is the Miami Heat and GM for life Rob
Clough. In the real
draft the Heat pick 49th. Miami's first
round pick was traded to Cleveland as part of the
Brian Grant/Shawn Kemp trade. Rob selects:
Haston, PF, 6'10" Indiana
With a flurry of remarkable offseason moves, the Heat were at last poised
to win the East and challenge for the NBA title. In exchange for Jamal
Mashburn and PJ Brown, the Heat got talented guard Eddie Jones, a big-time
scorer who could play Pat Riley-style defense. They turned Chris Gatling
and Clarence Weatherspoon into rebounder supreme Brian Grant. And throw-in
Anthony Mason from the Charlotte trade would turn out to be an All-Star.
But this being the Heat, something had to go wrong, and in this instance
it was Alonzo Mourning's kidney ailment. It was especially tragic because
he had just come off a brilliant performance in the Olympics and looked
ready to dominate the league.
But lo and behold, the Heat somehow turned into a fine basketball team,
finishing second to the excellent Sixers in the Atlantic. While it was the
first time in years the Heat hadn't won the Atlantic title, their regular
season performance surpassed all expectations as Riley once again did a
great job making the most of what he had. Eddie Jones and Brian Grant both
proved to be perfect fits at both ends of the court. Jones played Riley-
style defense and could both slash and hit the occasional three. Grant
had the work ethic of departed PJ Brown and a much better offensive game.
He wasn't thrilled about playing center, but did a good job nonetheless.
These two weren't big surprises, however--that's why they were brought in.
The big surprise was Mason, who carried a rep as both a troublemaker and
a hard worker, and who got his start under Riley with the Knicks. But as
a "point power forward", he was brilliant, leading the team in rebounds.
He also was third in assists and second in scoring, and only missed 2 games.
And with defensive ace and spot-up shooter Bruce Bowen having a solid year,
Anthony Carter competently backing up Tim Hardaway, AC Green providing
experience in the frontcourt and Dan Majerle in the backcourt, the Heat
had a nice little team heading down the stretch.
Then Alonzo Mourning came back. All year long, we had been told that Zo
wouldn't be back until next year, but when he started working out with
the team and practicing, it was clear that Riley was rushing him back for
the playoffs. In retrospect, this proved to be a disastrous move. It wasn't Mourning's fault--he played reasonably well, even if he had lost a bit of his quickness and scoring punch. That was to be expected, but he still was able to contribute. The problem was team chemistry and the way roles were changed so abruptly. In particular, the big problem was Mason, whose interest in the game seemed to plummet late in the year.
We all know the playoff results--a humiliating sweep by the Charlotte
Hornets. Baron Davis effortlessly drove by a hobbled Tim Hardaway and
Jamal Mashburn simply had his way with the Heat on defense. Simply put,
the Heat gave up very quickly in this series. While not quite as painful
as the annual choke against the Knicks, this was certainly more embarrassing. One thing is for certain--the way the players gave up on the Heat in the playoffs will almost guarantee the team being made over, with very few of the sort of generous contracts the team had been giving out to reward hard work.
Team Roster/Contract Status:
Player/# Years Pos Signed Notable Stats/Accomplishments
Alonzo Mourning/9 C 2003 13.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg (16 games total)
Duane Causwell/11 C FA 2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Anthony Mason/11 PF FA 16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, All-Star
Brian Grant/7 PF 2007 15.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Todd Fuller/5 PF FA 2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg
AC Green/16 PF FA 4.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Don MacLean/9 PF 2002 3.9 ppg
Bruce Bowen/5 SF FA 7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Cedric Ceballos/11 SF FA 6.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg
Dan Majerle/13 G/F FA 5.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 32% 3FG
Eddie Jones/7 SG 2007 17.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.8 spg, 38% 3FG
Eddie House/R SG 2002 5.0 ppg
Ricky Davis SG 2002 4.6 ppg
Tim Hardaway/12 PG FA 14.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 6.3 apg, 37% 3FG
Anthony Carter/2 PG FA 6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 15% 3FG
Draft History: Riley has actually managed to find some use for a couple of
his recent late picks. Anthony Carter did a solid job at back-up point,
a necessity with Tim Hardaway's unpredictable health. Carter's awful
performance in the playoffs removed any illusions the Heat might have had
about him being a future starter, however. This year, the Heat got some
surprisingly good play from Eddie House, the high-scorer from Arizona
State. He proved to be the favorite player of Pat Riley's daughter, as she
took to wearing "Free Eddie House" t-shirts in an effort to get her father
to give him more playing time. That materialized late in the year when
Eddie Jones got hurt, and again when Tim Hardaway got injured (again) in the
playoffs. He did a good job at both running some point and scoring, playing
with a fearless attitude. The Heat could again pick up a decent player
in the second round because of the draft's overall depth.
