Kevin Durant’s $25 million per year contract makes a statement that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep the Warriors together. Gordon Hayward apparently doesn’t display the same Miami-first attitude that Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and Chris Bosh did, when they singled out the Heat as the only team they wanted to join. As currently seen, Hayward’s asking a premium compared to Durant, as if money buys him respect: that’s earned on the court (7 All-NBA, 4 scoring titles vs. 0).
Meanwhile on the East Coast, Bam Adebayo turned heads with his explosive play in Summer Play. He seems driven to become a dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year. His 29 points against Indiana on an efficient 8 of 14 makes, hints he can put points on the board. Basketball is about buckets, as Bill Russell would say.
Should the Heat invest $120 million in a player, who isn’t sure he wants to be in Miami? Heat Culture isn’t for everyone: only the players who see it as a way of life for them. Miami already has men like on the team ready to do battle next season for the city.
Isaiah Thomas may have health issues, and Al Horford is aging at a position which can wear out a player over time. Boston Celtics have draft picks, but picks aren’t on the court. Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, and Indiana Pacers are in rebuild modes. A healthy Heat team from last year could make a deep run in the weakened East, without spending 30% of its payroll on one player, who’s not 100% committed to Heat Culture at this point.
Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson and Adebayo in the paint, surrounded by Wayne Ellington, Luke Babbitt, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters on the perimeter can score points, inside and out. The extra ingredient in the sauce this summer lies with Miami’s attraction for free agents willing to join the team, at a discount, to revitalize their careers, as Zach Lowe often points out.
With some crafty moves by management, July, August and September still lie ahead to increase the talent level as needed. One weakness from last season, which needs to be fixed is keeping the motivational high against weaker teams. The late season losses against the Knicks, Lakers, 76ers and Magic displayed a lack of game planning or concentration, when Miami did not feel sufficiently challenged. It’s one thing say every game counts, but another to go out on the court and mean it for all 82 games.
If Adebayo makes an impact with his Heat Culture mentality, the Heat’s difference maker already resides in the house. Add a key trade, a MLE pickup, comebacks by Justise Winslow and/or Josh McRoberts, the Rodney McGruder factor, the Heat could field a team deep enough for 48 minutes of constant effort, and see action in May. Wildly optimistic of course, yet the Heat coaches have increased their development accomplishment significantly the last couple of years. Maybe more is to come.