2017 NBA free agency grades: Miami Heat bringing back Udonis Haslem

Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Miami Heat are bringing back team-lifer Udonis Haslem for his 15th year of service. We grade the deal, which is worth the veteran minimum.

The news Miami Heat fans had been expecting for weeks finally became official on Thursday afternoon: Udonis Haslem will spend another season with the South Florida-based franchise.

Though the signing was first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical, the Heat didn’t waste any time making it known through their social media networks as well.

Haslem will be returning to the Heat on a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum (about $2.3 million).

Despite his limited on-court ability at this point in his career, the former Florida Gator’s return to Miami is pertinent for a few reasons.

For one, his impact as a leader in the locker room is invaluable, especially on a team with so many ex-knuckleheads and inexperienced players on it.

Outside of Haslem, no one else on the Heat can command a room like the 14-year vet can. And what he lacks in tact he makes up for (and then some) in fiery passion.

What’s more, the passionate competitor will be the perfect teacher for the recently drafted Bam Adebayo, who has loads of talent but is still quite raw as a player.

Haslem, an undersized power forward himself, can show the rookie big man that height isn’t everything. Adebayo isn’t quite 6’10”, so the tips he can pick up from U.D. will be vitally important.

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Leadership aside, Haslem won’t be expected to do much on the basketball court in 2017-18. Last year, he played just 130 minutes over 16 games — a number that will likely dwindle even more next season.

Miami already has the aforementioned Adebayo to develop, as well as stud big man Hassan Whiteside, Swiss Army knife James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and Okaro White to man the team’s two frontcourt spots. If Haslem has to play, that would mean something went horribly wrong, so let’s hope that doesn’t come to fruition.

Nevertheless, news of the hometown legend’s return was met with excitement by the fan base. And by some guy called Pat Riley, too.

To this day, Haslem ranks favorably on Miami’s historical leaderboards: He’s No. 1 in total rebounds (5,701), No. 2 in minutes played (21,372), No. 5 in field goals made (2,625), No. 7 in points scored (6,478) and No. 4 in win shares (51.0), per Basketball-Reference.

After the latest signing, the Heat’s roster now stands at 14. Miami still has room for one more player — either for the minimum, or for the $4.3 million exception the team still owns — as well as two more spots for two-way contract players, who will spend the majority of next season with the Sioux Falls Sky Force.

Whether or not Riley chooses to fill those spots anytime soon is up for debate, though. Most believe Miami’s team president is saving the exception in the event of a Dwyane Wade buyout from the Chicago Bulls.

Next: NBA free agency tracker - Grades for every deal

In any event, today was a great day for Heat supporters. Seeing the team captain return for his 15th season on a minimum deal was a welcome sight.

Grade: A