Miami Heat: 3 Possible Mike Miller Replacements

The dust has settled and Mike Miller is now, once again, a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Miller played the best seasons of his career with the Grizzlies, playing with the franchise from 2003 to 2008. He was recently a victim of the amnesty clause by the Miami Heat, in order to clear some cap space and avoid a luxury tax bill that would have cost upwards of $30 million.

He is still owed $13 million by the Heat. However, the Heat are now giving leverage to spend without having to worry too much about their spending limitations. They can still use the mid-level exception and the veterans minimum.

The Heat utilized both of those deals last season, signing Ray Allen with the mid-level and Rashard Lewis with the minimum. They also signed Shane Battier the previous offseason with the mid-level.

With Miller now out of the picture, the Heat could be in need of a new sharpshooter to fill his role. Although the team is currently equipped with the likes of James Jones and Rashard Lewis, the Heat would still prefer to add on someone that could provide more than a shooters touch.

However, there is a distinct possibility Ray Allen and Shane Battier end up retiring once their contracts expire next offseason. Battier, turning 35 in September and having to take on the abuse of bruising power forwards, recently bought a house in Miami and Allen, recently turning 38 and the winner of two titles, will end up needing to be replaced.

Miami won’t be able to find those answers until next year when they have more funds to work with. Not only will they be faced with the task of signing the ‘Big Three’ back on, but also needing to fill out essentially the entire roster.

There will be 11 unrestricted free agents on the Heat roster next year. The team you see opening night in 2013 could look nothing like the one we see in 2014.

But don’t expect the Heat to find the younger, less injury-prone Mike Miller within the next few months.

There are hardly any names worth signing on for more than a year or two currently in the remaining free agency pool

Plus, the Heat want someone who can start in place of Dwyane Wade when need be. Miller was given 17 starts last season on account of Wade having to sit out. The Heat only lost two of those games.

Then again, perhaps those wins had more to do with LeBron James being on the floor. But I digress.

Miami hasn’t shown much initiative in looking for a Miller replacement. Instead, they’ve been on the lookout for a center; a position that many have been clamoring the Heat to improve since the advent of the ‘Big Three’ era.

Greg Oden and Marcus Camby are two names that have shown up. Both players are expected to make decisions next week. Once Oden signs, it should open up the playing field for the Heat, who have been waiting on the 7-footer’s decision for the past few weeks.

It would be a surprise if the Heat end up attempting to use the mid-level exception on Oden, who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2009. It also would come as a surprise if the Heat sign Oden for any time longer than a year.

Miami’s willing to take a risk on Oden, but they’re not willing to unload a lot of money and years. They’re not that desperate for a center, especially with Camby looking for work (and a ring) and Chris Andersen re-signing on for another year.

There’s also the possibility the Heat bring their lone 2013 draft pick in James Ennis. The former Long Beach State swingman has been putting up solid numbers in the Summer League, including a 25-point showing in the Heat’s finale.

The Heat bench could possess up to four empty spots if Juwan Howard and Jarvis Varnado end up being left off.

It’s going to be intriguing to see how the Heat respond if Oden does in fact join one of the many other suitors attempting to land him. Even with Andersen on the squad, there is a need for a big man who can hold their own in a one-on-one setting against the likes of a Roy Hibbert or a Brook Lopez.

Marcus Camby could be a backup option, but he could be of concern if he doesn’t get as much playing time as he’ll want. It takes an extremely specific type of player to fit the Heat mold, thus leaving guys like Samuel Dalembert on the outside looking in.

But does Miami make the push for a shooter? With Jones and Lewis already in tow, you would think not. However, there is going to be a need come the end of this season.

Jones, Lewis, Battier and Allen will all be free agents. Names worth having are far and few between at the moment, but there are players who could take a paycut for the exception, or possibly even take the veterans minimum if it came down to it.

Here are three names worth looking at:

Gary Neal

Despite having three years worth of NBA experience, Neal will be 29-years-old by the start of next season. After splitting time at La Salle and Towson in college, Neal spent the next four years playing in Turkey, Spain and Italy before signing a deal with the San Antonio Spurs the summer of 2010.

After three productive years with the Spurs, the franchise recently decided to take their qualifying offer off the table and allowed him to walk away, thus making him a free agent.

