Now that LeBron James has decided to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, the Heat has to find and sign the complementary pieces to complete what they believe is a championship puzzle. The three-player foundation alone puts them in the discussion with Boston and Orlando as the cream of the crop in the East, but for every Jordan, Duncan, and Kobe there’s a few Steve Kerr, Robert Horry, and Derek Fisher types that contribute in significant ways to championship-level success.
As things stand right now, the Heat have one player under contract: Mario Chalmers, a serviceable young guard with an NCAA championship on his résumé. And they appear to be on the verge of signing veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller, which would bring the roster to five. That would still leave seven or eight roster spots open without a lot of money left to spend.
Option A, one would reason, for Pat Riley and the Heat organization will be to seek out ring-starved veterans willing to sacrifice money for a chance to join forces with the likes of Wade, James, and Bosh in the same way the Celtics were able to add the likes of James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, and Sam Cassell when Boston landed the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few veterans take the bait, but with a new collective bargaining agreement looming that will likely mean lower salaries, veterans may be less apt to take minimum salaries than they would otherwise be.
Even if they do sign a few quality veterans, it’s likely that Miami will still have a few roster spots open for young players at the league minimum. This is a great opportunity for unsigned rookies, D-Leaguers, Summer League players looking to make an NBA roster.
Miami’s Summer League roster currently lists a whopping 19 players, including 2010 second round draft picks Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado. (Miami also selected West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler). Other notables on the Summer League roster are former Duke Blue Devils Shavlik Randolph and Jon Scheyer as well as Kenny Hasbrouck, who was called up by the Heat from the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers last season.
Miami also called up Alade Aminu from the Bakersfield Jam last season. Aminu is playing Summer League ball with the Charlotte Bobcats, averaging 5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 12.8 minutes over the first three games with a fourth game coming today.
Having made two call-ups last season, Miami has shown that they do have their finger on the pulse of the D-League, so it would not be a big surprise if they signed a player or two who made an impact in the D-League last season. The Heat’s three biggest needs are big men, shooters, and a point guard. Which 2009-10 D-Leaguers best fit into those roles for Miami? Below are my top three in each category:
Rob Kurz: More of a stretch four than a traditional big man, but he has some NBA experience, can rebound, and he can spread the floor as a shooter.
Alexander Johnson: Played 43 games for Miami in 2007-08. Spent most of last season with Sioux Falls Skyforce where his strong play earned a call-up by Houston Rockets. He’s 6-9, strong, solid rebounder.
Alade Aminu: Still raw athletically, but he showed flashes of potential last year that suggest he could be a rotation guy in the NBA.
Morris Almond: Almond will be playing with the Chicago Bulls in the Las Vegas Summer League. For his D-League career, he has averaged 24.9 points per game and shot 37.4 percent from 3. He also has NBA experience under his belt
Mike Gansey: Considered an NBA talent out of college, Gansey suffered a staph infection that prevented him from realizing his NBA dream. However, he came on very strong in March for the Erie BayHawks as a shooter and scorer with a high basketball IQ and a winning pedigree from his days at West Virginia.
Desmon Farmer: Shot 38.5 percent from 3 and averaged 23.7 points per game as an All-D-League honorable mention.
Curtis Stinson: He was first-team All-D-League with the Iowa Energy last year averaging a league-high 10.9 assists per game. He’s a poor outside shooter, though.
Will Conroy: The second-team All-D-League guard averaged 16.4 points and 10 assists per game last year for Rio Grande Valley. He also has shot 35.5 percent from 3 for his D-League career
Blake Ahearn: You could also put him under the shooters category. With the assumption that Wade and LeBron will dominate the ball, there’s probably not a need for a traditional point guard anyway. Ahearn has great range and also led the D-League in free throw percentage, something good to have in your back pocket at the end of a close game.
There are probably other D-League talents I’m overlooking or underrating. Let me know who you think deserves a look in the comments below.