The 2011 NBA offseason is upon us, and barring a lock-out the most pressing matters as far as NBA fans and GMs are concerned is the free-agent market and player transactions.
Of course, the Miami Heat certainly won’t be involved in any major capacity this time around. They did their damage last year signing the two biggest free-agents out there in Lebron James and Chris Bosh. Those guys, along with the Sheriff of Dade County: Dwyane Wade, took the Heat to the brink of an NBA title. Plus, it isn’t like Miami has gobs of money floating around under the salary cap to make room for new additions. No, the Heat should and will stand pat.
Or should they?
The main questions heading into the 2010-11 season for the Heat were how long would it take for the Big 3 to gel, and how would they cope with not having a significant post presence? Well, we got our answers. When the Heat were able to cause havoc on the defensive end, causing turnovers which led to break away opportunities and dunks Wade and James thrived. They delegated scorer and facilitator duties based on feel and on a nightly basis. Often times they overwhelmed teams with their talent that questions regarding lack of a post-presence seemed moot.
But against teams with a significant post presence of their own, the Heat’s liability was clearly visible. Miami went 58- 24 overall, but that record dipped to just 7-5 against the top 3 centers in the league (Dwight Howard – ORL, Amare Stoudamire – NYK, Al Horford – ATL). They also split games with Chris Kaman’s lowly LA Clippers, and weren’t able to beat Boston early in the season when Shaq was still on the floor with fresh legs.
With regards to who “the man” would be in Miami, we saw just how tricky that could be in the NBA finals. Well, maybe it wasn’t tricky, but it was definitely apparent that Lebron James wasn’t going to grab the reigns and bring home a championship against Dallas. I won’t get too carried away by that though, James was outstanding in the earlier rounds of the playoffs, using uncharacteristically great 3-point shooting to take over series against Boston and Chicago. Still, his lapses in crunch time this season and throughout his career have become readily apparent.
So, what do you do if you are Heat GM Pat Riley?
If I’m in Riley’s shoes I think long and hard at a trade proposal with the Orlando Magic for All – NBA center Dwight Howard. Sure, there will be a certain level of “egg on face,” cutting bait with James after just one year of service, especially with all the hoopla surrounding “the Decision,” and the fact that the Big 3 did lead the Heat to the NBA finals. That said, those finals left an indelible mark on the Heat as well as James specifically. The questions about the Heat’s post deficiencies still remain and picking up Howard would be a huge coup in that regard.
Orlando doesn’t want to get stuck in a situation similar to Cleveland in the wake of James departure last summer. They would most likely jump at the chance to get something for Howard, who will be gone after next season anyway and the addition of James to a roster that already includes Jason Richardson (pending the re-sign him), and Jameer Nelson and would be a pretty salty team itself. This is about as good a trade that Orlando could hope for with regard to Howard, though I still don’t think James for Howard straight-up makes the Magic any better. Howard is so much better than any other center out there that even James can’t really offset his value.
Back to Miami’s coup of Howard. It is no secret that the Lakers are another team in hot pursuit of the All – NBA center. They aren’t the only ones who are licking their chops for the 2012 offseason and a shot at picking up “Superman.” The Heat could squelch all that talk in one fell swoop by swapping straight-up for James. If they did so they would immediately get better, as least in my opinion, and become the overwhelming favorite to win the title in 2011-12.
Wade would be free to command the scoring responsibilities, and any decent spot up shooter would be lights out with the attention paid to Wade, and defenses forced to sag and help out on Howard and Bosh inside. Speaking of Bosh, the addition of Howard would relieve Bosh from the banging duties that he isn’t suited for and free him up to be the offensive weapon that he is capable of being.
Howard’s addition speaks for itself, his defense is unmatched, and he could be a near 20 ppg scorer on garbage baskets alone.
Dwight Howard – Center, Chris Bosh – PF, Mike Miller (or insert player name here) – SF, Dwyane Wade – SG, Mario Chalmers – PG
That is a line-up that has multiple NBA titles written all over it.
It probably won’t happen, no one likes to admit a mistake, and no one likes to cut bait so soon, but a “Sunshine State Swap” might just be the best thing for both the Heat and the Magic.