Free-agent fits for the Heat

With an aging supporting cast and a worn-down Big Three, the Heat simply ran out of gas against the Spurs -- a team famous for taking extra precautions to prevent its guys from red-lining (even if such precautions generate a hefty fine from the league office). Allen, Shane Battier, Andersen, Lewis and Haslem were all in their mid- to late 30s and stumbled to the finish line after several championship runs.

So, the Heat need to get younger, right? Good luck with that. The Heat were old last season for a reason: Old talent is more available than young talent. Most quality young players are already locked up on rookie contracts or have signed long-term extensions to their respective clubs (see: Kyrie Irving).

And though there are 2014 free agents who are young, most fall into the restricted free-agent bucket, which means teams can pull them back by matching an offer sheet signed by another team. The Heat simply won't have enough cap space to scare away teams with a $12 million offer at restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe, Gordon Hayward or Greg Monroe. Those incumbent teams won't let the Heat pry away a young stud for that kind of money.

But the Heat shouldn't go after one body; they need multiple bodies to help them with their cause. Using up all of their cap space to target a marquee player like Kyle Lowry would only make the team more top-heavy, forcing them to pick from the same dusty bargain bin to fill out the rest of the roster. That would put them right back where they were last season, with a slim margin for error if Lowry, who has not been durable in his career, fell to injury. Heading into his contract season in 2013-14, Lowry had missed 33 games in his previous two seasons. With a team that features Wade, the Heat need as many able bodies as they can find.

The smarter path would be to diversify the risk among a few key rotation players who can help right away and beyond as the miles pile up. Who are some of those names? Let's consult the players on ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan's Free Agent Big Board and figure out who fits in the Heat's cap space as the primary target.


Cap-space signees

Channing Frye | Age: 31 | PF/C | $8 million average annual value
Alan Anderson | Age: 31 | SG/SF | $2 million AAV
Ekpe Udoh | Age: 27 | PF/C | $2 million AAV

Splitting the cap space among these three players may not grab the biggest headlines, but it may yield the most wins for the Heat.

Frye is tailor-made for Erik Spoelstra's system. The Heat's Big Three need floor spacers to thrive offensively, and Frye offers that and more. The 31-year-old made more 3-pointers last season than every big man except for Kevin Love and at a higher clip (37 percent) than Heat stretch 4s Battier (34.8 percent) and Lewis (34.3 percent). And at 6-foot-11, Frye can guard both bigs in the frontcourt interchangeably with Bosh, depending on the matchup. Something of a Bosh-light, Frye can either play alongside Bosh in the starting lineup, or spell Bosh on nights when Spoelstra wants to rest him up for the postseason stretch.

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