Heat fans may be criticized for feeling a little entitled now that the Big Three are around, but it's not entirely their fault. Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh promised multiple championships when they joined forces last summer, and 2012 is supposed to be merely the starting point for the Big Three championship-wise.
Credit Heat president Pat Riley for refusing to tinker too much with the Heat's formula over the offseason. Save for the additions of free agent Shane Battier and draftee Norris Cole, the 2012 Heat look very much like the 2011 Heat. The biggest difference between the two had less to do with the roster and more to do with Wade, James, and Bosh better understanding how to play with each other.
Bosh embraced the center position (something he had resisted all his career) and extended his shooting range to free up space in the paint for Wade and James to drive to the rim. Wade embraced the fact that as good as he is, James is even better, and let the King be the King rather than the co-star. And James expanded his game, using the post to create more open shots for his teammates and batter smaller defenders into submission.
The Heat's championship proves that with the Big Three running the floor, Miami need not overspend on its bench and role players. Complementary pieces that shoot well from three-point range and play tough defense are all that is needed for the Big Three to thrive, and that is the formula the Heat rode to a title in 2012.
But if the Heat want to repeat in 2013, they will have to make some smart roster moves. They tinkered with the center position all season, and will likely see some roster turnover over the offseason. But before exploring the Heat's possible offseason moves, let's take a look at who will be sticking around for next season.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh: All three members of the Big Three are under contract through 2013/2014 with player options for each of the two seasons after that.
While it is always possible that team president Pat Riley could move one of the Big Three (most likely Bosh) in order to make more room under the salary cap, it isn't very likely. Bosh's injury in the second round of the playoffs showed just how crucial he is to the team's success, and there are not many players who can provide the defense, interior presence, and outside shooting of Bosh. It is safe to assume that all three will be back next year.
Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony: All three are under contract through 2013/2014 with player options for the season after that.
With the Big Three, this is the Heat's core for at least the next three seasons. Earlier this month Miller was rumored to be retiring after the season, but he quickly shot that rumor down. He did say he will evaluate his future this summer though, which is sensible considering the roughly 37 surgeries he's undergone in the past two years.
Still, any of these three could become trade bait if Riley so chooses. Miller and Haslem will have less trade value than Anthony, since they are both older. But if the Heat need to cut salary, these three would be the top trade targets.
Something else to think about: the "amnesty rule" under the new collective bargaining agreement allows teams a one-time chance to cut a player, still pay the salary he is owed, but not have that salary count against the cap. That could happen with Miller if the Heat think they are set with three-point specialists (see below).
Shane Battier and James Jones: Battier is signed through 2013/14, while Jones has a player option for 2013/2014. Both are a bargain for the Heat, and neither is likely to be cut or traded. Jones will consider retiring this offseason, though.
Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole: The Heat are set at point guard for the next few years. Chalmers has one year remaining on the deal he signed last year, with a team option for 2013/14. Cole could be with Miami for the next three years under his rookie contract.
The rest of the team is no longer under contract. That includes Juwan Howard, Eddy Curry, Ronny Turiaf, Dexter Pittman, and Terrell Harris. Turiaf has a $1.2 million player option that he can exercise. He could make more money elsewhere, but he enjoys being with the Heat and could see major playing time if the team faces an opponent with a strong center in the playoffs next season.
Howard seems likely to retire, having played 18 seasons in the NBA. Miami could keep both Curry and Pittman (both will be cheap), but may opt to re-sign one and try to develop a young center through the draft. Harris is a good end-of-bench body that can fill in for an injured wing player and handle garbage-time minutes, he may return for the minimum.
What do the Heat need? Miami was lucky not to run into a team with strong big men in the playoffs, because the center position is pretty thin. Anthony is a keeper for his defensive skills, but he's not a threat to score. Turiaf and Pittman barely saw the court in the playoffs. Curry remains intriguing, the Heat clearly think of him as a long-term project, so he could see much more playing time next season.
The Heat will not have much money to play with in free agency, but may go after a high-risk/high-reward big man like Greg Oden. Additionally, the team may try to pick up one or more veterans chasing a ring that are willing to play for the minimum.
Boston's Ray Allen is reportedly interested in Miami, so that could be an enticing target for Riley. Making Allen all the more intriguing is the fact that Jones or Miller (or both) could be on their way out.
But the Heat have proven that they can win a title with the Big Three the current supporting cast, so don't expect them to make much of a splash in free agency. Indeed, the bigger story heading into next season might not be who the new faces are, but who those new faces are replacing.