MIAMI -- The Miami Heat's top priority in free agency last year was Ray Allen.So who could be tops on their list this summer?How about Ray Allen.There is a good chance the Heat shooting guard will opt out of his contract this weekend and become a free agent Monday. But regardless of what happens, a source close to the situation said Friday that Allen is expected to return to Miami."Both sides want to make it happen," said the source.Allen made 3.09 million last season and has an player option for 2013-14 worth 3.23 million. However, if he opts out, he could, under the non-Bird exception, re-sign with the Heat for 3.708 million next season, which would be the maximum allowed 20 percent raise.Allen could re-sign for as many as four years, but it would be stunning if the Heat gave him a deal that long considering he will be 38 next month. But it would not be a surprise if Allen, who stays in great shape, received one for two years. With a 4.5 percent raise, Allen could make 3.875 million in 2014-15.Opting out could allow Allen to recoup some additional money he gave up when he turned down a two-year, 12 million offer last summer to stay with Boston and jumped to the Heat. Coming back to Miami then would provide Allen with his best shot at winning a third championship ring. If Allen were to opt out, the earliest he could re-sign with the Heat would be July 10.Allen, who won his first title with Boston in 2008, saved Miamis season with a dramatic 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last week that forced overtime. The Heat eventually beat the San Antonio Spurs in overtime that night and claimed Game 7 for their second straight championship."I do know that we want him back," Heat president Pat Riley said about Allen, who averaged 10.9 points in 25.8 minutes last season while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range.What Riley also wants when free agency begins Monday is to re-sign center Chris "Birdman" Andersen. He played a key role for the Heat after joining the team in January."We would love to have Chris back," Riley said. "Right now, Chris Andersen is highly respected in this organization."Andersens situation, though, could be a bit tricky. While indicating he wants to return, when it comes to negotiations, Andersen told FOX Sports Florida, Well see what happens.Miami could use the non-Bird exception (yes, the Birdman doesnt have Bird rights) to give Andersen a 20-percent raise over last seasons minimum salary and pay him 1.68 million. But if that doesnt cut it and the Heat are determined to bring back Andersen, they would have to use their 3.183 million taxpayer mid-level exception.While Andersens agent, Mark Bryant, has told FOX Sports Florida his client "absolutely wants to come back," he said it would be "totally unfair" to speculate on a salary. It must be said that Andersen will be paid 4.82 million next season by Denver, which released him last July as part of the NBAs amnesty provision.What happens with Andersen could play a role in Miamis chances of landing free-agent center Greg Oden, who hasnt played in an NBA game since December 2009 due to knee injuries. Riley has confirmed the Heats interest in Oden, and his agent, Mike Conley, reiterated last week his clients interest in Miami .However, if the Heat have to dip into their 3.183 exception to re-sign Andersen, its possible that could hamper their chances with Oden, who might not be willing to sign a minimum contract. Then again, the market will determine what sort of deal Oden can get. Other teams in the mix include Cleveland, San Antonio, Charlotte and Boston.
Two other notable impending free agents have told FOX Sports they have interest in the Heat. But it remains to be seen if either guard Chauncey Billups or center Samuel Dalembert will be considered.There might not be many roster spots available considering Riley wants to bring back mostly the same team. Of the 15 players who finished last season with Miami, only forward Juwan Howard, 40, doesnt look to have much of a chance to begin 2013-14 on the roster.Even though a more punitive luxury tax enters the NBA next season, Riley has said he doesnt want to let guard Mike Miller go in July as part of the amnesty provision. There has been speculation center Joel Anthony could be an amnesty victim, but the Heat are thin with big men. And Anthony, making 3.8 million each of the next two seasons, would not provide huge luxury-tax savings, meaning it might be more beneficial for Miami to perhaps use the one-time provision in a future year.Forward Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed deal for next season worth 788,872. But it must be seen how he looks in summer leagues in July in Orlando and Las Vegas before his chances of sticking around can be fully assessed.Also playing in the summer leagues will be athletic swingman James Ennis, who was acquired by the Heat after being drafted with the No. 50 pick in the second round Thursday by the Atlanta Hawks. Until Ennis is looked at, its difficult to evaluate any chance he has of making the team next year or whether he might be stashed overseas.For now, though, the Heats primary focus is on Allen and Andersen. They were successful in recruiting Allen last summer. Soon, they might be doing it again.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson