Miami’s Big Three. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Chris Andersen. Alright well that might be a bit of hyperbole, but Andersen did have the third most win shares on the Miami Heat last season. Dwayne Wade, even though he is a shell of his former self, is more important to Miami than the man we love to call Birdman, but that doesn’t mean Chris Andersen is an expendable bench player.
He is the quintessential role player; he never started a game, had a 68.3 TS%, led the team in TRB% and BLK%, and ended up with a 130 Ortg and 102 Drtg. He is Miami’s lovable goon with a mohawk and arms covered in tats. He isn’t afraid to foul, and actually gets fouled a lot himself (surprise surprise). He had a career year for the Heat last year, and although he dropped the proverbial ball against the Spurs in the finals, he is still one of the top free agent big men on the market.
The big question however, is will he be back in a Miami Heat uniform next season? He made $1,399,507 in the 2013-14 season and is due for a pay raise. Well first lets ask how much is he worth. Well according to the guys at datascope analytics1 Andersen’s expected salary for last season was $9.27M. Now I think it is safe to say Andersen is not getting paid $9M next season. He had one of, if not the, best seasons of his career and the chances he repeats that performance are slim. He is 35 years old and so the chances he “makes the leap” next year are next to none. The only thing he offers on the offensive end are an ability to finish around the rim (79% of shots were inside 3 feet, 75 FG% inside 3 feet) and having a high Ftr (FTA/FGA) along with a solid FT%. His defense is solid, and he is a good rebounder. He is a guy that most coaches wouldn’t mind playing in the 4th quarter, but there are definitely better options.
We are not too far into free agency, but there are a few big men who have agreed to contracts so far. Spencer Hawes agreed to a 4-year, $23M ($5.75M per year average) contract with the Clippers and Boris Diaw is reported to have agreed to a 3-year, $22.5M deal ($7.5M per year average) to re-sign with the Spurs. Hawes is nine years younger than Andersen, and has a much more intriguing skill set than Birdman, but his defense is pretty damn bad. Diaw is a solid player who fits the Spurs system, and they can afford to overpay to get him back, especially since the third year of his contract is not fully guaranteed. So based on the market Andersen could probably get anywhere from$3.5M-$6M and honestly if the Heat could get him back for anything below $4M it could be a steal.
So now we have an estimate of what he could get, now let’s take a look at Miami’s salary situation. The salary cap for next season is projected to be $63.2M. The Heat currently have Norris Cole’s guaranteed contract and Justin Hamilton’s team option on the books. If you throw in the all but assured signing of 1st round pick Shabazz Napier the Heat have a grand total of $3,886,888 on the books, leaving them with an estimated $60,345,312 in cap space. That is a lot of money to work with, and re-signing Chris Andersen could be very easy for the Heat. The big thing however, is that the Heat want to re-sign the Big Three and add a true impact player such as Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza. This leads in to the last point.
We need to see what the Heat look like next year. If Pat Riley gets his wish and keeps the Big Three along with adding an impact player the Heat will have very little room to keep Andersen. There is no guarantee that any of the Big Three are coming back though. The free agent market is moving at a snails pace, waiting for the first domino to drop. LeBron, Bosh, Wade, and Carmelo Anthony are holding up teams from promising away cap space, and holding up players from joining a team with no real chance at contention. The Heat could very easily lose LeBron and Bosh, and if that happens Andersen may not want to rejoin a weakened Miami team. He will have plenty of other suitors however, as the Bulls, Rockets, Lakers, Pelicans, and several other teams could be looking for a bench big.
Chris Andersen’s destination at this point in free agency is a toss up, but one thing is for certain, if he is able to play like he did last year, he will be a great contributor for any team.