Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Heat were not just defeated by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, it turned out to be the most lopsided championship round in history.
Beatings that soundly cost people jobs. It should. The Heat were embarrassed and clearly not the superior team in the league for the first time in recent memory.
This loss to the San Antonio Spurs will cause panic in South Beach. The future of the greatest player in the world, LeBron James, also should make Miami fans a little uneasy, but let's deal in the specifics a little later.
First of all, the Heat's loss was bad and they have more than a few warts, but everyone should pump the brakes on disbanding and rebuilding. The emotions are still raw, the scars are brand new, but the Heat remain a top-three team in the league, assuming they stay together.
Again, more on the specifics in just a few paragraphs, but I'll save a little of the preview - I still believe the Big Three stays together with the Heat.
The Spurs' debacle highlighted some flaws and definite areas of improvement.
Overall depth is a concern for a few reasons. First, other than Ray Allen, the second unit provided almost no offense in the Finals. The group wasn't really built to put the ball in the hoop, more to keep the opponent from doing so. Still, the bench needs to be improved to take the load off the starters. Preferably, the Heat could bring in dependable shooters.
The other reason the overall talent level of the team needs to rise is because James and Dwyane Wade need to play less minutes. Actually, in Wade's case, maybe the same number of regular-season games would be appropriate, but again, Wade looked slow and hobbled, especially in the last two games of the Finals.
James looked worn down as well. With Wade sitting 28 games, James assumed a heavier burden during the regular season, not just in minutes, but in production. Even the King himself couldn't carry a group single-handedly.
Now we come to the biggest issue and that is what will James, Wade and Chris Bosh do. All three can opt out of their contracts and become free agents.
Let's attack this in a variety of ways.
First, let's say they don't opt out and finish out the remaining two years of their contracts. Good-bye to any salary-cap relief and adios to any chance of bringing in an impact guy other than through small contracts. Know who takes those? Older players. Know what the Heat don't need right now? Older players.
And when it comes to exercising opt-outs, it's possible the Big Three are not the United Three.
James is in the prime of his career still and at age 29 could command the max. He took less money to build the Heat, but he also prints money outside the NBA. Would he be willing to take much, much less to bring in much, much-needed help? Who knows.
Where is the grass greener than Miami for James? Cleveland? Please, the notion that the young Cavaliers talent would woo him back is misguided. James shouldn't want to leave South Beach to play with Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters or Anthony Bennett. Yes, Kyrie Irving is electric and this No. 1 pick in a few weeks should be can't-miss, but hoping LeBron returns because of the way he left Cleveland is classified as beyond wishful thinking.
The Bulls? Maybe, but James has never really expressed interest in Chicago. He hasn't expressed interest in anywhere. James is holding everything in tight. However, James is an incredibly smart man and he has to read the landscape better than anyone. He knows the Heat stumbled, but one Finals series played this poorly shouldn't make James ready to bolt.
Bosh would probably get a max deal if someone wants to overpay. He's been the most vocal of the Big Three to state that he wants to return and that the band will stay together.
I'll choose to believe Bosh. If he wanted, he could walk and sign with the Dallas Mavericks or someone with cash to burn. Bosh, more than anyone involved, gave up his career as the alpha male for the team concept. His game has evolved and his range is now out to 3-point land. The point - Bosh will have suitors if this falls apart. He's a catch and just turned 30.
Wade is the true wild card in the group. He's the oldest and while he's not moments from retirement, he's on the back nine of his career. Wade looked very unhealthy, then denied he was unhealthy. He may not have been injured, but I saw a man with no lift and no spark.
Therefore, it's starting to make sense to me that Wade would not opt out of his deal. He's scheduled to earn $41.8 million over the next two seasons. Even Wade, even with a Heat-friendly-thanks-for-everything kind of deal, knows he wouldn't get that kind of money in a restructure.
Wade's deal going forward was always going to be the most complex. He warranted the worst contract of the trio, but would he be willing to accept that? Would Wade be willing to go the Tim Duncan route and take a lot less money to help the cap situation, and thus help the team? After his Finals performance, does he have a choice?
If we believe they all stay, the worst thing that can happen is some sort of deal to bring Carmelo Anthony to town. First, do we honestly believe that James, Wade and Bosh would all be willing to accept such drastic pay cuts? It would be the first time in pro sports a group this strong would do such a thing, well other than the Spurs.
Speaking of, how foolish would the Heat look if they brought in Melo after what the Spurs did to them? San Antonio played extraordinary team basketball with three Hall of Famers and role players. The emphasis was on team. Throwing money at another superstar would fly in the face of logic, to say nothing of the fact that Anthony fills no need for the Heat.
What Miami needs, in addition to depth, is an interior presence on defense. The Spurs got anywhere they wanted on the inside and Bosh is not a good enough defender to do all of the heavy lifting on his own. Chris "Birdman" Andersen will be back and should see more minutes, but a rim protector/rebounder is in order. When Erik Spoelstra went to Udonis Haslem, Gregg Popovich went to Duncan and the ball went into the hoop.
The final area of potential concern is the point guard spot. Mario Chalmers is a free agent this summer. Mario Chalmers is also the same guy who lost his starting job with the season on the line.
Chalmers is the perfect embodiment of the Heat's Finals run and future. He played poorly in the Finals and now some think Miami needs to do away with him. Forget that Chalmers was good enough the last two years to aid the Heat to a pair of titles, but don't bring him back.
There are better point guards on the market, but Chalmers was good enough before. He had a bad week. Bad time to have a bad week, but a bad week nonetheless. It doesn't really matter if the Heat bring him back. My gut says they do because he'll come reasonably cheap and money is an issue. This isn't fantasy camp.
The instinct is to destroy when things go so far off-track like things did for the Heat against San Antonio. It's easy to dismiss Miami's success as a product of the pathetic Eastern Conference or that their time is up.
Is it an overly optimistic view to say the Heat don't need to do much, other than keep the core together and plug some holes? Perhaps, but I also don't believe that blowing the organization to smithereens is the play, either.