It was 2008 and the much anticipated summer of 2010 was being discussed. The favorites to land guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were teams like the Knicks, Bulls, Clippers, and the Nets. Nobody talked about the Miami Heat as a possibility and why would they? After all the Knicks later that year would trade guys like Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph for nothing in order to make cap room. But it would be those moves that would be the Knicks downfall, as they essentially forfeited their next two seasons in hopes of signing LeBron. The people of New York were positive they had LeBron in the bag.
Miami made the smart move, Pat Riley knew that in order to persuade The King to change courts he had to make the Heat an attractive destination. However, before Riley could make a pitch to LeBron James and Chris Bosh, he had to make sure he had the money to re-sign Wade, sign James and Bosh, and fill out the roster with talent. Well Riley kept it a secret and he took a page out of the San Antonio Spurs book by flying under the radar. So how would Riley get the cap room? With a series of calculated roster moves…
1. One-year rental plan
Pat Riley needed away to have a team that could compete in the playoffs but not commit long term in order to have cap space in free agency. A little over year after the Heat acquired Marion and Banks from the Suns, Miami traded the pair to the Toronto Raptors for Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon in February of 2009. The trades with the Suns and Raptors allowed Miami to be a playoff team and help establish coach Spoelstra as one of the NBA’s best up and coming coaches. This would be key in Riley pitch to free agents.
2. Build through the draft
The second move made by Riley was building through the draft. This is key to any team looking to get better, and Miami found plenty of talent. In 2008 draft Miami came out with number two pick, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. I know, I know Beasley was a bust but he did a solid job in Miami and was key in acquiring the big three (see Part 1). As for Chalmers he has developed nicely for the Miami Heat as their point guard. He quickly made an impression on defense as he set the Heat’s franchise record for steals in a game (9) as a rookie. Chalmers also played well in the Heat’s NBA finals appearences in 2011 and 2012.
3. Smart contracts
Pat Riley knew what his ultimate goal was, to have as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2010. So Riley signed all his players to contracts that would expire after the 2009-2010 season. By the team the draft rolled around Miami had three players on the roster (Chalmers, Beasley, and Cook).
In order to create even more cap space Riley would trade Daequan Cook and the Heat 1st round selection to the Thunder. By doing this it allowed Miami to dump Cooks contract as well as trade out of the first round. The significance of trading out of the first round for Miami is avoiding the cap hit. NBA rules make it so every player selected in the first gets a guaranteed contract but players selected in the second round do not get guaranteed contracts. Pat Riley had done it, the draft was over and Free Agency 2010 had arrived, Pat Riley had given the Heat deep pockets with $48 million in salary cap space.