Heat Sign Jerry Stackhouse, Waive Beverley and Butler

A freak injury to the right thumb of Mike Miller is expected to keep one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters sidelined for an extended period of time.

Miller fractured a bone and tore a ligament when the thumb on his shooting hand got tangled in a teammate’s jersey during a post drill at practice last Wednesday. He underwent surgery Friday to repair the damage. He will remain in a cast for four weeks, then move to a brace for several more weeks, then prepare once again for the start of the season. The Heat don’t expect him back on the court before January.

Pat Riley met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They chose Jerry Stackhouse, on a one-year fully unguaranteed minimum salary contract, for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. It needs an injection of youth and athleticism. It needs to develop for the future. It needs to identify players with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost. It needs to find tough, quick defenders.

Stackhouse is none of those things. He is old (he turns 36 next month). He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he has never been a good three-point shooter (31% for his career). He provides nothing this team needs.

He is nothing more than a sub-optimal stand-in for Miller. But when Miller gets healthy, he’s gone. Why sign someone who has no chance of being a member of the Heat come playoff time? Why sign someone who has no chance to be a part of the Heat’s future? Why eat up a valuable roster spot on such a player?

With the Stackhouse addition, the Heat roster stood at 17. The team had until 6 p.m. today to get its roster to the regular-season limit of 15 as they prepared for tomorrow’s season opener against Boston. Beverley and Butler were the final two cuts.

Beverley and Butler were both competing for the Stackhouse spot. They had a real shot at being a big part of the Heat’s future. Danny Green was a better option than both of them.

In an alternate universe, all three could have been retained. In an alternate universe, the Heat could have kept Beverley as its potential point guard of the future (by waiving Magloire), Green as its potential shooting guard of the future (by passing on Stackhouse), and Butler as its potential small forward of the future (by waiving Howard). That’s a quality developmental backcourt. 

Instead, the Heat is left almost entirely without young, developing players, and with a major shortage of bench athleticism and speed. With hardworking veteran leadership, the Heat has a great environment to get the best out of impressionable young athletes – yet there are hardly any of those guys on the roster. With unbelievable quickness and size from its perimeter stars, the Heat had the chance be the fastest team in NBA history – but not with brittle aging athletes like Jerry Stackhouse, Juwan Howard or Jamaal Magloire on the floor.

Veteran savvy is a useful tool. But these are three players who have already been severely marginalized by age. They have all been excellent. But that was years ago. When is the last time any one of them has had a great game, or even a decent season?

And before we get stuck arguing about the past, let’s consider that all that matters is the future. If your mission is to win as many titles as possible while the Big Three are still in their primes, then wouldn’t you like to have some upside around? Some players who will be getting better with time? Some players who can keep the energy level high when the stars need to rest?

Riley has a clear affinity for the seasoned veteran versus the inexperienced rookie. He’d rather have the sure thing than the potential next big thing. It is a philosophy that has served him quite well over the years. But as much as these veterans are low risks to make stupid, rookie-type decisions, none will break free off the dribble in crunch time or make that key defensive stop or space the floor wide open to create a lane for Wade and James to drive into – they’re zero risks to become more athletic, to develop new parts of their games, or be usable as trade bait should the need arise.

Everybody loves the top of the Heat’s roster.

The quality in the Heat roster goes more than three deep.

Mike Miller can do the main thing this team needs: Shoot 3s at an elite level. He can also rebound. And throw an assist or two.

The signings of company men Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony (despite the contract) can also be justified. In addition to bringing muscle and mobility, they offer current and future Heat employees strong messages about the team’s loyalty. Basically, when the Heat ask players to sacrifice (money, playing time, blood, sweat, etc.), they can point to those two and say “We take care of our guys. We’re a certain kind of team that does things a certain way.” Those kinds of long-term organizational vibes just played a major role in successfully bringing in three blue chip free agents.

The post-dated bench-warming veteran reserves, however, make far less sense.

By the nature of its composition, with three of the game’s best players and hardest workers, this team has a real advantage in getting the most out of development. Potential youngsters would have the right kind of role models. They’d all be pushing to be the hardest workers – fighting to impress their Hall-of-Fame teammates, fighting to reach their maximum potential, fighting for playing time. They wouldn’t have the distraction of constant losing, of deflated and demoralized leaders. When your best players are your hardest workers, good things happen. Players in that environment play much better and develop much faster.

