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
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
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.
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…
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.
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…