NBA PM: Miami HEAT Trade Fix
When the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Miami HEAT in the NBA Finals a couple of months ago there was a lot of cheering around the NBA – especially in Dallas and Cleveland. The HEAT made themselves the enemies of many NBA fans with their premature celebration and their assumption that the championship was theirs before they had played a single game.
But what about Miami fans?
They not only hoped for a championship last season, they were told to expect it, so while the rest of the NBA world enjoys memories of the HEAT losing, Miami fans have a bitter taste in their mouths. They want to know what their team can do to get back to the Finals and live up to their championship potential.
The HEAT have two glaring needs, both in the starting rotation. They have All-Stars in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but there is a significant drop-off at point guard (Mario Chalmers) and center (Joel Anthony). It’s unlikely that the HEAT do much at center beyond hope Eddy Curry can get back on the court, as Anthony proved to be a very capable defender and is not someone who needs touches to be effective. The real glaring need is at the point, where Chalmers is a decent back-up, but is unlikely to be the starter who gets Miami over the top.
Miami already has over $65 million in committed salary next season (assuming they get Chalmers for the qualifying offer of just under $1.1 million), meaning they’re not adding any game-changing players through free agency. The salary cap is expected to be drastically reduced under a new collective bargaining agreement and there may even be a hard cap. That being the case, Miami is going to have to trade for the player they need to take things to the next level. But who do they trade? They actively shopped Mike Miller last season, getting little but dial tones in response, and he’s the only significant contract on the team beyond their big three.
It would seem that Chris Bosh is the odd man out if the HEAT opt to make a significant trade. ESPN reported months ago, long before the playoffs, that the HEAT were having internal discussions about trading Bosh, and while he has proven that he’s not a title winner himself, he could be part of a very good playoff team somewhere else . . .somewhere like Phoenix. It just so happens that the Suns have the kind of point guard the HEAT need, as well.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Steve Nash is precisely the kind of floor leader the Miami HEAT need. Does he need the ball? Yes. Is he an older player? Yes. But let’s take a look at what happens when the HEAT run their offense with either James or Wade going one-on-one with their ball domination. They can beat a lot of teams that way, and did get to the NBA Finals, after all, but can they beat a big, physical Western Conference team like the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Lakers by running isolation play after isolation play? Not likely.
The HEAT need a point guard who will immediately command the respect of Wade and James, one who will consistently make the right decisions when the games are on the line and get in LeBron’s face when he decides to take the fourth quarter off. There are very few point guards in the league who fit that job description – probably Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, and Nash. Chris Paul isn’t going anywhere, nor is Kidd, but Nash could be had for the right price no matter what the Suns are saying “officially.”
For his part, Nash has been playing good soldier, saying he wants to finish his career in Phoenix. That’s great, but at the end of the day Nash still wants to win, and he recognizes that the Suns are moving in the wrong direction.
“I think we definitely can get back, but obviously we need to improve our roster a little bit,” Nash told the Toronto Globe and Mail recently. “As it stands now, we’re probably a player or two short. But we’ve seen many teams win championships by acquiring a Pau Gasol [Los Angeles Lakers], or a Tyson Chandler [Dallas Mavericks] or a Rasheed Wallace [Detroit Pistons], whether it’s at the deadline or the summer. So, if we can somehow happen across a player of that caliber, it would be great.”
You don’t happen across players who make a difference; you have to pay for them, and that’s something Suns managing partner Robert Sarver is absolutely not going to do. If he was concerned about winning he would have kept Amar’e Stoudemire in town after he led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals two summers ago. Now it’s time for Sarver to make the next move, which is to let Nash go chase his last championship dream on a team that puts winning a title above all other concerns . . .a team like Miami.
How would a deal like that look? Let’s say Miami sends Bosh to Phoenix and gets Nash and, say, Vince Carter re-signed at a number that makes the deal work. Miami gets two veterans who are equally hungry for a title shot, the elite starting point guard they lack and a legitimate scoring threat for the second unit. Phoenix gets Bosh to join the young core of Aaron Brooks, Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. The underrated and overlooked Udonis Haslem moves into Miami’s starting lineup, where he enjoys the same Nash-effect that players like Channing Frye have enjoyed for years. Just as Frye went from averaging 4.2 points per game in Portland to 12.7 in Phoenix (and Gortat went from 4.0 in Orlando to 13.0 in Phoenix), Haslem would likely become a consistent 15/10 player with Nash setting him up and he all but replace Bosh’s numbers.