Beverley, Green, and Butler are all fringe NBA players whom the Heat could have kept. None, perhaps, would help immediately. But all of them would have had an excellent chance of being extremely useful by April. They each provide something this team desperately needs. Speed. Defense. Rebounding. Scoring ability. Three-point shooting range.

Instead, the Heat has made an almost startlingly strong bet against youth and development. There is almost nobody on this roster who could be targeted to have a big jump in productivity this season or down the road. There is almost nobody who has the potential to create future trade value should the need arise. And so, if for some reason this team does not work out, if there are not rings for everybody in the years to come, if champagne isn’t constantly falling from the heavens, it’s worth noting that Riley and crew had countless options in filling out this roster.

The true tragedy of the situation is that players who hold the last three Heat roster spots will never play anyway. The spots would therefore more appropriately be utilized as a breeding ground for potential new talent, not as a parking place for the elderly.

Perhaps Beverley, Green and/or Butler would have become viable rotation-caliber players.

But even if they didn’t, they’re cheap labor. They could always be cut. Three new youngsters would undoubtedly have been eager to have taken their places. That’s the luxury of having such a wonderful top-heavy rotation. The last few spots can be utilized as a season-long open tryout. The Heat hasn’t even begun to fully tap into its well of available resources. They could have scoured Europe, Asia, Latin America, the D-League and the NBA waiver wire. They could have tapped into their vast scouting infrastructure to uncover a hidden gem. They could have potentially coaxed all kinds of players to play alongside these stars.

This team has more than enough firepower. Every NBA team would love to have the Heat’s problems. But the as-yet untold story – and one to watch as the years go by – is that this team has almost no way to meaningfully improve. Having just traded away four first-round draft picks, the Heat’s competition will have roster-building advantages almost every summer. As the Heat’s bench requires upgrading, the only obvious tool in their arsenal will be the annual salary cap exceptions – and who knows what will become of them in the next collective bargaining agreement.

The Heat brass had a real shot to be as intelligent with the end of its roster as it was spectacular with the top. They whiffed.

And so the promising young career of Beverley, less than three months after having given him a multi-year guarantee – one that not only increases team salary this year but next year as well, in what figures to be a far more restrictive salary cap environment – is now over, despite the Heat’s $3,551,348 investment.

Butler, who impressed enough during workouts for LeBron James to call him an “unbelievable talent,” is also gone, despite his $300,000 guarantee.

Green, perhaps the best of them all, was never even considered.

What the Heat may have lost out on in these players, and what level of production their replacements will provide, has yet to be determined. We can now only hope that Riley’s questionable decision-making will not come back to bite the Heat down the road.

The roster is now set. Let the games begin.

10 Responses

  1. AJ says:

    I agree with you about Beverley but not Danny Green. If the Cavs don’t want him, I don’t want him.

  2. Albert says:

    That is a dangerous way to think. I would hope that the Heat does not rely on the Cavs’ scouting department. I would hope that they would always be skeptical until independently verified (particularly since the needs of the Heat clearly don’t match the needs of the Cavs).

    I believe Green could be a quality NBA player and, more importantly, a perfect fit for the Heat organization. Of the three, he is my clear favorite.

  3. Jon Chapekis says:

    WOW looking back on this article now has an extra punch! Beverly and Green are both doing really well and solid contributors. It would have been nice to have Green instead of having him reign threes on us all Finals! (of course when this was written I dont think he had a great 3point shoot, but that is what player development is all about) We had several more shots at Beverly but now he is lost to the Rockets and playing a substantial role. We missed on those 2, particularly green because he fits our model and we have Cole.

  4. jon chapekis says:

    I dont think Bledsoe was really an option because we had to clear cap space (which we did in trading cook) to get Lebron and Bosh…could we have done it for less, maybe but I am sure if he could have riley would have done it before…even if you dont extend cook and still have the first round pick to take bledsoe, 1st round picks are gaurenteed and therefore would cut into the heats capspace.

    and same goes for the picks you would have kept for Vucevic. The Heat needed the cap space and the escalator that would only be included in a sign and trade in order to entice the Big 3 to team up. But you needed the cap room or the teams would not have agreed to the sign and trade (because they would not want to help you out at their own peril). Bottom line is that you need both the cap space and the sign and trade to make it work.

