For Miami Heat fans, this is often one of the most fun weeks of the year. With Pat Riley running the show, the start of free agency can often prove as exciting and intriguing as the season itself.
As July 1st approaches, it’s always enjoyable to cast aside those necessary evils; like logic, the cap calculator and the immovable object that is Josh McRoberts’ contract and dream up the scenarios that’ll ultimately bring the NBA Championship back to Biscayne Blvd.
Secure the services of either Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward, or stay true to the roster that secured the best record in the East during the second half of the 2016/17 season.
Should the chase for the two All-Star free agents prove in vain, Miami should immediately move to re-sign James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington and only then see what’s left in the pot to improve elsewhere.
I have to believe this is what Riley was referring to when he said “We have a Plan A. And we have a Plan B.”
If the Heat can’t snare those two undisputed difference makers, it’s not a huge deal, in my view. It's not like either provide an automatic route back to the Finals as, say, someone like Kevin Durant could.
If Riley can't hook Griffin or Hayward, an equally great option is to continue building from within; to continue cultivating that culture with a group of players who bought into it as much as they bought into each other last season.
In my view, whichever way this pans out, it’s a win-win.
During his exit interview, James Johnson said: “I’m home. That’s what it feels like. I love it here. I had a great season. I love the culture here and I’m very passionate about this place.”
Dion Waiters said he was willing to do “whatever it takes” to get back to Miami this summer.
Wayne Ellington added: “Obviously this is something that was special to all of us. It felt like this is the start of something that can really be great for us. This is the place I want to be. This is the place that feels like home for me and feels really good to me.”
Why woudn’t you want guys like this? These are players who performed at career-best levels throughout that unprecedented run from 11-30, back to .500. That was in one season in Miami. Imagine what could be done next year, with another season forming closer bonds and improving under Miami’s peerless coaching staff and organizational culture?
Sure, there’d need to be further tweaks, but would it really be so bad to let this grow organically and see how far it can go?
I keep hearing some fans mention the likes of Paul Millsap and Rudy Gay, as secondary options should Miami strike out on Griffin or Hayward. No thank you. Sure, both are talented, but at their likely price, Miami would simply be treading water.
Others advocate trading Goran Dragic (really, this again?) and Hassan Whiteside to get both Hayward and Griffin. Again, no thanks.
Although the long shot chase for a playoff berth was ultimately unrewarding, something special happened in Miami this spring. We all witnessed it and we all embraced it.
Outside of Finals games, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the AAA as energized and in sync with a Heat team as they were during the closing months of last season when almost every team left Miami with an additional ‘L’ on their record.
In my limited time covering the Heat as a freelance reporter, I’ve never seen Coach Erik Spoelstra speak so glowingly, passionately and enthusiastically about a team before. On some occasions it seemed to border on fatherly pride. That group of players seemed to unlock a new joy in him, as a coach, just as they did in Heat fans across South Florida.
Where could these guys go with a clean slate, without having to claw back from 19 games under .500?
Call me sentimental, but it’s a far more intriguing prospect than casting it all aside for the great unknown of free agency.