Overall: Things are a bit unsettled here, because no one knows exactly
how effective Mourning will be when he plays full-time next year. If he's
close to his old self, then the Heat will be fine. If not...
If he can overcome his kidney ailment and get back into proper shape,
Mourning is clearly one of the best players in the league. He's always a
threat for defensive player of the year and on the short list for MVP. He's
overcome the temper tantrums and mental mistakes that haunted him earlier
in his career. His status affects everything for this team. If he's
healthy, good free agents will want to go to the Heat because they'll know
that they've got a good chance at winning the title. A very solid big man
will accept being his backup because of his ability. But if he's a shell
of himself, that could cripple the entire franchise. The other issue is
how long he'll continue to play. He'll be 32 next year, theoretically at
his peak for a big man. The window on how long he'll be one of the top
players in the game is starting to close, and with his condition, may well
slam shut sooner rather than later.
Duane Causwell was once again just a practice player, albeit a big one.
He actually got a lot of playing time early in the year due to Mourning's
absence, but his uninspiring play soon relegated him back to his customary
spot on the bench. I doubt that he'll be back.
Overall: This proved to be the Heat's deepest position, with a number
of the PF's moving over to center. Brian Grant, a natural PF, played most of
his minutes at the 5 spot. AC Green also saw a bit of time at center as
well. Mason made it to the all-star game at the 4--a bit undersized, but
his tremendous strength and agility made him tough to stop.
Grant is a no-nonsense player who loves to get offensive rebounds (2.1
a game), get fouled (354 attempts) and do the dirty work. He can drill
the occasional jumper but he's better at attacking the basket down low. At
times, I actually thought he was the team's best player and deserved some
all-star consideration. It should be noted that he didn't miss a single
Mason had the best year of his career and did it with a lot of hard work.
With his mobility, strength and understanding of the game, he made for a
very effective and versatile forward. He perhaps was a bit overconfident
with regard to his ballhandling (179 turnovers), but made up for it with
3 assists a game. He brought his legendary attitude to bear in a positive
manner, bringing the sort of toughness to the team that Mourning had provided throughout his career. His main problem was one common to the team: he's not any kind of reliable outside shooter, which put a lot of pressure on the backcourt. His penchant for troublemaking didn't surface until Mourning came back, and this will be the main reason why Mason will likely not return to Miami next year.
Green did not exactly put up big numbers, but he came in and gladly played
a role. He was especially effective on the offensive boards. He also didn't
miss a single game (continuing his long streak) and provided some important
depth. Like many of the Heat's veteran players, I don't see him returning
next year unless he's willing to take a pay cut.
Todd Fuller and Don MacLean spent most of the season either on the bench
or on IR. MacLean actually started one game and probably would have played
more if it wasn't for his injuries. Fuller won't be back next year.
Overall: This is an area of significant need for the Heat. Riley gave
Cedric Ceballos a shot at it for a while but benched him after realizing
what every NBA coach knows: he doesn't play defense. Bowen hustles but
doesn't have starter-level talent, and the slow deterioration of Majerle's
offensive skills has made him more of a liability.
Bowen is a scrappy, hustling role player who comes up with big defensive
plays and hits a decent number of threes. In fact, he was second only to
Hardaway in threes made & attempted. But he's not much of a threat off
the dribble and lacks explosiveness. He's a great sixth man but when forced
to start (as he did for most of the year), it hurts the team. The Heat
really want him to come back and he's one of the few players that might
get a big raise.
