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2016 Heat Offseason

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As the Heat and all of #HeatNation deal with the mixed feelings of falling short in the playoffs and seeing The Nameless One fulfill his dream, it comes as no surprise that this offseason proves critical in the Heat’s goal to reach the pinnacle again. Moving parts are many, the strategic dealings ongoing, and the ability for the Heat to make another free agency splash always palpable. Yet, let’s focus on 5 points of interest that may define the Heat’s next evolution.

1. The D-Wade and Bosh Show

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 7: Chris Bosh #1 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat share a laugh while playing against the Brooklyn Nets on November 7, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2012 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Heat’s all-star core will need attention come July 1st. Obviously, the stress of persuading them to stay will not be there (D-Wade is THE star, THE leader, THE face of the franchise right? Hey Windhorst, he won’t be going anywhere). However, there is still the question of how much will D-Wade charge for his services. The Heat manage around $45 million in cap space and pinpointing with certainty how much of it D-Wade will command affects who the Heat can go after in free agency. Father Prime must seek a respectable sum given his outstanding performance throughout the season and especially during the playoffs, but flexibility must be the end result, pure and simple. More than likely, the expected contract negotiation will look towards either 1) keeping the one year and renew system going, 2) cap the yearly salary towards a manageable number but provide a long-term contract, or 3) provide a large contract, not max, that seeks to pay more of the salary by the end of the term rather than immediately. This also depends on the Bosh situation. Everything points to CB1 returning next season but how confident are the Heat this will last? No one wants Bosh to play limited minutes or even think of retirement; yet, it’s a reality that must be on the table if cap space can or will become available. A delicate balance must be struck between veteran durability and potential groundbreaking dominance for years to come. If any team demonstrates a heightened prowess in doing so, it is definitely the Heat.

2. The Rook Project

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Alongside the stars are an amazing stable of young talent that the Heat have managed to draft or groom from the D/Summer League. The demonstrated abilities from Justise Winslow on defense and his potential as a slashing scorer combine perfectly with Josh Robertson’s command as an up and coming point guard with amazing shooting accuracy. More importantly, both exhibit a complete acceptance for the Heat mentality. Both want to learn, both want to grow, and both want to be mainstays of this franchise as Winslow recently expressed, “One day I would love to be a starter and say that this is my team.” The Heat’s commitment to youth does not end with drafting talent but molding it as well. As the examples of Udonis Haslem and Tyler Johnson show, becoming an integral part of a well-managed team can also occur by unconventional means, namely, the undrafted rookie signed to summer league signed to D-League signed to the main team route. Not having a pick in this year’s draft proved inconsequential as the Heat signed four undrafted rookies to their summer league squad including Michael Carrera from South Carolina who last season averaged 14.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal as a pure defender with a 3 point shot. Can anyone say Heat material?

3. The Hunt For Green July
Alright, let the Heat start the Whaling Expedition. What most of the Heat faithful have waited with bated breath is how and when will the Heat land their next whale and cause another seismic shift among the Association as they did in 2010. Who’s out there, you ask? Well, first on the list is the Heat’s own major catch, Hassan Whiteside. Everyone gushes about his story from being an afterthought to becoming quite frankly the most dominant center in the league (yes better than Cousins, Howard, Drummond, and definitely Jordan). With tremendous paint presence, shot block abilities, and knowing how to score from the post, Whiteside has shown tremendous diversity at the 5 spot not seen in quite a while. Losing him would deal the Heat a major blow. Yet, lurking in the deep blue waters of free agency is still the greatest catch of them all: Kevin Durant. Without a shadow of doubt, Durant remained the constant blip on the Heat’s radar since The Nameless One left. Being one of six teams who have a meeting scheduled with KD, the Heat front office will attempt everything to land him painting the winning picture of a world class organization able to win consistently with a proven system.

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Now, the question of money. $45 million in cap space makes the Heat’s ability to offer the max to both highly unlikely. The pressure lies again on how willing is everybody to sacrifice to become part of something special. How about one scenario– If KD accepts around $17 million with Whiteside and Wade accepting $11 million just for the next season, that leaves about $5 million still available premised also on unloading McRoberts’ contract which takes off about $5 million off the books for next year (total $11 million for the life of the contract). Another slight catch is what Tyler Johnson will do, namely, whether he accepts his qualifying offer of $1.2 million which another can team can exceed at $5.2 million. In sum, with star players accepting less, McBob out, and TJ accepting the qualifying offer, the Heat under a $94 million salary cap could be looking at $8.8 million to play with plus the mid-level exception. For the following season, at a projected $104 million cap, everybody’s salary can grow without a problem. Another Big 3 remains in hand Heat Nation…

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4. The Lord of the Remaining Options

What is left with the free agency whales already caught? Well, there are certain options including Al Horford, Pau Gasol (who would have come to Miami earlier had not The Nameless One left), Chandler Parsons, and Jamal Crawford. The possibility of Demar Derozan leaving Toronto remains small at best and the Heat have no interest in acquiring him to a max or close to max contract. This also turns on what Joe Johnson and Luol Deng decide to do. Both are not washed up by any means; yet, they are not getting any younger and asking for $10-12 million contracts may not be as secure an option as before. UD is not going anywhere, pure and simple.

