The Miami Heat are in a state of flux but don’t call it a full-on rebuild.
In the last 12 seasons, the Miami Heat have done an absurd amount of winning. With Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James leading the charge, the Heat have missed out on winning seasons just twice in that span – winning three NBA titles.
The unexpected happened this summer as a standstill over money, led to Wade, the organization’s best ever player departing for a big contract in Chicago. Besides retaining Hassan Whiteside, the Heat struck out big time in free agency. Nearing the halfway point of 2016-17, Miami’s uncompetitive roster has forced them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference – and hope isn’t coming, at least this season.
Miami’s won just 11 of their first 39 games, with only the Brooklyn Nets posting a worse winning percentage. Ravaged with injuries, the Heat are regularly fielding a starting lineup featuring Derek Williams, Luke Babbit, Wayne Ellington and rookie Wayne McGruder – a far cry from D-Wade, James, and Bosh. Coach Erik Spoelstra, Whiteside and to a lesser extent point guard Goran Dragic keep Miami from being completely rubbish – but for a Heat team that’s been so competitive in recent years, it’s not a path they’d like to be on.
With Whiteside, Josh Richardson and the now-injured Justice Winslow, Miami’s defense has been good allowing the 7th fewest points at 102.3 per game. But, the Heat’s downfall is a putrid offense. The Heat rank 29th with 98.1 points per game, a problem heightened by a lack of a number one scoring option. Both Dragic and Whiteside work best as complementary pieces on offense, but behind them, outside Tyler Johnson, there’s not much promise. If one of the three struggle, the Heat are cooked.
Heat President Pat Riley even admitted the club was in need of a “fast rebuild.”
think the No. 1 asset that we have right now is our flexibility moving forward. We have a first-round pick this year. So we’re dealing with it. We’re dealing with that word that you hate to use – that we have to rebuild. But we will rebuild quick.
“You can use that word rebuild. But we’re going to do it fast.”
Miami might be dreadful, but Riley’s right. The club is positioned very well for the upcoming season.
The Heat possesses their own first-round pick, which at this point, will almost surely fall in the top five. In a stacked draft, Miami could land a marquee guard to pair with Whiteside and Winslow going forward. Or, they could deal the pick and bring in a vet – although, the Heat would be better served developing more talent of their own.
Riley must have been aware of the Heat’s fortunes, as he didn’t spend much of the future cap this offseason. McGruder, Babbit, James Johnson, Udonis Haslem and Derek Williams are all free agents at season’s end. With the rising cap, Miami will have ample cap space to go out and make a splash. In a free agent mark which could hypothetically include Kevin Durant, Paul Millsap, Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward, Miami could easily poach a star and have space to spend. If the Heat can find takers for Goran Dragic and the last remaining season on Ellington’s contract, Riley could assemble a nearly unidentifiable Heat roster from this season capable of competing. If the past’s taught us anything is to never doubt Riley.
With that said, the Heat could strike out again next season. Top free agents have huge incentive to re-sign with their current clubs, as they can earn significantly more money. But, Riley’s proved he can orchestrate the cap and get big free agents to head to Miami. It might be more difficult in today’s NBA climate, but I refuse to believe Riley doesn’t have an ace up his sleeve. Don’t bet on the Heats struggles to carry over for season’s to come. It’s not in the organization’s blood.
Don’t bet on the Heats struggles to carry over for season’s to come. It’s not in the organization’s blood. However, Miami’s 2016-17 is already over – at least from a competitive standpoint.