Majerle missed 30 games with an injury and just didn't produce the way
he has in past years. Riley loves his guts and savvy along with his
defense, but I don't think he'll be back unless he takes a big pay cut.
The most noticeable flaw was his 31% shooting from three--and 75% of his
field goal attempts came from three.
Overall: The Heat are in good shape here. Eddie Jones is not known
as a shooter, but he hit a decent 38% from three and was adept at slashing
and getting to the foul line. Eddie House has a solid future in front
of him. Even Ricky Davis, injured for most of the season, has an admirer
The Heat really wanted Eddie Jones, and while they may have given up too
much for him (Mashburn & PJ Brown, with Davis & Mason in return as well),
they got their money's worth. Jones was born to play for Riley. His
toughness and ability to shut down other guards one-on-one are qualities
the Heat have needed for quite some time at the position. Jones is another
that I felt deserved some all-star consideration.
House stepped up when first Jones and then Hardaway went out with injuries. He can really score and isn't afraid of anyone on the court. While he didn't lead the Heat to wins in the playoffs, he still played well enough to be a big part of their future plans.
Overall: Another position of instability for the Heat. Hardaway can still
put up some numbers, but his late-season injuries and problems on defense
cost the Heat dearly in the playoffs. Carter can run the team well but
his anemic shot makes him an offensive liability. Expect to see big changes
here in the offseason if the Heat can swing it.
For a while, Hardaway looked like he was going to last a full season
without serious injuries, but it just didn't happen. While his 36% shooting
from three wasn't bad, his overall 39% mark showed that he had trouble
finishing. He also had trouble getting to the foul line. For a player
whose stock in trade in the past was his ability to post up other guards,
this was a very disturbing trend. His assist numbers were also a bit down
this year, though they were still quite respectable. Tim could certainly
return next year and even start, but Riley wants someone younger and more
reliable. At this point in his career, it's to tough to predict what he
could get in a sign-and-trade. Most likely, he'll be offered a chance to
back up whichever point guard the Heat bring in. Hardaway has said that he
wants to come back and he'd be willing to back up a great player. (In other
words, Gary Payton but not Mike Bibby.)
Carter was his usual solid self in relief of Hardaway, maintaining over
a 2:1 assist:turnover ratio. His three point shooting was just plain
awful and his foul shooting (63%) was terrible for a guard. But he's around
to play defense and run the team, so that's fine. The Heat want him to
return for the right price.
Maximum Leader Riley had a pretty good year as a coach. He went to younger players Carter and House more than he might have in years past and it paid off in some big games. He got the most out of Bowen he could and
co-existed peacefully with Mason. He didn't tank on his team when they lost
Mourning and led them to a great record. His big mistake came in the way
he disrupted chemistry with the reintroduction of Mourning. While it was a
risk he had to take, he could have handled it a bit better. What is
flabbergasting was the way his team played against Charlotte. They completely gave up on him. I don't know if he can no longer reach his players, but I do think this means that we won't see him coaching this team much longer. As he half-joked after the team got swept, "If I were GM, I'd fire me."
Riley the GM now has the added burden of dealing with the new luxury tax
and an owner who doesn't want to exceed it--especially since their big payroll last year got them diddley-squat. He blew up his old team last year, getting some true star talent at the expense of his bench. But Mourning's situation will provide him his greatest challenge. He long ago made Zo the cornerstone of the team, and if he can no longer play at an all-star level (or at all), Riley will truly be screwed and the Heat will have no shot at the NBA title for the
foreseeable future. After it looked like he had finally assembled a roster that would last for years, the Heat are now beset with more uncertainty than ever.
At the Heat's draft position, you can't really pick for position, so I'll
take best player available, though it'd be nice to get a high-scoring wing.
The Heat also need back-ups everywhere except point guard.
