The Miami Heat had a crushing end to the season when the Brooklyn Nets “tanked” a loss to the Chicago Bulls which ultimately ended Miami’s season.
Riding on the unexpected success of guys like Dion Waiters and James Johnson, the Heat went from a team that looked like they were going to tank to being one of the NBA’s most competitive squads over the second half of the season. After Jan. 17, they went 30-11, the leagues’ second-best record, trailing only the Golden State Warriors. They had a plus-6.6, which was also the second-best in the league.
How much of that group do they bring back? And how much of that success can they duplicate? These are the very real questions Pat Riley needs to answer as the Heat try and vault back to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Of teams that already have key components in place, not many are better situated for a big free-agency move than the Heat. How much can they do?
First, let’s take a look at the players they have under contract.
That comes out to $91,039,425 in active contracts. In addition to that, there are $21,310,724 in cap holds, but $7.6 million of that is for Udonis Haslem, and that is likely to be renounced. There are also a handful of non-guaranteed contracts, the largest of which, belong to Wayne Ellington, is unlikely to be retained.
The most important thing is that Chris Bosh’s deal will be coming off the books once the Heat officially waive him. As a result, the Heat can open up as much $36,232,519 according to Albert Nahmad of HeatHoops.com. That’s not including the Johnson deal or the cost of maintaining Waiters Island, but the Heat can outside free agents before extending Waiters and Johnson to bigger deals.
The way the Heat finished the season, there was no glaring need. But they could use another star caliber player. With the depth they have, adding a guy who can do a little bit of everything while help Goran Dragic with team leadership responsibilities should be the biggest priority.
Keep or Let Walk
The Heat have Have Haslem, Waiters, Johnson, Edrice Adebayo, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed hitting free agency. They should keep Haslem at the vets minimum if he wants to come back, if for no other reason than out of tenured respect.
Babbitt and Reed are “price pending.” Waiters and Johnson had career years last year, but they were too much of the chemistry and winning last year to not bring back. James Johnson became the Draymond Green of the East. The team has real potential if they can add that big free agent.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Free Agency Scuttle: Volume is rising on the whispers that the team worrying Utah in Gordon Hayward's free agency is Miami as much as Boston
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 9, 2017
If you’re a Heat fan, I’m not trying to make you drool, but if you do start drooling, I can’t stop you.
A Dragic-Waiters-Hayward-Johnson-Whiteside lineup would not only be winning, it would be entertaining. And let’s not forget about Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, who both could have breakout years.
They may have to to do a little wiggling to generate all the space, (for instance, not exercising the options on Okaro White and Rodney McGruder) dump Josh McRobert’s salary somewhere, and/or Tyler Johnsons’s but it seems like it’s in the realm of possibility.
The catch is that while Waiters and Johnson have smaller cap holds, they can only sign for as much as that amount because of the nature of the holds. Here’s a great read on all the machinations if you want more info.
For most GMs, that might be a reach, but Pat Riley has a history of working things out that shouldn’t be worked out.
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- What Bam Adebayo brings to the Heat
- Exploring the possibility of Gordon Hayward to Miami