The Miami Heat are facing tough decisions. The most important of those is how to approach contract negotiations with Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside could become the second Miami Heat player with a max contract on the team, with Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade also making big money. I am going to be making the argument that the Heat are on the verge of over-using the max deal contracts that will eventually lead to their doom.
Let me preface by saying this: I certainly do not hope for this to happen, nor do I necessarily think this is the likely scenario that happens for the team. All I want to conclude is that it is a possibility, and that they may be playing with fire.
Here's what the Heat are looking at right now:
- Chris Bosh has a max contract that will pay him $23.7 million next season. That's regardless of if he even plays or not. If he does continue to play, he's also due in the following two seasons $25.2 and $26.8 million. He's currently 32 years old.
- Goran Dragic has a near max contract that will pay him $15.8 million next season, then $17 million, $18.1 million and $19.2 million dollars through the 2020 season. He will be 34 years old when that season ends.
- Hassan Whiteside is likely getting a max contract from the Miami Heat near the $22 million range. It will be a five-year deal that will keep him in a Heat uniform (as long as Pat says) until he's 32 years old.
That's the outlook, again even without including Dwyane Wade's high-dollar deal that will keep him here.
Here's how it can all go wrong.
1. Chris Bosh might not play again. That's bad for next season and a lot of money tied up. But if Bosh doesn't play again, his remaining two seasons of salary will not count against the cap in '17-18. That won't be the end of the world, but it will take Wade out of any contention for another Finals appearance. Miami simply can't expect to make a run with $23 million in a suit.
2. Goran Dragic might still be a bad fit in Miami. There were rumors he was being traded for Jeff Teague at the deadline. He came on once Bosh went out, but he hasn't reached his worth yet here in Miami. Imagine that for a moment. Dragic will be aging soon, declining in speed and athleticism (he just turned 30) and making high pay on this team.
Remember, he is the engine. The Heat will go as far as Dragic is comfortable as a point guard here. And they began to figure things out, but it was overly promising that he has it together. If he isn't happy, not producing, or declines, the Heat have a lot of money invested in him. Already, there were plenty of times that Erik Spoelstra didn't use him in crunch time, opting for Josh Richardson.
It makes me nervous the type of money he is owed vs what he has produced.
3. Hassan Whiteside might go crazy. We've seen Whiteside have his moments. He's a kid in a man's body. I mean, watch his SnapChat stories sometime. Imagine him with money to spare at $22 million a year. The guy is living in an apartment with his buddies. His life is going to change and I don't know how he will handle it. He may do fine, or he may go nuts.
On the court, we aren't even sure what we have. He's a dynamic defender and was an improving offensive player. But to give a max contract to a guy that really never had his number called for a play for him to create anything seems risky. He's going to get a massive deal, either here or elsewhere...I get it. We will have to pay to keep him. He does enough to be reimbursed for his impact.
Things could go south here for the Heat with the money he will make...will he live up to it in year 3, 4, or 5? Will he learn anything from this playoff experience where Al Jefferson and Jonas Valanciunas routinely worked him? There's a lot of questions.
Any combination of these things will land-lock the Miami Heat in max deals unable to do anything in free agency in the future. They don't have sufficient draft picks, even though Pat is great at dealing away the parts he doesn't want, Miami needs to recognize the fire they are playing with here. If things go their way, they could be set up for a nice future in the next few years.
But there's always the potential that these deals can bite them. And that bite is hard and will leave a mark for a long time.