Although he didn’t lure free agent Gordon Hayward to Miami, Pat Riley is happy to have mostly brought back the Miami Heat core that ended last season 30-11. And he sees a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference as the goal.
Riley on returning the 2016-17 core, "We were all geeked, happy, really about the team that we put together."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 10, 2017
Riley on letting what the Heat have grow, "I think the team deserves a chance to grow organically."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 10, 2017
Riley said homecourt in the first round of the playoffs is a goal, "There are other teams in the conference but we feel good."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 10, 2017
Many Miami fans thought the Heat should have tanked after starting the season 11-30. They have viewed Riley’s actions of signing Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk to four-year contracts as locking them into perpetual mediocrity rather than a true rebuild.
But it looks like Riley sees his team building assets to pounce on a trade for a superstar when one becomes available. Remember, the 2003-04 Heat went 42-40 before trading Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant for Shaquille O’Neal.
Riley warned no one should feel too comfortable, "If something comes along along the way, there are assets."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) July 10, 2017
Despite having a $4.3 million exception to sign a player, Riley said that the Heat will probably not use it. He said, “I’m going to add another room mid-level guy who is going to be fighting for 10 minutes? That takes some pressure off coach. If something pops up that’s really good, we’ll think about using it.”
That probably means that Miami won’t sign add a swingman like Arron Afflalo or Thabo Sefolosha with that $4.3 million. Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Josh Richardson will all likely share those minutes. If the Heat go into the season having not spent that money, speculation will only grow that Dwyane Wade could return mid-season after a buyout with the Chicago Bulls.
Riley also dismissed concerns about the Heat lacking a true backup point guard for Goran Dragic. He mentioned James Johnson and Justise Winslow as playmakers. Riley said that Kelly Olynyk is a “perfect fit” next to Hassan Whiteside. That could signal that Olynyk may start at the power forward position — similar to Luke Babbitt last season — while Johnson’s ability as a point-forward would continue off the bench.
Can this team overachieve, as they did the second half of last season? And then Riley flips some of those players for a superstar who becomes available? That appears to be the plan. Let’s see how it works out.