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Heat dug its own hole in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes

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Miami might be better off in the long term should they strike out on Butler.

NBA: Miami Heat-Pat Riley Press Conference Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley has tried to reel in a superstar to the Miami Heat since the Big Three. After swinging and missing on big names like: Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Gordon Hayward in previous off-seasons, Riley is said to be making a push for Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Striking out on the aforementioned three All-Stars may have led Pat Riley to hit the panic button, signing Hassan Whiteside to a max contract and matching the Brooklyn Nets offer sheet to Tyler Johnson not long after Gordon Hayward decided to sign with the Boston Celtics. Both Whiteside and Johnson, who saw their numbers dip a bit last season, are slated to be the two highest paid players on the Heat this upcoming season, accounting for just under $45 million.

The Heat have not been able to add through the draft, only making two first round selections in the last four years. Moving forward, the Heat owe the Suns its 2021 selection after sending two first round picks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic. A lack of draft picks is something that has never seemed to bother the Heat’s front office in the past, however its lack of movable assets can be attributed the team’s scarcity of draft picks.

The Dragic move was justifiable at the time, the Heat were on their way to the playoffs, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were playing at an All-Star level, and the team was seemingly one piece from being elite. The Heat would lose Bosh after he diagnosed with blood clots and tragically forced to retire after a brief return the following season.

Dragic, who has arguably been the Heat’s most consistent player, is entering his age 32 season, with a contract that is not buyer friendly. While the trade was far from a bust, it does tie both Pat Riley’s hands behind his back as he is handcuffed by immovable contracts as well.

The issue with the Heat boils down to the fact that it has plenty of good players, but few assets. The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the unfriendly contracts many players own. Riley’s impulsive decision to give Whiteside a max deal and not only match the Nets’ heavily backloaded offer sheet for Johnson, leaves the two with little to no value.

As far as assets go, the Heat do have Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Kelly Olynyk as well as a 2019 first-round pick. The irony in the situation is that three of the aforementioned four “assets” were draft picks and two were first-round picks which brings up the question of whether this is a road the Heat want to go down again.

Josh Richardson is set to make half of what Butler is earning and is four years younger than the Texas native. Should the ‘Wolves asking price require Richardson and the Heat’s first rounder, it begs the question as to whether the trade is worth it. In a vacuum, of course acquiring a proven All-Star is almost always worth it. However, for Miami, adding Jimmy Butler would keep the Heat well over the cap, leaving the team with no ability to outright sign a high profile free agent in an effort to entice Jimmy to resign.

As enticing as a Jimmy Butler addition sounds, Miami is more than just one piece away from the top of the East. Including Josh Richardson in a trade for Jimmy Butler toes the line of not being worth it, in terms of the Heat’s longterm prosperity. If the Heat had other assets, a trade could be justifiable, but with Miami’s numerous immovable contracts, the Wolves likely will not consider a deal in which Richardson is not involved.

Forcing the issue has been something that has locked the organization in the purgatory. Riley and the Heat may be better off waiting this one out, clearing cap space, and attacking free agency in the years to come.