Udonis Haslem’s impact on free agency

Strange title, I know. But Israel Gutierrez of the Miami Herald thinks that the Heat need to hold onto Udonis Haslem.

Haslem has played so well during the Heat’s stretch of 15 victories in 18 games that he arguably is proving himself indispensable to this organization.

We have seen Haslem do this during the past seven seasons, providing the timely scoring punch, pulling out just the right defensive play, changing the demeanor of the team and teaming with Dwyane Wade to occasionally carry the Heat.

But never has Haslem been such a steady, stabilizing force as he has been during the past six weeks. He’s not just a luxury. He’s a necessity.

There just aren’t many like him in the league. You have loved him since he has been here, but you will miss him even more if he leaves. He’s Horace Grant. He’s Charles Oakley. He’s essential.

How can the Heat keep him if they’re hoping to re-sign Wade and sign another max free agent? Gutierrez suggests going the sign-and-trade route to acquire the other max free agent, going over the cap and re-signing Haslem that way, since the Heat owns his Bird rights. That means parting ways with Michael Beasley:

Beasley, already unhappy as a lost No. 2 scorer, would now have to readjust as a third scorer, and probably at a different position if the free agent score is either Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh.

As much as it might be unfair to bluntly say this when you’re comparing a 21-year-old to a 29-year-old, but Haslem is more important than Beasley, not only now, but also for what the Heat hopes to accomplish over the next few years.

Another route would be to sign Wade and Bosh/Stoudemire outright and then sign Haslem using the team’s mid-level exception, if he’d be willing to stay for around $6.0-$6.5 million per season.

And on another note, are Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire really power forwards? The Heat may let Haslem go because he “plays the same position” as both of those superstars, but with his strong defense, rebounding and his knack for hitting the open jumper, he would fit in alongside them assuming that their matchup at center isn’t too bad. I think you sign a big defensive-minded seven-footer to help out on Dwight Howard and Shaq (and maybe Bogut) and you run with Bosh or Stoudemire at the 5 the rest of the time.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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