Surprisingly, there has been little interest for Neal on the market, despite him being an unrestricted free agent. Whether it’s because money for shooters has already been spent or Neal’s 36 percent three-point percentage, after hitting 42 percent in the same area the previous two years, it’s not easy to pinpoint why.

Neal would be of value to any contender. He’s a cold-blooded shooter brimming with confidence (maybe too much of it) and showed off those traits with a 24-point annihilation of the Heat in the Spurs’ big Game 3 win.

He trailed off at the end of the series, but the 6-of-10 three-point shooting in that Game 3 and the 3-of-4 shooting in the same range in the following Game 4 is enough to tell you he is not afraid of the bright lights.

As far as fitting the Heat mold of being a spot-up threat, Neal, per Synergy, ranked 144th in points per possession last year and shot 36 percent from beyond the arc. However, he did rank 44th in PPP coming off screens and 47th as the pick-and-roll ball-handler.

That’s a slight problem in Neal’s game that may hurt his chances of becoming a member of Miami. Neal, because he has all of that confidence, is a gunner that can become extremely overzealous on where he takes his shots.

He’s not in Nate Robinson territory, but he can get there if he tries hard enough. Miami can hardly afford to pick someone up who doesn’t like not getting minutes. It would truly be devastating if that player was also upset with the amount of shots they were taking.

Also working against Neal? His defense. His numbers are borderline inept, as he ranked 342nd in points per possession given up, 167th guarding pick-and-roll ball-handlers, 183rd in isolations and 342nd(!) defending spot-ups.

Now that I look at the numbers, maybe there is a reason why there is hardly any noise surrounding the Neal camp.

Richard Hamilton

A veteran with championship experience that is a knock-down mid-range shooter? Sign him up, right?

Well, we’ll get a look at those numbers and see if Richard Hamilton does in fact fit the mold, shall we?

It’s been a long fall for Hamilton over the past four years. He hasn’t played more than 55 games in a season since 2009 and recently played in only 50 games, starting 45, for the Chicago Bulls.

Hamilton had been Chicago’s starting shooting guard, but fell out of favor in the rotation come playoff time. He had his spot in the rotation replaced the likes of Daequan Cook and Marco Belinelli, eventually leading to a rift between him and the franchise, then leading to his eventual waiver papers.

Hamilton, who will turn 36 in February, has still maintained solid offensive production when he is on the floor. Garnering over 20 minutes per game last year, Hamilton averaged a shade under ten points per game on 43 percent overall shooting to go along with 2.4 assists per.

However, the 31 percent he shot from three was a tad unsettling. It was the worst he shot since 2010.

 

What’s not unsettling are his defensive numbers. Hamilton ranked 107th in the league in points given up per possession, per Synergy; ranking 46th in isolation and 24th off-screens. However, he ranked 150th defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers and only 240th on spot-ups.

Maybe a change of scenery and a bench role could keep Hamilton devoid of injuries that are going to throw off his season. Miami has been kind to its veterans and we have yet to hear any quarrels raised from any veteran dissatisfied with their role or minutes.

Winning helps, and Miami does a lot of it. A winning lockerroom usually means a happy lockerroom.

If Hamilton is willing to take on a lesser role, one similar to Miller’s, and the veterans minimum, since he’s already made $108 million over his NBA career, he could be a solid veteran fit to have waiting on the bench for the upcoming season.

Yeah, I know he and Dwyane Wade aren’t exactly friendly. But Wade has dunked on a few players on this Heat team and they seem to have no problem with him.

Roger Mason, Jr. 

Anybody down for some shopping at the Goodwill? Because that’s the type of territory we’re in.

You’ll be disappointed to know that Mason, well, is a deplorable defender judging his numbers per Synergy. He ranked 366th in PPP given up, 353rd guarding spot-ups and 171st guarding off-screens.

However, he did rank 25th in isolation settings and 105th defending ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll.

It’s a different story on offense. Mason ranked 35th(!!) as a spot-up shooter last season with the New Orleans Hornets, shooting an incredible 47 percent on 87 of three-point attempts last season on those opportunities.

Mason is a 38 percent three-point shooter and has gradually increased his three-point percentage over the past three years, recently topping off at a near career-high of 42 percent.

Mason has been a part of four teams in the past four years. He’s looking for work and has drawn little interest from anywhere.

If Miami is looking for an extremely cheap option that can knock down any type of shot, they could easily look Mason’s way and sign him on.

 

 

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