Miami Heat – Off Season Report

Image result for whiteside winslow richardson

Record: 48-34 (2nd round exit)

Ins:

Dion Waiters FA – 2yr / $6mil (Non-guaranteed 2nd year)
Derrick Williams FA – 1yr / $5mil
James Johnson FA – 1yr / $4mil
Wayne Ellington FA – 2yr / $12mil (Non-guaranteed 2nd year)
Willie Reed FA – 2yr / $2.1mil (Player option 2nd year)
Luke Babbitt TR – Pelicans
Rodney McGruder FA – 4yr / $3.8mil (Non-guaranteed)
Stefan Jankovic FA – 3yr / $2.7mil (Non-guaranteed)
Okaro White FA – 3yr / $2.7mil (Non-guaranteed)

Outs:

Dwyane Wade FA – Bulls
Luol Deng FA – Lakers
Joe Johnson FA – Jazz
Dorell Wright FA – Unsigned
Gerald Green FA – Celtics
Amar’e Stoudemire Retired

Off Season Analysis:

“It’ll be fun in July”.

It’s September, Pat…and I’m still not having fun. Myself and other Heat fans have been holding out for 2016 free agency since the day the King fled the fair shores of South Beach to head back to Drew Carey’s favourite hang out in Ohio. Apparently Cleveland does rock, who knew?

All indications were that this was the off-season for Miami to reload for their next assault on the East. With a bunch of contracts due to expire after the 2015/16 season, Pat Riley and team were armed with the kind of cap space that caused a league wide power shift back in 2010 – the beginnings of the Big 3 era.

While Riley announced Hassan Whiteside as Miami’s “number one priority. Period” – it was clear that Pat was desperate to sign Durant as the franchises next big star. The problem is this wasn’t like 2010. Wade was no guarantee to return, and even if he did, he isn’t the player he was in 2009. Bosh has had his last 2 years eradicated by potential career ending blood clot problems. Whiteside and Dragic are talented players, but were unlikely to be the draw cards required to lure someone like KD from OKC to South Beach; and the rest of the roster was essentially vacant, given all the expiring contracts.

So while Pat was intent on harpooning a white whale – he let the franchise cornerstone, Miami Wade, feel left out in the cold for the 2nd off-season in a row. Despite Micky Arison also getting involved, the damage was done and Wade opted to leave the only franchise he has ever known to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. It was a major blow to Miami’s brand – #heatlifer, family, and all the other Rileyism’s that the Heat franchise stood for over the past 20 years of Riley’s tenure now have a lot less gleam to them. One has to think that this is a moment the franchise will regret letting happen, even if it does provide additional cap flexibility over the next couple of seasons.

Image result for pat riley whale hunt

What’s left on this roster is basically a riddle, wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped inside a question.

But first the question, or question mark. The biggest question mark for Miami continues to be the ongoing health of Chris Bosh. He has missed half of each of the past two seasons with blood clots that have derailed and threatened his NBA career. While Bosh (and his wife) have been incessant on social media decreeing that Chris is ‘a hooper’, it remains to be seen what level he can return at. There has been a deafening silence on Bosh’s status over the past six months, fueled by rumours Miami would prefer he retire in order to free up an additional max slot in Free Agency 2017. Whatever the truth, Bosh’s health must be paramount – and here’s hoping we see him back on the NBA hardwood soon.

The enigma must be Hassan Whiteside. Miami faced stiff competition to retain their star big man, with many questions during the 2015/16 season around whether Miami even wanted to. Spoelstra playing him off the bench for majority of the second half of the season didn’t exactly look like a franchise willing to build around this talented but conflicting talent. The trust factor still doesn’t appear to be there, although the commitment now is – even if the way Hassan announced his deal had to make Riley shudder. At his best though Whiteside could be an All-Star, and probably should be next season. He is an elite rim protector, rebounder and has an interesting all round offensive game – including a soft touch out to 15 feet. However he too often chases blocks to the detriment of the team defence, and physical bigs give him plenty of trouble (see; Valanciunas, Jonas).

Image result for goran dragic

The riddle – will Spoelstra finally give Goran Dragic the freedom he needs to be who he is? Much of Dragic’s Miami tenure has resulted in him bringing the ball up, handing it to Wade at the top of the key, and standing in the corner. I can’t imagine that is what Goran imagined when he forced his way out of Phoenix. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it seemed that once Bosh went down – Dragic found his way. His second half of the season was more reminiscent of the guy who made an All NBA Third team – and this should be the minimum standard accepted for him this coming season. If Spo can hand him the keys to the engine, I expect a strong year from Goran with the added responsibility he now has on his shoulders.

