Hassan Whiteside is gone. Even though 3-point shooting big men have become the norm of late, there is room in the league for players with Howard’s particular skill set.
1. Kenneth Faried
2018-19 Key Stats With Rockets: 12.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 58.7 FG%
In 13 starts for the Houston Rockets after coming over from the Brooklyn Nets, Faried had nightly averages of 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. He found new life with the Rockets during his brief stay with them, and he could be a solid contributor this season to the Heat’s bid to return to the playoffs.
Faried could come off the bench to spark the second team. Most reserves would be hard-pressed to keep up with the energy he brings. He could back up either Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo when they need a breather, or he could also play alongside Olynyk depending on the matchups.
If he could sprinkle a few points and rebounds while bringing energy to the defensive end, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra could find a spot for him in the rotation.