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The season may be over for D-Wade and company, but for Pat Riley the fun is just beginning


Well yeah…it’s all over. It’s been a few days now and the season has had a chance to marinate in my head. There are a lot of things to cover now that the off-season is upon us, but we’ll start with some of the basic things before jumping into the specifics.

Of course the thought fresh on many Heat fans minds is whether D-Wade is going to indeed be a Heat player for years to come, or if he will bail for greener pastures. My initial thought is ‘why would he leave….with all the pieces we have in place down here’? The future does seem bright in Miami with guys like Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook, but there are still so many question marks surrounding those players that its impossible to make any kind of judgment on what their expectations should be.

In my opinion, they should be given another year or two before coming to any conclusions, but is Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade willing to wait that long? Wade is 27 and playing in the prime of his career. He definitely wants to be contending for a championship right now, but the Heat has been planning on making their team ‘amazing’ after next season. All the talk has been about the free agent class of 2010, and right now the Heat are in position to be big players that summer…but suddenly there is a lot chatter about the Heat needing to be good right now, or Wade will skip town.

I think that is more of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to losing a 7-game playoff series that was a very winnable one. Yeah, it was overall a terrible series; who wants to watch 7 straight blowouts where the only consistent thing about the teams is their inconsistency! But seriously Heat fans…we need to look at the big picture. We were not going to win a championship this year. We likely wouldn’t have gotten out of the 2nd round. So what? This wasn’t our year to be making a run at anything…we made amazing progress and now have that much more to look forward to next season and beyond.

So what can the Heat do between now and next season to keep moving forward while staying in place to make a splash in the summer of 2010? Owner Micky Arison says the Heat will make a big move this summer if the opportunity arises, a further indication that this team is always looking to win 'right now'. They’ll have plenty of talent coming back (Wade, Haslem, O’Neal, Beasley, Chalmers, Cook, Jones), so I feel that bringing in solid small forward, or really any solid outside threat for D-Wade and Super Mario to dish the ball to, could be just what the Heat need, for now. There are plenty of UFA (unrestricted free agents) coming out this summer that we can bring in somebody to help out next year but not bring on long-term. Actually, the talk is that most players who are free agents this summer will only want to sign a 1-year deal so that they can be a part of the craziness that will go down the next year. Here are some of the UFA’s that will be available this off-season that I feel could help the Heat out (I realize that some may be at positions we have already filled, but bear with me): Mike Bibby, Ben Gordon, Jason Kidd, Chris Andersen, Anthony Carter, Rasheed Wallace, Ron Artest, Andre Miller, Matt Barnes, Carlos Boozer (player option to opt-out). For a full list of the free agents from this and next summer, click here. I know there are some point guards on that list...but remember, this is for a 1-year deal. Working under some of these stud PG's could be a big boost for Mario Chalmers in the long run.

Some of those guys may be looking long-term, and it’s a shame that the Heat cant find a place for someone like Ben Gordon (I’d love to see him along side D-Wade, but I doubt either would be changing positions). I can’t stand Rasheed Wallace, but he would be a big help for the Heat, providing a big-time inside-outside threat. I think a more realistic option would be Chris Andersen, who would be a great option coming off the bench at center, assuming Miami doesn’t re-sign UFA Jamaal Magloire. Talk about an energetic and productive guy to come off the bench…he would be a perfect fit in Miami.

Also, Matt Barnes would be a great fit for the Heat as he can shoot but also runs the floor well and is an underrated defender. Playing next to Wade would only help his numbers get better (he shot 42.3% this season and grabbed 5.5 boards a game), but this is a gritty guy who can shoot really well from the outside. He only shot 34% from beyond the arc this season, but he still hit 117 3-pointers. And his numbers were improving all year as he got more playing time, eventually working his way into the starting lineup (he started 24 of the Suns final 25 games).

As I said in another entry, imagine a shooter like Joe Johnson lining up next to Wade. It would also take pressure off of Mario Chalmers, who needs to work on increasing his assists/game. Only 4.9 apg for a point guard that started all 82 games isn’t very good. If he can get up to where most of the NBA’s good-to-great PG’s are at, say up to around 7-8 apg, that could be up to 9 more points a game for the Heat. That is a pretty significant difference.

So lets just say the Heat bring in a Chris Anderson, a Matt Barnes or maybe even Anthony Carter (again), just for a year to play along side our returning cast. You mean to tell me we wouldn’t instantly be contending for at least the Southeast Division? Also, I feel that James Jones is going to be a much different player then the one we saw this past season. Give him a full off-season to work and prepare and NOT have to start all over because of an injury. And despite all the Heat fans and SoFla sports press thinking that Chalmers, Cook and even Beasley are suddenly not as good just because they had a poor 1st ever playoff series, I’m not ready to give up on ANY of them. Not yet…it’s way too soon.

I’ll leave you with one final scenario to mull over. Just for arguments sake, lets say that either sometime this summer or during next season (09-10), the Raptors make Chris Bosh available via trade. We know that Pat Riley wants him…bad. He is 25-years old and came out of the same draft as Dwyane Wade, LeBron, and Carmelo Anthony (2003). While he has continued to improve his game every year with limited help in Toronto, imagine the possibilities if he were to play with Wade and be able to learn under our amazing coaching staff. Spoelstra can work on his outside shooting, Bob McAdoo can tweak his mid-range stuff and Keith Askins can work his inside game and defense.

It’s amazing to think about…but is it worth giving up Michael Beasley? That is likely what it could come down to; perhaps Beasley and the giant contract of Mark Blount. Remember, this is very hypothetical…but what do you think? I would assume that most would take the reflex reaction and immediately say “Hell Yes!”, and I think Pat Riley is in that group. Its fun to think about…and it also shows you how flexible the Heat’s roster really is. Other then a man named Wade, nobody is really safe.

The goal is to bring Championship #2 to the AAA…and while it will D-Wade lifting the trophy, I can guarantee he’ll be doing it with at least one other superstar next to him. That’s the good thing about Pat Riley; you know that he’s going to do whatever it takes to win. For now we have to hope that whatever moves he makes, he keeps the future in mind while trying to give us a contender right now.