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Miami Heat choose a path of sustainable excellence over time

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Boston and Washington both need to sacrifice roster depth to accommodate their expensive signings.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley zigs while everyone else zags. In 2010 he created the hated “Big 3” monster of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They were a marketing miracle for the Miami Heat back then. Today’s world is different.

Because most teams now try to emulate that success, Riles is one step ahead of the crowd again with a new scheme in constructing a winner. Today’s critics doubt him, because they lack his visionary genius.

The Washington Post writes in an article titled “Otto Porter is getting paid what now?

It’s fine for your limbs still to tremble when you realize that Otto Porter is about to be paid more per year than Wall (four-time all-star), Strasburg (three-time all-star), Williams (five-time Pro Bowler) or Ovechkin (eight-time all-star). Porter has slightly fewer than those 20 combined All-Star Game appearances. Like, 20 fewer.

Crude and basic stats such as points and rebounds per game are crude and basic, but Porter’s averages of 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds last season were previously reached by such Wizards luminaries as Marcin Gortat, Nene, Gheorghe Muresan, Tom Gugliotta and Andray Blatche.

All well and good for Porter and Gordon Hayward, but now the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics have to gut their rosters to accommodate a few top players, who weren’t even voted as 2017 All-Star Team starters. The Heat could benefit from the contenders struggling to keep their teams together.

Porter’s $25 million stash brings the Wizards payroll to $125 million this season and next. (Cap numbers courtesy of spotrac.) Something has to give. Boston’s payroll with Hayward, before the purges, is $128 million this season and $116 million next season before resigning Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.

The Cavaliers payroll is $135 million this year and next. The Toronto Raptors payroll is $130 million this season and next. The Milwaukee Bucks payroll is $116 million now and $86 million next season, before resigning Jabari Parker. Even the Detroit Pistons are booked for $100 million this season and next.

On paper the Heat project to finish around sixth in the Eastern Conference. In reality, the economics of payrolls over $125 million force teams to field inferior benches, which the Heat could feast on. An unforeseen injury takes down a key player to ruin a contender’s season. Everyone knows how poorly the Cavs perform without James on the court.

One note on Tyler Johnson’s backloaded contract: Josh McRoberts contract expires next season to soften the $12 million hit of Tyler’s deal. The Heat are in a good place financially, regarding cap space, to field a second unit superior to their rivals. Later on Miami will “Bam” the competition as their promising youth movement reaches maturity.

Today, July 7, 2017, the Heat seem destined to mediocrity for 2017-18. Once the season starts and the bills come due for the overextended payrolls of the current favorites, they may be unable to weather the hardships of a long season when, not if, adversity strikes. That’s the genius of Pat Riley.