Free-agent fits for the Heat


The veteran-minimum signees

Anthony Tolliver | Age: 28 | SF/PF

Another big man built for Spoelstra's system, Tolliver has bounced around the league as a high-energy floor spacer, which perfectly suits the Heat's needs. Tolliver shot 41.3 percent from downtown last season as the Bobcats' stretch 4 off the bench. His rebounding numbers have suffered as of late as he migrates to the perimeter, but the Heat can consider him a younger and springier version of Lewis, who will likely find bigger offers after a resurgent postseason. Tolliver is the safer bet.

Al-Farouq Aminu | Age: 23 | SF/PF

Meet the Heat's defensive ace in the hole. After getting released by the New Orleans Pelicans within four years of being a lottery pick, Aminu is still very much a work in progress. His shot desperately needs work, and he'll need to ramp up his focus in Miami after his career has derailed. Perhaps the infrastructure in Miami can help Aminu unlock his immense potential. His former coach Monty Williams was critical of Aminu's rebounding and defense, but ironically, those were two statistical strengths. Aminu pulled down 8.7 boards per 36 minutes and was rated the seventh-best small forward defender in the league, according to real plus-minus. Like Udoh, there's too much upside here to pass on.


The roster

This is how the Heat retool, by getting younger and finding shooters who can defend at a high level. No radical changes necessary. In an NBA that places a higher premium on 3-point shooting than ever, those players won't come dirt cheap, but the Heat can find bargains on the market. This batch of free agents offer the Heat youth (Aminu, Udoh), players in their prime (Tolliver, Miles) and veteran shooters with strong leadership (Frye, Nelson).

So, how would they do? I enlisted Pelton to run his projections, and he found that this team wouldn't be just good next season, they'd be great. Even though the Heat wouldn't nab a marquee name such asĀ  Pau Gasol or Lowry, the Heat still churned out a 65-17 record, according to Pelton's projection model. For more, the chart below outlines projected minutes and WARP for each player. (Note: a replacement-level team wins 11 games in this model. Thus, a 54.8 WARP total plus 11 equals 65 wins.)

And this assumes that the Heat keep around Cole, who drags down their win total. The Heat could send his contract into another team's cap space and package him with future picks. That hasn't happened yet, so he'll still be on the books for these purposes. Unloading Cole would be much easier with Nelson around.

Obviously, there are a ton of variables at play. After all, we're still in the dawn of free agency. But there's wisdom in not shredding the model, just sharpening it. Just look at the 2013-14 Spurs after their Finals loss.

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