NBA Rumors: Despite Free Agency, Udonis Haslem Is A ‘Forever Guy’ For Miami Heat

While NBA rumors have swirled about which free agents the Miami Heat would target this season, one under-the-radar name that becomes a free agent this off-season is Udonis Haslem.

A 13-year Miami Heat vet, Udonis Haslem will become a free agent on July 1 according to ESPN. Despite turning 36-years-old this month, the power forward would like to play another two to three years for the only team he’s ever played for, Udonis Haslem said.

“I know for sure I’ve got two years in me. Two years ago I had to come in and play — Hassan Whiteside, Bird [Chris Andersen], everybody was out. I gave solid minutes, played well. This year we were in the playoffs — Game 6 in Charlotte. I can be ready in those type of situations for a couple years.”

While some media outlets are reporting that only Heat teammates Josh Richardson and Dwayne Wade are “locks” to return next season, few Miami Heat fans believe that Udonis Haslem won’t join that crew. Most Miami Heat fans believe Udonis Haslem — a player that team president Pat Riley calls a “forever guy” — will return at a team-friendly veteran’s minimum next season, according to Fansided.

“[Udonis Haslem] only saw minutes due to injuries in the frontcourt. With all that aside, Udonis is a staple in the Heat locker room and beloved by the fan base and local media members. It’s very difficult to imagine him elsewhere.”

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While the Heat could move forward without Udonis Haslem, the power forward remains an insurance policy for Miami. Hassan Whiteside — who also will be a free agent this summer — and Chris Bosh are not guaranteed to return for next season, and a veteran like Udonis Haslem could provide much-needed leadership in the frontcourt.

The Miami Heat will have the money to offer Udonis Haslem the veteran’s minimum. Early projection for the 2016-2017 season show that Miami has $40 million in salary cap space, the majority of which will be spent retaining Dwayne Wade and re-sign Hassan Whiteside, ESPN reported.

NBA rumors have suggested the Miami Heat will also be in the market for the summer’s biggest free agent in Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant. As many as 10 teams have expressed interest in adding Kevin Durant, and Miami has a reputation for attracting big-name free agents. Most analysts think that Kevin Durant will stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder for at least next season, giving him an opportunity to re-sign in 2017 for $50 million more as the salary cap will again grow by more than $10 million.

If Hassan Whiteside decides to leave Miami, Udonis Haslem is not the only free agent the Heat will target. NBA rumors have suggested that free agent Toronto Raptors big Bismack Biyombo is seeking a significant upgrade to his current contract.

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In an interview with the Miami Herald, Udonis Haslem said he discovered a “fountain of youth” in the past two years. Finding a way to maintain his energy after playing more than a decade in the NBA has convinced the former Florida Gator he can return and be productive next season for the Heat.

“If you talk to the right guys they’ll teach you where to find the fountain of youth. Hanging out with Juwan [Howard] the last couple years he gave me a couple tips on how to find the fountain of youth. There’s only a few guys that know the directions.”

Udonis Haslem appeared in only 37 games last season, averaging 1.6 points and 2.0 rebounds in limited playing time.

Do you think the Miami Heat will offer Udonis Haslem a new contract? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]