Current State of the Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are only one year removed from LeBron James taking his talents away from South Beach and back home! Yet the ceiling for Miami in 2016 is looking very promising if management can get things in order this offseason.
In the past few weeks, news has come out that Dwyane Wade will opt out of his contract looking for a new and more lucrative deal. In the reports, it is stated that Dwyane is not opposed to leaving the Sunshine State if the organization does not compensate him properly. Even with contract uncertainty, I would be shocked if Wade isn’t wearing black and red in 2016. The bigger issue here is if Dwyane Wade signs back for 15 million or more a year that could significantly hinder Pat Riley’s ability to re-sign Hassan Whiteside in 2016. The Heat organization only owns Whiteside’s early bird rights, meaning the most they can offer Hassan and still be able to exceed the cap is 175% of his previous salary. Whiteside will only be making about 1 million dollars next season, so the maximum contract the Heat could offer him using Bird Rights is 1.75 million dollars. Anyone who watched Miami last season knows Whiteside will be getting much more than that on the open market. Miami management will need to find a way next offseason to gather up the cap space to offer a contract the will keep the star center in Southern Florida. Whiteside averaged a ridiculous 17.8–15.2 with 3.9 blocks per-36 overall! There is no way on God’s green earth you can let those numbers walk!
Miami also has the contract uncertainty of Goran Dragic, who the organization just gave up two first round picks to acquire. Obviously they would love to re-sign the 2014 All-NBA guard, but Dragic has clearly expressed that he would like the team to run a more up-tempo offense going forward. While I strongly believe that Dragic will sign a max contract with the Heat, what type of offense Erik Spoelstra runs next season will be a very interesting storyline to watch.
Miami is currently in a very odd personal situation where they have a roster full of talented players but no clear way of how they work together. On one hand, you can turn the offense over to Goran Dragic, who is one of the best open court and pick and roll guards in the NBA. With him running the show, Miami could be an up and down team who instills their version of the Mike D’Antonio “7 second or less” offense. Coach Spo could run an endless amount of high screen and rolls with Dragic handling the ball and Hassan Whiteside diving to the rim. Dragic and Bosh would also be able to run one of the league’s deadliest pick and pops with Bosh playing the Stoudemire role in the offense. There is only one problem standing in the way, Miami’s finest, Dwyane Wade. Wade is 33 years old and has the knees of a 50 year old. Number 3 will just not be able to withstand the high tempo up and down nature of this offense, and more importantly I do not think Dwyane wants or is willing to try and play in this kind of system at this stage in his career. There is a simple solution to this conundrum, they transform themselves into two different kinds of teams. When Wade is on the floor you slow down the pace run more half court sets having most of the actions ran through Dwyane. When Wade is on the bench though, Miami cranks it up a notch and looks to push the pace and be a “7 seconds or less” team. To be able to do this though, Wade is going to need to cut his playing time back from 35–37 minutes a game back to 28–30 minutes. In 2014–15, Miami wasn’t able to dial back Wade’s minutes because they simply did not have any other viable shooting guards on the roster.
This summer, the Heat will have its mid-level exception, which allows a team over the cap to sign a free agent for a predetermined amount of money by the CBA. Miami will need to use their exception on a swingman who preferably can stretch the floor, as they have little shooting depth on the wings. The big wild card here is Luol Deng, who can opt out of his current deal if he chooses. Assuming Luol Deng stays with the Heat next season, some targets of Pat Riley’s will likely be Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Green, Marco Belinelli, Rodney Stuckey, Dorell Wright, and Kyle Singler. Things will get much more interesting though if Deng decides to test the open market. With that money coming off of the salary cap Miami could try and make a run at some bigger free agents such as Danny Green or Wesley Matthews, both of whom are terrific defenders and can space the floor. The addition of one of those two players would give the Heat floor spacing from the wing that was lacking in last seasons campaign.
Miami also can look to add another swingman through this year’s draft where they have the 10th overall pick. Croatian forward Mario Henzoja would be a perfect fit for Miami if somehow he slipped a few spots in the draft. The 20 year old guard is a lethal three point shooter with potential to be an above average defender. Many experts have compared Henzoja to a younger JR Smith with the chance of not being such a head case. The two most likely candidates for Miami at number 10 though are Arizona’s Stanley Johnson and Kansas’ Kelly Oubre. Both players bring a ton of upside at the forward position as both haven’t even turned 20 years old yet. Both players also have the tools to become elite NBA defenders and good to great shooters. Bringing in two wing players through free agency and the draft could solve one of Miami’s biggest problems last year, which was James Ennis and Henry Walker having to play heavy rotation minutes. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng have been injury prone players over the past few seasons, and the Heat do not want to find themselves in a situation where Ennis and Walker have to play 25 to 30 minutes a game at the shooting guard and small forward spot.
Last offseason, Miami used its mid-level exception on Charlotte’s Josh McRoberts, who only played 17 games before going down with another foot injury. McRoberts return next season will give Coach Spoelstra front court depth that was not present in the 2015 campaign. Coach Spo will no longer be forced to play Udonis Haslem 25+ minutes a game on many occasions. Josh transformed himself into a stretch four in his last season as a Hornet, shooting 36 percent from deep. Pair him with Chris Bosh, a 37 percent three point shooter, and Miami will be able to add great spacing to their offense from their frontcourt. Bosh’s and McRobert’s ability to stretch the defense will greatly help Dragic and Wade! Both players who thrive at attacking the paint and finishing near the cup. Miami doesn’t have great perimeter shooters to start with, so it is paramount that their front court is able to lure the opposite bigs out to the perimeter opening up driving lanes for slashers.
This year’s top Eastern Conference teams are filled with question marks heading into next season. Atlanta has two starters, Demarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, hitting free agency. Chicago has the firing of Tom Thibodeau and constant injury concerns with Rose and Joakim Noah. Then you have Cleveland who has the impending free agency of Kevin Love and Lebron coming off what is now his fifth straight 100 game seasons. With a few moves, Miami can vault themselves once again into the conversation of Eastern Conference contenders. If I have learned anything from all my years of watching the NBA, it is that under no circumstances should you ever count out the great Pat Riley.