COMMENTARY | The Miami Heat's 2010 offseason will go down in the annals of NBA lore as the most impressive acquisition of talent in the league's history. In addition to retaining their own superstar guard, Dwyane Wade, the Heat were able to lure entering-their-prime versions of Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
Two Finals appearances and one championship later, the trendsetting undertaking has been an undeniable success. Through Bumpgate, the issue of whether James and Wade's overlapping talents could peacefully coexist and myriad other snafus, the melding of Miami's trio of superstars has been as seamless as could reasonably be expected.
Sure, everybody gets on Bosh about his rebounding and some in the media seem eager to label Wade a malcontent just because he misses the infinite shot attempts that come with being a team's designated alpha male. But minor talking points like those are a long way removed from the "Can this even work?" rhetoric of a year ago.
The less publicized, albeit valid criticism of the Heat's team-building experiment is apparent when one takes a look at the multi-year deals Miami doled out after acquiring Wade, James and Bosh. While the team has been successful, Miami's signings of Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Joel Anthony have gone as badly as anyone could've imagined. With a considerable luxury tax tab on the horizon in 2013-14 and only one amnesty available, Miami might find itself forced to use up roughly $10 million of its payroll (and even more when you factor in the financial obligations to whomever gets amnestied) on players who are contributing very little, if anything, to its success.
Remember, when Miami signed Miller and Haslem in the summer of 2010, the deals were well below each player's market value. Haslem turned down five-year offers from the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks for the full mid-level exception -- about $34 million -- to come back to the Heat for $20 million over those same five years. Miller turned down richer offers from the Knicks and Clippers to join the Heat for $30 million over five years.
At the time, those moves were considered bargains.
Then again, nobody knew Miller's body would begin to fall apart shortly after signing with Miami. Miller's seven 3s in the series-clinching Game 5 of last year's Finals stood in such stark contrast to the rest of his injury-riddled Heat tenure that many thought he might retire at age 31 and with almost $20 million guaranteed remaining on his contract.
Nobody knew Haslem would tear a ligament in his left foot just 13 games into the 2010-11 season, sapping the undersized power forward of the explosiveness that had enabled him to draw $34 million offers in the first place. Haslem's previously reliable mid-range jumper vanished upon his return, replaced by a wayward abomination that has sunk below 30 percent from the 10- to 15-foot range since the 2011-12 season.
Joel Anthony was given a five-year, $18 million contract during the Heat's 2010 splurge. Unlike the other deals Miami handed out after bringing James and Bosh aboard, this one looked iffy before the ink dried. Anthony, an undersized shot blocker, possesses less talent on the offensive end than any decent prep recruit. He's a nice energy player who is useful guarding perimeter fours like Amar'e Stoudemire. But for almost $20 million over the life of a five-year contract, you would expect more than the occasional energy boost. The Warden has been relegated to the end of the bench, and with the recently acquired Chris Andersen providing solid minutes, Anthony cracking the Heat's playoff rotation seems even less likely than the odds of Miami finding a taker for the remaining $9.5 million left on his deal.
The Heat are paying Haslem, Miller and Anthony a combined $13.5 million in 2012-13 alone. That number jumps to $15 million next season. That's a lot of dead weight for a team mindful of the luxury tax's punitive consequences to carry.
Miami already has one oft-publicized Big Three. It will be interesting to see if its pricey, underwhelming counterpart becomes a greater focus as the bills -- even if they're accompanied by titles -- keep piling up.
Rob Smith is the sports editor for the Venice Gondolier Sun newspaper in Venice, Fla. He has covered the NBA and the Miami Heat for the Business of Sports Network and Hot Hot Hoops since 2011.