Kirk Haston, C Indiana
A likely first round pick, he showed in Chicago
that he can score and rebound. He would definitely make it easy to get
rid of Anthony Mason, but he almost certainly won't be available at
this spot. Haston came out a year early though he was actually a redshirt
junior. He stepped up for a young team and proved that he could score
both inside and out. While not a great athlete, he does have the size
and strength to play in the NBA. He'd be quite a steal for the Heat
at this spot.
Antonis Fotsis, SF Greece. One of the more highly regarded foreign players
in the draft. He's a Kukoc-type player and is quite skilled. His numbers
aren't eye-popping, but he plays in one of the tougher European leagues.
He's a player you may want to season a bit before you bring him over.
Tony Parker, PG Greece. Another likely first-round pick who is probably
too young to help the Heat now, but could be a handy backup in a year or
two--or possibly more.
Terence Morris, Maryland. A one-time lottery pick whose inability to
dominate the last couple of years cost him a guaranteed contract. Still,
he is highly skilled, a good (but not great) shooter, and an excellent
defender & rebounder.
Maurice Evans, Texas. Very athletic and aggressive swingman. He'd improve
the team's overall athleticism and add a guy who can slash, even if he's
not a great shooter. He's also a fine defender.
What The Heat Should Do
Dump Hardaway. They're going to do this anyway, but Tim's constant
injury problems have been one of the team's biggest banes.
Re-sign Carter. Hopefully he'll take a $1 mill/year salary and not ask
for more. He's a solid player who knows the system.
Re-sign Bowen. An excellent role player who can hit the three and play
great on-ball defense. He'll ask for a big raise but will hopefully take
something a bit less.
Go after Payton or Bibby. The Heat need a new, younger point guard who
can do it all. Bibby might be more in the team's price range, though Payton
would make the team very dangerous again, very quickly.
Avoid geriatric backup centers unless they come cheap. I'm not sure
what Olajuwon or Ewing would provide for the team at this point. I'd rather
have a solid young backup center who will be healthy for all 82 games and
won't demand the ball as much.
Develop the bench. Go after either rising CBA talent or low-end free
agents who look ready to improve, give them modest contracts and then
develop them. Riley has proven that he can work with diamonds in the rough
and it's time to do it again.
What The Heat Will Really Do
The Heat's current payroll is $73 million dollars. The new NBA luxury
tax will take effect next year, and the Heat would like to reduce their
payroll to about $56 mill. Considering that they already have $41 mill
tied up in the few players they do have under contract, this will be
Word is that of the current free agents on the team, the only ones the
team is actively seeking to re-sign are Bowen & Carter. Both signed bargain
contracts next year and should get raises, though the Heat are naturally
trying to talk them down from big money.
Mason is almost certainly gone. He had a great year but wants to start,
and this won't happen with Brian Grant around. He didn't play well when
Mourning came back and is the sort of player who plays best when the team
works the ball through him on every play. He'll be shopped for bait in
Hardaway will only be back if it's as a backup point, and only if his
replacement is a star. Tim can definitely still play, but his fragility
makes him a risk as a starting point guard.
The aging Majerle will only be back if he takes a $3 million dollar paycut, which seems unlikely.
The Heat's big target is Gary Payton, who is ready to leave Seattle. It
might be difficult to get him for a reasonable price. Another possibility
for a sign-and-trade is Mike Bibby, a player who would fit in very well
with the Heat. The biggest recent rumor is the Heat working on trying to
get Stephon Marbury, which would require parting with Jones or Grant. While
he has big-time ability, I've never been impressed with his defense or
commitment to winning.
South Florida native Mitch Richmond is also a free agent and
he might be willing to take a pay cut to play for a winning team. His
skills have faded but he'd be a great backup to Eddie Jones. Jimmy Jackson
is another possibility, and Monty Williams is also worth a long look.
Interestingly, both Hakeem Olajuwon and Pat Ewing have been rumored to be
interested in backing up Mourning at center. Both would be great backups
but I think either would carry too high a price tag.
Note that both Chris Gatling and Clarence Weatherspoon are free agents
again, and neither would be a bad pickup. The most amusing rumor I've heard
is that the Heat are considering signing Sherman Douglas if Carter doesn't
(Thanks to the Miami Herald for info on the Heat's potential plans.)