With free agency set to start at 12 a.m. Saturday, we take a look at the biggest free-agent questions surrounding the Heat. Today we ask: What mid-level free agents should the Heat pursue? We’ll shift to a different question each day leading up to the start of free agency.
The stakes for free agency may have been raised with the Rockets already landing Chris Paul, who will pick up his option with the Clippers and then be traded to Houston. That gives Houston the start of a super team with Paul and James Harden and may put more pressure on the Miami Heat to attempt to think even bigger when the bell rings Saturday.
But landing two max free agents like Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin will not be easy and even if Miami signs one of them and brings back either James Johnson or Dion Waiters, Miami still will be searching to upgrade the roster with any of its remaining cap space or through one of its exceptions.
With just a handful of players set to earn more than $20 million a season, the market is full of players who will be looking for deals not only between $10 and $20 million but many for under $10 million. And when talking about which of those types of players would draw the interest of the team, you have to start with their own free agents – Johnson and Waiters.
It’s very possible Miami could bring both back, and possibly for around $25 million combined. But if only one returns that could depend on who else Miami signs. If the Heat lands Hayward, then a power forward like Johnson would be a better fit. If Blake Griffin decides to leave the Clippers’ sinking ship for the Heat, then Waiters may be the more valuable.
But Pat Riley will have many other options. Among those:
Rudy Gay, SG, Kings: Gay is opting out of $14.3 million for next year so he could be a bit pricey. Still, he has been linked to Miami in trade rumors in the past. He will be 31 when camp starts and is coming off a torn Achilles that limited him to 30 games last season. Still, he averaged 18.7 points. 6.3 points and 2.7 assists before the injury.
Jonathon Simmons, SG, Spurs: Simmons, who is a restricted free agent, is a Heat type of player. He is 27 and once paid money to get a D-League tryout. He would be right at home on a roster that still should include several D-League graduates. Simmons is athletic and can play multiple positions. He averaged 6.2 points in the regular season before stepping it up to 10.5 points in the playoffs.
Luc Mbah a Moute, SF/PF, Clippers: Mbah a Moute is 31 but is coming off his best season and could be ready to break out like Johnson did last season. He’ll never be that kind of offensive player – he averaged 6.1 points in 2016-17 but did shoot 39.1 percent on threes – but it’s his defense that could attract the Heat.
Jonas Jerebko, PF, Celtics: At 6-foot-10, Jerebko is a power forward with an outside shot. He averaged 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds while playing 15.8 minutes per game last season. He is 30 years old and had his best season three years ago, averaging 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, in his first year in Boston.
Omri Casspi, SF/PF, Timberwolves: The Heat have had interest in Casspi before. He is 6-9 and plays both forward spots. He’s had a tough three years, playing in just 36 games combined because of injuries, but if his medicals check out he can be had for a nice price. And at 29 he should have some productive years left.
C.J. Miles, SF, Pacers: Paul George eventually will be traded and the Pacers will sink in the standings. Miles would be a solid pickup. He is well respected around the league for the way he plays the game. He averaged 10.7 points and shot 41.3 percent on threes last season.