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Important upcoming dates on NBA calendar for the Heat

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The Miami Heat can now sign free-agents to 10-day contracts and have other dates to circle on their calendar.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

On January 5th, the Miami Heat, along with the rest of the NBA teams, can sign free agents to a maximun of two 10-day contracts. Tyler Johnson, Henry Walker and Michael Beasley made the team last season via that route. However with a full 15-player squad at the moment, somebody on the Heat would need to be moved.

Other dates of note coming up on the NBA calender are

  • January 10 - all contracts guaranteed
  • February 12-14 - NBA All-Star 2016
  • February 18 - trade deadline (3 pm ET)
  • March 1 - playoff eligibility waiver deadline
  • April 13 - regular season ends

Regular season ends in a little over four months, so there is precious little time left to "figure things out." Each post-season home game generates at least $5 million in revenue, so the Heat would be leaving a lot of money on the table after doing so much hard work during the season.

The Heat's unpredictable play so far does not leave breathing room for them to avoid the lottery with a very competitive Eastern Conference and over-reliance on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Should the starting five become unavailable late in the season, the bench, which does not seem to be so deep anymore, may not be able come to the rescue.

The consensus opinion is Pat Riley will shake up the roster by the trade deadline, but with so many moving parts involved, what will happen eventually is difficult to predict.

Meanwhile back on the farm, the Sioux Falls Skyforce pulled out a clutch victory in their first Showcase game. At 15 wins and 3 losses, they have the best record in NBA Development League. In addition they began the season with two losses, so they have won 15 of their last 16 games.

The dunks and open shots in the NBDL disappear once a player gets on the court in the NBA. We see players get embarrassed when they encounter one of Wade's or Stephen Curry's signature moves. The subtle art of setting up and getting through screens does not show up in the box score statistics, but as all-important wins for the team.

Many talented basketball players do not succeed in the NBA because they never master how to handle complex defensive schemes, such as pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops performed at the highest level. All-Stars such as Wade and Bosh not only are gifted athletes, but they can maneuver around screens for open shots or set screens for winning plays by their teammates.

Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes were featured in the recent Skyforce win. Prospect Watch panelist Bob MacKinnon offered his take on Stokes and Richardson, among others, at the 2016 Showcase.

Josh Richardson: "Has great size and athletic ability at the guard position. He had 26 points on 11-21 shooting, including 4-7 from the 3, leading Sioux Falls to a big-time comeback win. It seemed like every time Sioux Falls needed a play Richardson led the charge. He plays with great energy on both ends of the court & has the length/quickness to be very disruptive on the defensive end.

Jarnell Stokes: "Stokes battled the biggest front line in the D-League tonight, posting a double-double -- 24 pts & 10 rebounds in the Skyforce win. Using his strength & quickness he got to line nine times, converting eight of those for free throws."

Stokes and Richardson have seen limited action while with the Heat probably due to issues on how they deal with the complex schemes run in NBA games. They have the talent, but so far have not impressed the coaches enough with their reaction times when practicing against players such as Wade, Bosh or Luol Deng.

The calendar is quickly winding down on the season, with April just around the corner. The top teams in the NBA have laid their stakes to post-season action using carefully choreographed schemes, now it's time to discover if the Miami Heat can keep up with the sophisticated footwork needed to join the party.

Does the Heat team know the moves of screening, rolling, boxing-out and setting picks enough to get open looks and dance with the stars? The Heat farm system have intriguing talent with a proven winning record of 15-1 over the last 16 games in Sioux Falls. Is there enough time left in this season for those dance moves to translate into success for Miami?