    So is it possible for those 2 to work out…maybe…but it is not worth risking having the whole thing fall apart. As for the young guys, they would not cost us financially and I doubt that Stackhouse really helped us. Unfortunately it happened a year early before the Heat realized/committed to the fact that they need 3 point shooters. This was the real loss

    • Albert says:

      @jon chapekis
      I tend to disagree with your assessments. I will handle each one in a separate response.

    • Albert says:

      @jon chapekis
      In response to your first paragraph…

      I tend to think Riley’s decision to pick up the option on Daequan Cook’s contract was an inexplicable and tragic error. I can’t understand what he was thinking. He was already several years into his plan to maximize cap space for the summer of 2010, just eight months prior to its realization, and yet he violated his own strategy for a player who could only ever be a backup.

      I tend to think he compounded that error in the way he chose to undue it. He traded away the Heat’s first round draft pick along with Cook in exchange for a second round pick. I believe he was thinking as you do – it was important to remove the cap obligations of both Cook and the first round pick.

      But here are my problems.

      First, I would guess that Cook’s contract was rather easily tradable – it was to be an expiring contract at $2.2 million. The Heat could have, for example, offered up to $3.0 million in cash (and perhaps a second round draft pick, if necessary) as an enticement for any team with the room to take him on, in a deal which could have been officially executed before or (as with Beasley) after the new salary cap year.

      Second, trading away the first round draft pick didn’t save as much cap space as you might think. The cap hold for the No. 18 pick in the draft was $1.2 million. When the pick was traded away, that figure was replaced with a roster charge, so the net savings was only $764K. In other words, giving away the first round pick only saved the Heat $764K of cap room. If that amount of cap space was truly important to the Heat, then the way they handled Joel Anthony (whose qualifying offer of $1.1 million was charged against the cap until he was signed) would suggest that the Heat’s salary cap experts didn’t manage the cap correctly. In fact, math errors ultimately cost Dwyane Wade more than $2 million. And, even if that small amount of cap space was truly important to the Heat, if they handled Cook properly (as per my first point above), they could have instead traded the first round pick for a future first round pick (as OKC ultimately did).

    • Albert says:

      @jon chapekis
      In response to your second paragraph…

      Each member of the Big Three could have made more money than they are making today over the first five years of their deals, and the Heat could have retained all six of their draft picks, without the sign-and-trade structure, at just the cost of either one of Mike Miller or Udonis Haslem.

      So the question becomes: If you are James or Bosh, would you rather have that up-front sixth year guarantee and Udonis Haslem OR more money over the first five years of your deal, knowing that you’re going to get paid in that sixth year eventually anyway, and six more draft picks?

      As you know, I was not in favor of the S&T structure at the time – not because I didn’t love Udonis Haslem (which I absolutely do), but rather because I imagined the damage that not being able to trade a first round pick for seven years would cause.

      Of course, we didn’t know at the time which players might be available in trade in the years to come. But that’s not really the point. We knew that trade scenarios would emerge. We knew that we’d need draft picks to facilitate those trades. And we left ourselves without any.

      As it turns out, Riley wanted to acquire Nikola Vucevic, well before he became a breakout performer. He tried. But he couldn’t get it done because he didn’t have the necessary assets. Now here we stand today. I can’t imagine there is anyone, even in South Florida, who wouldn’t have swapped Haslem for Nikola Vucevic. And so, if that is true, then with the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued that the S&T structure wasn’t ideal.

    • Albert says:

      It is important to remember that these were thoughts I had, and posts I made, in real time (see this and this and this and this and this, among many other posts). They weren’t ideas I came up with in hindsight. It stands to reason that the Heat could have come to similar conclusions.

      People tend to underestimate the impact of some of the really not so good decisions made by the Heat organization over the years. On the other hand, it is difficult to criticize the Heat organization for what it has produced over the past four years, and how it has positioned the team for the future. Perspective is always needed.

      I tend to give much praise for the good, and much criticism for the bad. I tend to evaluate everything on a case by case basis, as opposed to simply looking at the bigger picture.

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