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Riley’s goal: Transcend ‘Big 3’ model

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Pat Riley also said he will continue to chase stars.

Miami Heat Introduce Ray Allen Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As I mentioned here before, some NBA observers argue that the Miami Heat have locked up their money in the wrong players. This Heat team can become an enjoyable team to watch — as they were during last season’s 30-11 run — but cannot compete for championships in today’s star-dominant league.

Pat Riley addressed this criticism in an interview for SiriusXM radio. He acknowledged that Miami won’t have a superstar this year and then added:

“But one thing we will bring to the table every single night is we will bring a highly conditioned team, a very disciplined team and a team that is going to get after it with some very talented players.”

That much is true. In his ranking of the best NBA League Pass teams, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said, “They play so hard. There is a perverse joy in watching Miami, frothing at the mouth, pulverize some poor team coming off a back-to-back or a hard night out on South Beach.”

He also made a point that may surprise Heat fans — that this team should transcend the “Big Three” model.

“Will the internal growth of the team transcend having to have a ‘Big 3,’ and then that will take care of itself, and then out of that I can assure you that players will rise up and become noted as stars or All-Stars or superstars.”

On one count, this idea sounds similar to those who lamented the Heat’s free agent signings of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010. Indiana Pacers fans brought signs saying “built, not bought” to Heat playoff games, highlighting how they drafted and developed players like Paul George and Roy Hibbert (remember him?).

On another count, Riley said that he will continue to chase stars. And the Heat aggressively recruited Gordon Hayward and may (or may not have) offered Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow for Kyrie Irving.

“When it comes to ‘one step away,’ where are we in the rebuilding process, we’re going to always chase the most talented players that we can that are superstars, that we feel have the ability to be a superstar, and to really carry a team when a team can’t carry itself.

Instead of the Big Three model, Riley may hope that Hassan Whiteside improves into a consistent, dominant big man, Justise Winslow becomes a player as versatile as a Swiss Army knife and the Heat trade for or sign one superstar. Will that happen? Step one is to have Miami’s team overachieve this year.