As a whole, the HEAT are much better off after a trade like this. They add a Hall of Fame point guard and a scoring threat off the bench, and they also create a decent amount of cap space in 2012, when they could chase Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. Nash gets a chance to finish his career riding a championship float and Bosh gets to go lead the Suns back into the playoff picture. It’s a good move all the way around.
This is a dare-to-be-great move, to be certain. The Mavericks made a similar gamble when they acquired Kidd a few seasons ago and it took some time for the move to pan out. Miami could also just tweak the roster and come back hopeful that Chalmers is the guy who gets it done for them at the point.
That’s just unlikely to fly with a fan base that has been set up to expect a title immediately.
Okur Signs In Turkey
The 2010-11 NBA season was a rough one for Utah Jazz starting center Mehmet Okur. After flourishing under Jerry Sloan, Okur became an important part of the perennial playoff team, but injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of last season and some of Utah’s collective struggles were the direct result of Okur’s defense-spreading presence. Now Okur is finally healthy and ready to get his body back in the flow of basketball. To that end, he has reached an agreement to play in Turkey until the NBA lockout lifts.
“The driving force behind this is him not having played for a while and wanting to get back on court and finding a rhythm,” agent Marc Fleisher tells the Deseret Morning News. “He wants to get ready sooner than later so he’ll be in a better position to contribute immediately (in the NBA).”
Okur will immediately begin practicing and playing with Turk Telekom Ankara in Turkey as he looks to return to form after Achilles tendon and back injuries limited him to just 13 games last season. It was definitely an odd year for Okur, who had never played fewer than 71 games in any year of his NBA career, and he is confident that he can get back to his pre-injury form and help the Jazz get back to being the playoff team they were before events conspired to derail the team last season.
Viva Las Vegas!
Summer time in the NBA usually means a visit to Las Vegas . . .not for the gambling, but rather for the annual summer league classic that takes place at UNLV. Teams from across the NBA send players to compete, from draft picks to young players to veterans looking for a spot on an NBA team.
One of the better kept secrets in Vegas is that while the NBA is staging summer league coach Joe Abunassar holds court with some of the top players in the NBA just a few blocks away at Impact Basketball. Players like Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Jared Dudley and Al Harrington – to name a very few – compete in pick-up five-on-five games and work with the on-site coaching staff to improve their individual games. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that Vegas is about to become a hot spot for basketball once again, as Impact Basketball prepares to host at least one unofficial league for players looking to stay in shape.
“I was talking to Brandon Jennings on Twitter and told him that we were going to do something,” Jared Dudley told SLAM in a phone interview. “I just think once someone heard the idea and once I kind of gave [Abunassar] the idea, he ran with it and got it moving. It’s different getting the idea and then getting all the right steps in to making it a success, and that’s what Joe’s been doing.”
The league is set to tip off next Monday, and HOOPSWORLD will be bringing you coverage of the proceedings, which is the brainchild largely of Dudley and Abunassar.
“A lot of people are bringing their own teammates to help work on chemistry,” said Dudley. “[My teammate] Hakim Warrick is coming up from the Suns. You got big names like John Wall, Stephen Jackson, Zach Randolph, Chauncey Billups. … You’re not gonna have maybe the stars like LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant]. But if you’re a fan of good, fundamental basketball, you’re gonna have your up-and-coming players and you’re gonna have your veterans that run the game. When it comes to point guard: Kyle Lowry, Chauncey, John Wall, CJ Watson. So you have veteran point guard and young point guards. You also have mix, from All-Stars like Tayshaun Prince and Rudy Gay to up-and-comers like myself and Austin Daye.”
Dudley also sees this as a way to show Las Vegas some love after the city lost summer league to the NBA lockout.
“I’m excited for Las Vegas,” said Dudley. “They were kind of cheated out of Summer League this year, and you know what, were kind of giving them something even better. You’re gonna get better-quality basketball players that you wouldn’t normally get to see here in Vegas. So that’s where the bonus is at.”
For a comprehensive list of the players who are likely to compete in next week’s league in Las Vegas, check out HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy’s report here!
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