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Heat at critical point heading into future

LeBron James watches with arms folded as the Spurs put the finishing touches on their win over the Heat.
LeBron James watches with arms folded as the Spurs put the finishing touches on their win over the Heat.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Retool or rebuild?

That’s pretty much the situation for the Miami Heat following their devastating defeat in the NBA Finals at the hands (and legs and arms) of the San Antonio Spurs.

Which it will be depends on what their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh do. Actually, that probably can be whittled down to what James decides to do since the other two aren’t likely to leave on their own if he decides to stay with the Heat.

Conversely, they aren’t likely to stay if James decides to go elsewhere.

All three can opt out of their contracts by July 1, making them free agents. They then could sign with another team or restructure their contracts and remain with the Heat. The restructuring would allow the Heat more maneuverability around salary cap and luxury tax issues, giving them some dollars to attract other free agents.

The Heat already losing Shane Battier, who started 56 games in the regular season and six in the playoffs but slumped badly down the stretch. He is retiring.

Ray Allen, 38, also mentioned after Sunday night’s loss to the Spurs that ended the series in five games that retirement could be in his future, too.

Of the 15 players on the Heat roster, 13 are unrestricted free agents with either early termination, team, or player options. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recaps their contract situations here.

If James, et. al., are returning for 2014-15, the No. 1 priority in the retooling involved would seem to come down to finding a point guard to take over for Mario Chalmers.

Chalmers had a lackluster playoff series and miserable Finals and it wasn’t just the numbers (6.4 points, 42.3 percent shooting, 34.9 on 3-pointers). He continues to show a lack of maturity with his ill-timed and often unnecessary fouls and other breakdowns that should be in his past.

Chambers’ backup, Norris Cole, is just that — a capable backup who can give you a spark off the bench and can be a good finisher. But he, too, is inconsistent, not what you want with the guy running your team over the long haul.

The top free agent point guards, like Kyle Lowry (Toronto) and Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix), likely aren’t affordable or, in Bledsoe’s case, likely won’t be available. He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Suns could keep him by matching any offer the Heat might make.

In the college draft, the top point guard prospects like Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) are likely to be gone by the time the Heat get to their pick (No. 26).

Bottom line here: Top team exec Pat Riley has a lot of work and key decisions to make, and the quicker the better.

One thing though: Retooling is a lot less onerous than rebuilding.

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