Miami also has an interesting young core that they are building around. Pat Riley and co made a HUGE commitment to Tyler Johnson this off-season – matching Brooklyn’s poison pill offer sheet to the tune of 4 years and $50 million dollars that even made Tyler puke. That’s big money, particularly for a guy who played 36 games last season….let alone 68 NBA career games. Let that sink in. Clearly the Heat like what they see in TJ behind the scenes, and while the 3rd and 4th years of his deal will be big future impediments – Miami must be hoping to land some big fish in the 2017 FA pool (or whales) to make use of his small cap hit over the next season or two.

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The other young stud’s on Miami’s roster are second year players Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. With the departures of Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, these two will be expected to fill some of the gap left by these dependable veterans. Winslow in particular will be expected to take the reigns at SF and make it his own. A stout defender, built like a young Artest and mature beyond his years, Justise was given some of the games toughest defensive assignments as a rookie and held up remarkably well. Winslow’s biggest weakness is his offensive game – in particular his jump shot. If he can show improvement in this area, he should continue to develop into an excellent all around player – and I hope he’s watching plenty of tape on Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green to aspire to. “Rook 2” is Josh Richardson, seemingly coming out of nowhere to become an elite 3 point shooter and rim destroyer in the second half of last season – shooting 53% from downtown after the all-star break. He looked like a young Eddie Jones out there at times, shooting style and all. He may have won the starting job for the Heat this season, but an unfortunate partial-tear of his MCL means we likely won’t see JRich until 3-4 weeks into the season.

Image result for johnson winslow richardson

After Wade’s defection, Miami struck quickly on a number of veteran journeymen. Wayne Ellington was added purely so he doesn’t torch us again, Derrick Williams became Michael Beasley 4.0 and James Johnson was also added in redundant fashion as another tweener 3/4 with a questionable jumper. All on essentially 1 year deals. Willie Reed spent summer league last year with Miami before being swept up by the Nets, and made his way to Miami on a 2yr deal. Reed didn’t get a big chance to impress last season, but Basketball Insiders view him as one of the potential steals of free agency. Time will tell whether he will get the opportunity to prove it. Luke Babbitt was brought in as a salary dump from New Orleans, and will at least add a 3pt threat and the second best hairstyle on the team (you know whose number 1) if nothing else. At the end of it all, Miami thought “why not” and added Dion Waiters to the glut of guards on the roster. Waiters has had his moments over his NBA career, but too often settles for long contested jump shots at a low percentage. He’ll be hoping to get in shape, have a good year, and get some of that Tyler Johnson money.

All in all, a disappointing off-season for Miami. Losing the face of the franchise in Wade, ongoing tension with Bosh and a bunch of average veterans on cheap deals means the Heat are buying time for another year. The only thing really saving them from an F is the retention of Whiteside.

If ever a GIF perfectly summed up an Off-season, this would be it:

Heat mascot completely FAILS this flip

Let’s hope the fun finally begins in July 2017, Pat.

Grade: D

2016/17 Prediction: B-positive (with Bosh): 43-39, B-negative (no Bosh): 34-48

League Pass Meter: 6/10

With ‘Flash’ gone, there’s not a whole lot to see here for the casual NBA fan. As a Heat fan, I’m intrigued to see what a Heat team without Dwyane Wade looks like, as it has been 13 years. If Bosh is out though…well…it’s gonna get ugly.

Depth Chart:

PG: Dragic T.Johnson Udrih Weber*
SG: Waiters Richardson Ellington McGruder*
SF: Winslow Babbitt White*
PF: Bosh (?) Williams J.Johnson McRoberts Jankovic*
C: Whiteside Reed Haslem

* Salary Fully Guarantees 10th Jan 2017

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 salaries: $101,916,133
2017/18 salaries: $71,946,606

Max room: $30,053,394
Min room: $6,195,785

Future Assets:

Incoming:
None

Outgoing:
2017 2nd (ATL – protected 31-40)
2017 2nd (MEM – protected 41-60)
2018 1st (PHX – protected 1-7)
2019 2nd (MIN)
2020 2nd (BOS)
2021 1st (PHX)
2021 2nd (POR)

2016/17 Questions:

Who wins the open Dwyane Wade slot in Training Camp?

Can Justise Winslow develop into a cornerstone, or is he MKG 2.0?

Is Chris Bosh actually going to play for this team again?

Can Hassan Whiteside make the All-Star team, and win DPOY?

Will we see vintage Goran, or is he past his prime?

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