The Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers all hold something very special in common: These teams have all won three straight NBA championships. Despite their determination to join this elite group, the Miami Heat‘s dream of a three-peat was destroyed in five games by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. Now, with back-to-back titles only a distant memory, the Heat face an offseason filled with uncertainty for the first time in the Big Three era.
Miami did not have the best regular season, but the Heat had no trouble rolling through a weak Eastern Conference in the playoffs. However, when it came time to rematch with the Spurs, Miami was shown that it was no longer a championship team. Other than LeBron James, the rest of the team failed to step up in the Finals. As a result, Miami was dominated in a way that the Heat had never been before in the last four years.
Dwyane Wade was healthy and fantastic throughout the entire playoffs, but he looked like a player on his last legs in the Finals. Chris Bosh was unable to serve as a matchup advantage for Miami. Shooters Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis were non-factors from three-point land. Guys like Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden, who people expected would step up for Miami, did not even see the floor. The worst of them all was Mario Chalmers, who went from starting point guard to bench-warmer by the end of the series. Needless to say, James was forced to carry the load like his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Not only did Miami’s supporting cast fail to make an impact on the series, but the Heat’s usually excellent defense was at an all-time low as well. Miami was dominated in every aspect by San Antonio in the Finals.
Hence why this offseason is filled with more questions than ever before for Miami. There is no doubt that team president Pat Riley has already begun looking for ways to bring Miami back to the top of the mountain. The only two characters who will definitely be returning next season are Norris Cole and head coach Erik Spoelstra. Every other player is either a free agent this summer or can opt-out of their contract and become a free agent. The question then becomes which free agents will stay and which ones will go.
Battier has already announced his retirement, and Allen has said that he will decide by next week if he intends to retire as well. Beasley and Oden have no doubt played their final games in Miami, while the futures of Lewis, Haslem and Chris Andersen with the team are unclear at the moment.
One of the more intriguing offseason situations revolves around Chalmers, who played as bad as one possibly could in the Finals. Chalmers played a huge role in Miami’s back-to-back titles as a solid shooter and role player. However, due to his poor play in this year’s Finals, Chalmers’ days in South Beach look to be drawing to a close.
The most important questions this summer obviously deal with the future of the Big Three. All three can opt-out of their contracts in order to become free agents, and there are no signs indicating otherwise at this moment. Whether he says it or not, James has to be frustrated with the lack of support he received from his teammates in the Finals. James will no doubt want to know Miami’s improvement plan before he makes a decision. Wade’s superstar days are disappearing as he inches closer and closer to the end of his career due to knee problems. Having served as the No. 3 option for four years now, Bosh may want to go somewhere else where he can be the franchise player. It is likely that the Big Three will return next season, but it is not entirely out of the realm for the three to go their separate ways.
The Heat may have many questions this offseason, but the answer to this all is simple: Miami needs to start getting younger this summer. Based upon the high number of free agents from this season’s team and the embarrassing performance in the Finals, the Heat will probably look very different come next season.