Pat Riley admitted that, “this has not come together the way I thought it would” in his end-of-season press conference. James Johnson has played two uneven seasons since signing a four-year contract in July 2017. Dion Waiters was injured for an entire calendar year and didn’t get in the right conditioning after coming back.
Riley: "I'm disappointed in myself. This has not come together the way I thought it would. This year, I thought for sure, we would be top half of the Eastern Conference, fourth, fifth."— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) April 13, 2019
Pat on Dion's conditioning: "I'm confident he'll do it. His career is on the line."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) April 13, 2019
At the same time, Riley also gave a one-word answer when he was asked if the time was now to tank.
Riles on tanking: "It's hard to do that. You've got to be really bad to do that."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) April 13, 2019
Will it be time for that now: "No."
One-word, adamant answer.
Riley may not want to tank, but his team needs a reset. He should build around Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Josh Richardson, the trio of promising young players whom he drafted. (Riley noted having seven of the next eight first-round picks as a reason for his optimism. But he also traded away two first-round picks in the Goran Dragic trade.)
Dragic and Hassan Whiteside would be foolish to opt out of the final year of their contracts by June 30. Riley should look to trade both of those players (Whiteside has no trade value, but who knows what will happen this offseason?). Winslow’s improved play in his fourth NBA season was a rare bright spot for the 39-43 Heat, especially when an injury Dragic sustained in December forced Erik Spoelstra to play Winslow as the point guard.
Aside from possibly Miami’s strong play in March, the Heat’s best stretch of the season came in December. Miami went 4-2 on a West Coast road trip and won five straight games, their longest win streak all season long. And Winslow was at his best when he had the ball in his hands. Why would Miami hamper Winslow’s growth because a 33-year-old Dragic is on the team?
Johnson and Waiters have little trade value, but Miami should look to trade them, too. If Miami has to throw in a valued player to sweeten the deal, they should include Richardson. Riley was able to trade Tyler Johnson at the trade deadline. He seems to think he may be able to get out of some of those ill-advised contracts he gave earlier.
Riley: Don't make any conclusions about next year that we're stuck and there are certain contracts we can't get out of. That would be foolish.— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) April 13, 2019
The Heat could get lucky in the Draft lottery. Miami has a 4.7 percent chance to get a top-four pick in the NBA Draft, something that would significantly affect the Heat’s timetable. But most likely, the Heat will find another nice player with their first-round pick — just as they did with Winslow in 2015 and Adebayo in 2017. Miami will need to get a superstar. The first step is to get rid of some of these bad contracts.