Look, I get it. Not many NBA teams can realistically dream about landing a superstar during free agency, but with how Pat Riley has managed to do it several times during his tenure with the Miami Heat you just figure it won’t be long now before he’ll get his true chance to land a “whale”.
Sure, Riley seemingly tossed aside talk of whales last year after free agent Gordon Hayward chose to sign instead with the Boston Celtics and the Heat spent millions to bring back the team that finished so strong the season before. Some of those moves don’t look so good a year later and Riley faces perhaps his biggest challenge ever in clearing some of these onerous contracts to free up cap room and become a realistic bidder out on the open market this summer.
But if there’s anyone in the NBA that can do it, surely it must be Riley, right? But in order to move, say, a disgruntled Hassan Whiteside, whose trade value is at an all time low since blossoming here in Miami, does he part with some of the more compelling players that make up an appealing core to a superstar considering coming to the Heat? That’s the catch, bu with general manager and salary cap expert Andy Elisburg by his side, Riley may publicly say he’s done chasing whales but there’s little doubt he would move heaven and earth to make it happen if a superstar wants to come help resurrect Miami into an Eastern Conference contender.
Sure, if LeBron James wants to return and he’s interested in a reunion then Heat Nation would go crazy but if that’s a little unrealistic, there are other options out there that may not be so apparent before free agency starts. Remember, the bombshell news last summer that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland came out of nowhere — and let’s not forget he listed the Heat as one of his preferred destinations. Why not another big name this summer?
After the quick playoff exit against the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s clear that the Heat need a go-to star if they want to make a deep run in the postseason. Yes, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow showed growth this past season but the team undoubtedly needs a perennial All-Star (or two) to challenge emerging East teams like the Celtics and the 76ers. Should Dwyane Wade return and Dion Waiters is truly healthy, that will help but there’s no denying that the Heat need to shake up their roster.
Some fans are fine with Miami rebuilding for the next two seasons in which the younger players get more minutes and they retain their next two first round picks before surrendering their unprotected 2021 first round selection to the 76ers. But that’s never really been Riley’s style and showing patience and restraint during his final years with the franchise before he retires seems unlikely. And quite frankly, it won’t sell tickets here in a fickle market.
Doing nothing this summer would feel like a wasted opportunity since this roster without any big changes stand little chance of improving much on last season’s outcome. Even forward-thinking moves to improve their chances of being able to be major players in next summer’s free agency would be welcome at this point.
After four long years since LeBron left and Chris Bosh’s health woes set the Heat back, this team as well as the city of Miami are overdue for some serious star power.