The Golden State Warriors thought they had the perfect team, until the Cleveland Cavaliers rained champagne on their parade. As the Heat approach the critical month of July deciding the team's fate, the roster may have a new identity when November arrives.
The biggest unknown for Heat remains Chris Bosh's status. Interestingly his blood clots appeared after LeBron James left and Bosh was burdened with carrying the team as their only max player. The Heat outlook differs on paper depending whether he can resume his basketball career or not.
The recent news about Miami being on the short list of Kevin Durant's destination next season, puts Pat Riley in a bind about telling Durant who his teammates will be on opening day, because of the uncertainty over Bosh's health. Other suitors, which include the Boston Celtics, Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and his hometown Thunder have their own strong points and weaknesses for Durant to consider before deciding.
Nike pays Durant $30 million a year over ten years, which is more than any NBA team can offer him this season. Because of that, contract money isn't the sole issue, but winning a title while representing Nike is his first priority. Durant being on the same team with Under Amour's Stephen Curry might present a conflict of interest between the two brands. His ultimate choice may determine which team wins the ring in 2017.
The Hassan Whiteside saga isn't as simple as first thought after his recent "I'm a businessman that plays basketball," quote. The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers have shown an intense interest in nabbing him, along with speculation about offers coming in from the Warriors, Trailblazers and Celtics, among others.
A purely hypothetical scenario for the Heat might feature a sign and trade deal between the Heat and Thunder involving Whiteside for Durant.. The departure of Serge Ibaka leaves a void Whiteside could fill for OKC. A Heat lineup with Bosh at center, Justise Winslow and Durant at forwards, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic as guards might challenge the Cavaliers. The Thunder with Russell Westbrook, Whiteside, Victor Oladipo would have both a scoring punch and a defensive stopper.
The recent commitments to the Heat's Summer League team of Michael Carrera, Stefan Jankovic, Damion Lee, Nathan Booth and Chris Obekpa give tantalizing tastes of raw talent who might be on the team's opening day roster. The exciting news for Miami fans lies in whether Dan Craig and Erik Spoelstra can bring the results from Sioux Falls to South Beach.
The Skyforce won a record of 40 regular-season games in the NBA D-League, topped by a blowout 91-63 win in the championship finale. The accomplishment was impressive because Craig built the team from scratch on the fly, i.e. with guys who never played together before, and molded them into a smoothly-run team during the season.
The NBA's vision of parity has come true in the last four years with four different teams winning rings. During the last seven seasons, only the Heat have won more than one trophy. The one constant has been LeBron James (and James Jones) appearing in six straight NBA Finals. The common thread is the presence of one or more top draft picks on the winning teams.
On the Heat's team now, Goran Dragic was picked 45th, Whiteside 33rd, Josh Richardson 40th, while Udonis Haslem, Tyler Johnson and Briante Weber are undrafted members of the team. Putting a championship team together with such an eclectic mix of talent, presents a big puzzle for Pat Riley to piece together this summer.
The Lakers, Mavericks, Heat, Spurs, Warriors and Cavaliers won titles in the last seven seasons with their own unique formulas. Just when each believed they had the secret sauce, the flaws in their systems were exposed in the following year or two.
The Heat posses coaches who have proven championship records at all levels with Riley, Spoelstra and Craig. Over the last seven seasons change was the one constant about winning it all. The 2016 draft has brought in new talent, forcing the Heat to upgrade their roster for next season just to remain competitive.
The Skyforce formula of creating a championship team where none existed before could be the key to success this season. In the last four years, NBA teams who stayed pat did not repeat the second time around.