It's a long shot for the Miami Heat to have that tough of a time against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs. LeBron James and the Eastern Conference champs seemingly hold more than enough firepower to put away the Bucks, but Milwaukee has a few matchup advantages, especially in the post.
But in the backcourt especially, they also have individuals who will be fighting for, at the very least, their next contracts. Monta Ellis is one of those players, and he leads a long list of Bucks who might not return for a team that this summer has the opportunity to make a bevy of roster moves.
For the Heat, there are less free-agents-to-be -- James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all they need -- but there's a good chance a few players lower on the totem pole fight for more significant contracts.
Monta Ellis, player option: Likely to opt out of his deal, Ellis must prove against a solid defensive team in Miami that he's not the definition of an erratic volume shooter. Ellis is likely on the good side of the max contract borderline, but an ugly showing the the playoffs risks that teams won't take a risk on signing him to a max deal. Not only is that money lost -- it would hamper the length of his next contract.
Brandon Jennings, restricted free agent: Jennings told Yahoo! Sports that if he takes the Bucks' one-year qualifying offer this summer rather than play with restricted free agency, there's a good chance he leaves the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. While Milwaukee holds his Bird's rights and can sign him for a longer term than a new team, it's hard to see what the renegade will do. Nevertheless, a rare opportunity for him to give the Heat trouble would show he is more than a trigger-happy point guard. He says he wants to play for a contender, but now he can prove it.
J.J. Redick, free agent: When Milwaukee acquired Redick from the Orlando Magic this season, it was expected that they were ready to re-sign him should either Jennings or Ellis leave. There's a good chance the Bucks already feel comfortable giving Redick a healthy starting shooting guard salary for the future. He can cement that belief with a strong performance in the playoffs.
Samuel Dalembert, free agent: Dalembert has regained a role on the team under interim coach Jim Boylan. Still, the emergence of Larry Sanders has hampered his value. If he's able to provide big minutes off the bench behind Sanders to counter energetic Heat big man Chris Andersen, he could help himself get the typical inflated contract given to nomadic NBA big men.
Mike Dunleavy, free agent: Always a forgotten talent who can fill up the box score, Dunleavy might want to fight for what could be his last significant NBA contract. The 32 year old could get good money as a valuable bench player for a contender.
Mario Chalmers, team option: The confident point guard has in a way not developed into a respected primary ball handler considering LeBron James is essentially the Heat's point guard. That may have him undervalued. Assuming that's true, Miami is unlikely to let him go.
Ray Allen, James Jones and Rashard Lewis; player options: Allen and Lewis see the light at the end of the tunnel, and they're in Miami for a reason -- they're chasing titles. It's unlikely any of the three leave their cushy situation.
Chris Andersen, free agent: "Birdman" might have the most to gain of all the Heat players. His brief time with Miami has proven he's got a bit to contribute. For a team without much room to sign any mildly-pricy big men, it's possible with a big playoff performance -- we're guessing it'll be a long run -- he works himself out of Miami's price range.