Heat Nation Feature: Top Five Free Agent Moves for Miami

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So much is up in the air when discussing the Miami Heat as a title contender for next season. As Heat fans hold their collective breaths while LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all enter July 1 as unrestricted free agents, team president Pat Riley must have his eye on not only improving the roster, but giving reasons for any or all of the Big Three to buy into another run at an NBA title. Several key free agents hitting the market next week could help Riley’s campaign towards another star-studded Heat lineup, headlined by prolific scorer Carmelo Anthony. Check out five of the most coveted free agent additions the Heat must consider signing this offseason:

Carmelo Anthony Heat

1. Carmelo Anthony — If James had picked up his option to remain with the Heat for two more seasons, Anthony would easily be the most attractive free agent during this offseason. Anthony’s decision to opt out of his current deal with the New York Knicks was anything but surprising, considering the uncertainty of the roster and bleak championship hopes for next season under new team president Phil Jackson. Anthony would only put on a Heat uniform for the near future if he is teaming with James. James’ friendship with Anthony plays a critical role in convincing Anthony to take less money for a duo that can’t and won’t be rivaled by any other in the league. If Bosh and Wade are willing to do the same, all roads lead to South Beach when it comes to the NBA championship. Having spent the past two seasons alternating forward spots, Anthony is a mismatch nightmare all over the court and even capable of leading this potential lineup in scoring. If Riley could ever envision Showtime in South Beach, Anthony would have to be a part of the picture.

Kyle Lowry

2. Kyle Lowry — The Heat’s best point guard in the Big Three era has never been a true point guard, which became a clear problem throughout this year’s Finals against the solid playmaking of Tony Parker and sharp shooting of Patty Mills. James, who has been the primary court general throughout his time in South Beach, received nearly nothing from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole in that series. With Chalmers entering free agency, Cole still unproven to be a starter and draft pick Shabazz Napier not yet ready to handle such a critical starting role, impending free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry makes the most sense to elevate the offense and counteract fellow standout guards in the Eastern Conference like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, John Wall and Jeff Teague. Lowry had a career year in both points and assists last season, averaging more points per game than Chalmers and Cole combined. The Toronto Raptors point guard is fearless and feisty, two qualities that could sway James, Wade and Bosh to reinvest in another title run, with all four players taking less money to make this lineup work. James may have liked the Heat trading up to grab his favorite player of the NBA draft in Napier, but Lowry may be the favorite to keep the team in championship contention.

Pau Gasol

3. Pau Gasol — The seven-foot Spaniard brings championship experience, consistent rebounding and an immediate upgrade to a Heat frontcourt that will be non-existent should Bosh sign with another team. Gasol has the consistent effort on both ends of the floor that Miami would covet. The two-time NBA champion is also a strong finisher at the rim, something the Heat severely lacked throughout its playoff series against the conference rival Indiana Pacers and the Spurs. Gasol alone improves the Heat in many categories, including the team’s last-place ranking in rebounding last season. While teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Knicks and the Mavericks may come calling for Gasol, the Heat can easily lure him in with the possibility of forming a Big Four with James, Wade and Bosh, all for smaller deals, of course.

Marcin Gortat

4. Marcin Gortat — Surprise, surprise! From being Dwight Howard’s backup in Orlando during his first three years in the league to forming a key starting position with an upstart Washington Wizards last season, Gortat has emerged as a quality center and consistent post player. Over the past three seasons as a regular starter, the Polish Hammer has averaged 13.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Miami is looking for a center that can hold his own in the paint while allowing Bosh to return to his natural power forward position, provided Bosh buys into teaming with Gortat. If he does, Gortat not only makes life easier in the frontcourt, but he can give James a pick-and-roll scheme that will be a nightmare to defend. Gortat is also great at offensive rebounding, which is crucial for the small-ball offense that the Heat is used to playing. With a combination of size and skill, Gortat will make teams think twice about trying to play big ball against Miami. As an impending unrestricted free agent, Gortat will be a hot commodity to several teams, but he surely realizes that his best game comes out when a top-notch distributor is feeding him the ball. John Wall did it for him in Washington, and James can do the same for him in South Beach.

Trevor Ariza

5. A “Small Three”: Jerryd Bayless, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Hill — Simply going with one or two of these players wouldn’t make any of the Big Three bat an eye at re-signing with the Heat. However, all three talents would certainly help bolster the team’s rotation. Bayless, who played for the Grizzlies and Boston Celtics last season, is a tweener guard who can stroke from long distance. He won’t provide much in the assist department, but his marksman-like jumpers shouldn’t be left unguarded. Ariza, coming off a big season with the Wizards with 14.4 points per game, is a jack-of-all-trades type of player with stellar defense and a solid three-point shot. Ariza hit on 40 percent of his three-pointers last season, but will do more than make critical jumpers. He has a knack for making life tough for the best scorer on the other team as a stout defender. Ariza’s style of play ties easily into the Heat’s defense-first philosophy. Along with the facts that he’s a former NBA champion and was born in Miami, Ariza in a Heat uniform can be a perfect match. Meanwhile, Hill came of age with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, despite playing in a jump-shooting offense under then-Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. Hill set career-highs in points per game (9.7), rebounds per game (7.4) and field goal percentage (54 percent) in an offense that didn’t cater to post players. He would give the Heat more than just the energy and effort that dirty-work players like Chris Andersen and Greg Oden did in South Beach. All three players won’t be able to demand big-time deals in free agency, so it’s quite plausible that each player would be open to lesser deals if it meant a chance to play with the Big Three and for an NBA championship.

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Born in San Diego and raised in Los Angeles County, Bobby has been an avid NBA fan throughout his life. A former sports editor for the Daily Forty-Niner at Cal State Long Beach, Bobby also holds a bachelor's degree in journalism at the university and appreciates the development of the NBA over the years and its best player: LeBron James. Bobby is proud to be a contributing staff writer for HeatNation.com.