5. The Godfather Part III
If Heat fans know anything for sure, it is to expect the unexpected especially when our Godfather manages to move strings and make an impact. Did anyone expect for Riley to come to Miami from New York? Did anyone expect Shaq to come to Miami after being a three-time champion with the Lakers? Did ANYONE believe the Big 3 scenario would be an actual reality? Yeah, exactly. Riley knows precisely what he is doing, how to make a pitch, and great players know they must listen. This could very well be The Godfather’s last stand. Had the Big 3 remained united, he would have sailed into the sunset secured in accomplishing the unthinkable. After its breakup, Riley and all of HeatNation knew things could not stand that way.

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Heat Nation looks towards another roller coaster offseason with one part excitement and another part anxiety. What unravels come July 1st, however, will become the blueprint for essentially Heat 3.0 under the watchful and strategic eye of The Godfather. Let the fireworks begin…

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Heat Preview 2015-2016

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Amid so much heartbreak for Miami sports fans thus far [looking directly at you Canes/Fins not so much after Campbell took over], it is exciting to see the new Heat squad take the floor for their preseason games. In anticipation of games now counting starting tomorrow, there are many positive things to look forward to for the upcoming 2015-2016 season but here are five:

1. Return of the REAL Kings of South Beach
Yes, all is well in South Beach. Chris Bosh is fully healthy and D-Wade resigned to stay home. With both All-Star leaders back, the Heat can hit the ground running this season with talent and stability. This team could never be the same without CB’s versatility and would never be the same without The Franchise. Their presence will be felt on the court disarming defenses and creating masterful plays like this one:


2. Added Depth
Without question, Pat Riley knew how to revamp last year’s roster with one key in mind: depth. Gone were the days where the stars would carry the heavy burden of gaining leads and the bench attempting to keep it. No, this roster is primed to create a continuous onslaught that will really scare many teams especially in the East. Beginning with a Top 100 starting five in D-Wade, CB, Whiteside, Dragic, and Deng plus the added veterans of A’mare Stoudemire, Gerald Green and the return of key role players like the Birdman, Chalmers, Johnson, Haslem (Mr. 305) and obviously McRoberts will definitely put defenses on edge. There’s much to expect from this renewed bench including such plays like these:

3. Young Guns Report
As if added veteran depth wasn’t enough, the Heat undoubtedly won the lottery on Draft night picking Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. The focus is primarily on Winslow to not only develop his athleticism and scoring abilities further but also to be groomed as the potential heir to D-Wade, or at least his backup in the meantime. In only one year at Duke, he showed a tremendous presence on the court able to score and slash from different points, pass the ball seamlessly, and survey offenses with an innate defensive sense. In this section I also include Richardson as a good defender and potential scorer as well as Ennis who, if he gets his mind right, can uncap the massive potential to deliver points at will. But, coming back to Winslow, he has shown a spark already of what he can do:

 

4. The Wide World of Schemes
Having so much depth and youth, there is an endless array of units Coach Spoelstra can field. Obviously, the starting 5 as already said is easily in the Top 3 in the East and Top 10 in the NBA. But can you imagine such lineups as the All Bigs (Bosh, McRoberts, Whiteside, Andersen, and Stoudemire) or how about Fast and Furious (D-Wade, Green, Winslow, Ennis, and Dragic) or maybe Defense Central (Deng, Whiteside. McRoberts, Richardson, and Stoudemire/Andersen) or maybe Pick and Role Galore (Bosh, Dragic, McRoberts, D-Wade, and Winslow). I mean the possibilities are endless which again keeps with the exciting theme that teams cannot afford to let up on any variation of Heat squad they face.

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5. Heat Nation Present
Every year is a roller coaster for a Miami sports fan. For the Heat, last year that roller coaster went around dives and unexpected turns. The Legone novela, Bosh’s health, McRoberts out for the entire year, no chemistry with the new role players, the coming of the Dragon and the emergence of The Great Whiteside all provided a sense of endless variation which honestly did not allow the Heat to gel at the right time to make a run for a championship, much less entry into the playoffs. This year is primed to be different. This year, barring any unexpected health complications, Riley has provided a certain stability to the entire roster with a formative identity on which to build on. And HeatNation is chomping at the bit to see this iteration of the Heat start the season with a bang.

