Well, that week perfectly summarized what its been like being a Heat for the past four years. Losses to the lowly Pistons and Suns, defeating Steph Curry and the Evil Empire, losing a heart breaker to Houston and finishing with a decisive win in Brooklyn. Mediocrity and inconsistency have been the name of the game. It looks as though Miami is fast-tracked for another .500 finish.
So how did we get here? Three major events are to blame:
The Departure of Lebron James
Not much explanation needed here. Losing the best player in the world is going to cause a team regress and this case was no exception. Hard to knock the guy for wanting to go and try and win one for his home city. Which he did in dramatic fashion.
Chris Bosh’s Health/Dwyane Wade’s Messy Exit
Even with LeBron leaving, it was easy to feel optimistic moving forward with two all-stars in Wade and Bosh. Team president Pat Riley must have agreed, signing both to extensions, Bosh’s being a hefty 5 year $115 million deal. This never gets a chance to pan out though as Bosh would end up going down the next two seasons due to blood clots that eventually forced him to retire. Bosh’s health uncertainty spun Miami into a panic to find another star to pair with Dwyane Wade, leading to the trade for Goran Dragic. This proved to be quite an effective duo, leading the Heat to a 2nd round playoff appearance the following year. After that run is when things really started going downhill as Wade and Pat Riley were at a disagreement regarding Wade’s new contract. This dispute eventually led to Wade leaving for his hometown Chicago Bulls. So in a matter of three years, Miami went from having the Big 3, to being led by Goran Dragic.
The 30-11 finish to the 2016-17 Season/Bad Contracts
After Miami started the season 11-30 they went on a 30-11 run to end the season, just missing playoffs. This might have been the worst thing that could have happened. Although it was fun to watch, this led the front office to overvalue everyone and hand out some atrocious, long-term contracts. Some examples include James Johnson (4-year $60 Million), Dion Waiters (4-year $47 Million), and Kelly Olynyk (4-year $45 Million). Add these contracts to a payroll that includes Dragic making $19 Million, Whiteside making $25+ Million and Tyler Johnson’s (UGH) $20 Million player options and you find yourself in cap space hell.
How can Miami get themselves out of this situation and become a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference again? I present to you 3 solutions:
Hope Dragic and Whiteside don’t opt into their player options this summer
Wouldn’t count on it.
Trade away some bad contracts this summer
If Dragic and Whiteside opt-in, which I think is guaranteed to happen, try and flip them to a contender. They will both be in the last year of their contracts and could provide a boost to a playoff calibre team and allow Miami to get some value from them. Also try and move the contracts of James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, who to a lesser degree, could be a solid addition to a contender. Honestly, at this point anyone except Winslow Richardson and Bam is expendable. Depending on how much cap is freed up, this could allow Miami to make a run at one of the premier free agents this summer.
Run it back for the remaining years of Dragic and Whiteside
This seems to be the most likely scenario. Finding a trade partner for either of those guys may prove tough and Miami’s hands may be tied for one more season. I don’t hate the idea of Dragic and Whiteside, I just see them as the second and third option on a contending team. The development of Josh Richardson and Justice Winslow has looked promising as of late and Richardson may be ready to take the leap next season to lead this team.
Regardless of what happens in the next year and a half, it is not a completely hopeless situation for Miami. As mentioned above Richardson, Winslow and Bam are really coming into their own and will be ready to take the reins once the veterans are gone. Their contracts are great at this point which could prove attractive to free agents to come to the Heat in 2021. At this point, the best that can be hoped for is an eight-seed finish. Potentially being a pest for the Bucks/Raptors? Stay patient Heat fans and just keep riding the mediocrity wave.