Article written by Nicolas Papa (6/5/21)
As a Heat fan my reaction when Heat team president Pat Riley said they would “Run it Back” with almost the same squad that went to the finals last season was a very angry one. Almost 8 months later that feeling was completely warranted as the Heat had a disappointing season filled with injuries, subpar coaching decisions, and a complete lack of consistency. Even with all these troubles the Heat still managed to win 40 games and finish with the 6th seed to matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks in the First Round. As you probably know by now the Heat went on to lose in the first round in embarrassing fashion with Milwaukee sweeping the series against a Heat team that just wasn’t good enough. How did everything go so wrong for a team who not even a year ago was competing for an NBA Championship?
This team didn’t improve one bit from last season. Pat Riley was chasing cap space for a big 2021 offseason which at the time was looking to be headlined by 2x MVP Giannis Antetokumpo, but that won’t be the case as Giannis resigned with the bucks for the supermax worth $228 Million over the next 5 years. With the heats stinginess to keep the space they let Jae Crowder walk, Crowder was a pivotal part of their finals run and an excellent small ball fit next to Bam. The Heat also made a very puzzling move in resigning Meyers Leonard for $10 Million. The Heat would then go on to make two notable signings with Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless being brought in. Bradley was meant to fill in as a defense minded guard on the bench around Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, two guys who were horrendous on the defensive end this past season. Harkless was thought of as the less expensive version of Jae Crowder. Harkless only played 11 games with Heat before being traded to Sacramento along with Chris Silva in exchange for Nemanja Blejcia. Avery Bradley only played 10 games with the Heat due to injuries and was traded alongside Kelly Olynk for Victor Oladipo. Even the acquisition of Victor Oladipo hasn’t worked out with Oladipo only appearing in 4 games before missing the rest of the season with a quad injury. Then we got guys like Tyler Herro who was given no time to improve with the short offseason. Although the Heat had a lot riding against them their are no excuses, the top teams in the East improved and the Heat didn’t and it can’t happen again this offseason. Here are a couple of moves the Heat must make to retool as true championship contenders in the East.
1. Try To Land A SuperStar
The sweep against the Milwaukee Bucks made it abundantly clear that Jimmy Butler can’t be the number one guy on a championship team. The Heat need to go out and get someone who could give you 25-30 PPG every game which is something they haven’t had since LeBron James in 2014. Getting a big time scorer next to Jimmy and Bam would give them better looks and improve their commitment to the defensive end. The only problem with this is that the free agency class of 2021 isn’t star heavy. There have been some rumors of Kawhi Leonard to the Heat but he fought so hard to be in LA that I find this highly unlikely. There’s also been talks about Bradley Beal but it looks like he will be with the Wizards again next season. If Miami can’t land a superstar they need to find a guy who could create his own shot so Jimmy Butler could focus on defense and getting others involved first.
2. Find A Starting Big Man Next To Bam
Finding a center who can spread the floor, protect the rim, and rebound should be a priority for Miami after getting out rebounded by double digits every game of the playoffs against the Bucks. The Heat haven’t had a true center since the pre Jimmy Butler era and it’s been a noticeable problem over the last two seasons. Acquiring Dewayne Dedmon was a good step in the right direction but he might not be good enough to start next to Bam over 82 games. The ideal pick up for the Heat in free agency is Serge Ibaka who is a known rim protector and rebounder who shoots a solid 35% from 3. He’s an affordable option next to Bam who can have an immediate impact. Although I’m not sure how realistic this is but the Heat could also take a look at Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner. Last season Turner averaged 12.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 3.4 BPG leading the NBA. Turner is a beast defensively and could hold his own on the offensive end. He would be a great fit in Miami next to Bam.
3. Find A Starting Point Guard
It’s became painfully obvious throughout the season that the Heat need another playmaker in the starting lineup next to Jimmy Butler. The Heat tried Tyler Herro, Goran Dragic, and Kendrick Nunn as starting point guards this past season but It just didn’t work. Herro wasn’t ready for the playmaking responsibilities of a point guard and was moved to the bench early in the season. Goran Dragic took a noticeable step back this season after the unfortunate foot injury in the NBA Finals. Coach Spo also found that the bench wasn’t as good without Dragic so he was moved back there as well. Kendrick Nunn started the majority of games for the Heat and was actually great averaging 14.6 PPG in 44 starts. The problem with Nunn is that he is a shoot first point guard who didn’t have the playmaking ability the Heat needed in the playoffs. With Nunn and Dragic set to become free agents its safe to say that the Heat need to look for someone who could command the floor at the starting PG position. The most realistic option for the Heat is upcoming free agent Kyle Lowry who the Heat were connected to throughout the final week before the trade deadline. Lowry is a former AllStar who could give the Heat everything they need in a point guard including defense. But a huge question for the Heat is are you willing to give $20-$25 million to a 35 year old Kyle Lowry. Another option for the Heat is Mike Conely who they’ve been connected to before. Another name that’s been mentioned recently is Damian Lillard who is coming off back to back first round exits with the Portland Trailblazers. The problem for the Heat is the only way to get the 5x all star is through trade and the Heat lack the necessary assets. I don’t think a trade package centered around Tyler Herro is enough to acquire Lillard, a third team would need to be involved but the acquisition of Lillard puts Miami right at the top of the East with the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Brooklyn Nets.