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So, HeatNation, are you ready? Are you fired up? Are you preparing to chant Seven Nation Army at the top of your lungs? You are? Then welcome to 28th season of Miami Heat Basketball!

5 Reasons Not To Panic with D-Wade

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News that D-Wade was at a contractual impasse with the Heat has HeatNation trembling with fear and the rest of the Association/Haters chomping at the bit. HeatNation breathe, relax. All will be well and here are 5 reasons why.

1. My Home is Better than Your House
Undoubtedly, Miami is Wade County and the AAA is Wade’s house. Even more than Heat greats like Long, Rice, Mourning or Hardaway, D-Wade has become the face and identity of the Heat franchise since day one. He continued to be the face even when 2010 came around and Legone “graced” us with his presence. It would be ridiculous to leave all that behind and become someone else’s running mate where the respect and admiration would be cordial at best.

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2. You Come to Me, I’m not Coming to You.
Also, D-Wade has been masterful at bringing talent. Obviously, he heard the pitches from other teams during free agency, but D-Wade has rested on his comfortable Miami chair, shown his talent, and made everyone come to him. Who other than Kobe has commanded such power to mobilize marquee names to him? Exactly. No one else. Will D-Wade command that same power elsewhere? Of course not because, as I said above, he will be just a veteran visitor elsewhere and not the star homeowner. There is no doubting that D-Wade is worth large contracts given his incredible talent. There is no question he above all other stars has sacrificed for the whole (no thanks to Legone). However, the potential for him to gain a major contract at his age, even with the higher salary cap, is rather slim. If D-Wade wants to show the Haters he is not washed up, that he can still be a major threat, and that he can lead a team as the alpha star, then staying in Miami is the one and only option.

3. The Godfather Among Us
It’s funny how people/Haters quickly forget that our front office is the led by an astute owner, Micky Arison, and the Godfather of Basketball, Pat Riley. Both have surprised this city again and again with the way they structure their deals, trade players, build up young prospects, and bring championships to Miami. I am sure they will negotiate eagerly with D-Wade to remain with the Heat. Unlike others who can’t be called out by legends and run home, D-Wade and Riley share too much history and wield the same winning mentality to let that all go. Obviously, with every business relationship there will be a healthy back and forth, but to say that both the Heat front office and D-Wade are worlds apart as to risk what they constructed is farfetched at best. Riley wants to build an enduring dynasty in Miami and as president of the Heat, it is his job to do so. He has a vision which D-Wade undoubtedly knows. Will Riley impart that vision and show how far the Heat can go? Of course. In that effort, will he not take care of D-Wade, the face of the franchise, in some fashion and risk tarnishing his reputation and everything he built in Miami with D-Wade? Of course not.

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4. Business Options Abound in Miami

Let’s get down to business. With the Heat, D-Wade can either 1) opt-in and take the $16 million as planned [$16 million I might add that are STATE TAX FREE]; 2) opt-out and take a minimal raise potentially to $17 or $17.5 million pending also on Riley offering what his FA strategy will be; 3) force a large one-year contract in the range of $22 to $24 million and then have options for year two and three; or 4) opt-in, sacrifice again, and maybe ask for a bite of the apple meaning an executive/owner position with the Heat once he retires. This also includes the idea that Dragic and Whiteside stay for more money but not max money. His options going to another team? Maybe get the same if not a lesser contract at the option he currently has WITH STATE TAX, get offered some guaranteed money upfront with mid-level exceptions at the back end in a place he has not built, or gamble and lose everything in hand should another team not have that much too offer. Again, the more lucrative options rest with Miami not elsewhere. And I mean lucrative not only in the dollars and cents but also in the prospect of a fourth championship if the Heat can build another mega team in 2016.

5. Wade is HeatNation, HeatNation is Wade

When the Haters came out in droves once Legone left, the onus of representing HeatNation fell on one man: D-Wade. And represent he did by creating the #HeatLifer movement on social media which then gave birth to HeatNation. Every time he signals the fans at the beginning of a game, every time he conducts another premiere event, every time he says this is HIS house, it’s because he has felt the complete support of an eternally optimistic and, why not, brash Heat fanbase. D-Wade should recognize that HeatNation first set sight on campaigning for his return in 2010 before anyone else came, that this county will always be inextricably known as Miami Wade County, and that no championship, NONE, was as fervently celebrated as the celebrations down Biscayne Blvd. with Wade at the helm of those celebrations.

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There is no place like home. HeatNation knows this; D-Wade knows it, too. D-Wade built this home and there is greater value in renovating it than becoming a guest in another’s house. And you can’t call this home without first dialing a 3 before the 0-5.

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