On Monday, we examined the Mavericks’ slow start and explored the next steps for a team that has avoided rebuilding for more than a decade and a half. Kevin O’Connor’s piece for The Ringer provided some context on the situation in Dallas, but the Mavs weren’t the only longtime contender identified by O’Connor as a team that should be tanking this season. O’Connor also suggested that the Heat, off to a 4-9 start after last night’s loss to the Sixers, should look toward the future.
The Heat were just one game away from an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the spring, but this version of the team looks significantly different from that one. Veterans like Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, and – of course – Dwyane Wade are gone. Chris Bosh remains unable to play, and indications are that the team doesn’t expect him to return. Hassan Whiteside is thriving in an increased role, but he doesn’t have much help around him, and the Heat are off to a slow start.
As O’Connor observes, Heat president Pat Riley has long been averse to tanking, having said in the past that he doesn’t love the idea of having to do a full rebuild through the draft: “Lottery picks are living a life of misery. That season is miserable. And if you do three or four years in a row to get lottery picks, then I’m in an insane asylum.”
Still, the Heat’s core is somewhat lacking, with Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Richardson joining Whiteside as the current building blocks. There’s certainly some talent there, but not enough to return to title contention. Miami will likely need to land another impact player to become a top team in the East again, and it remains to be seen where the team will find that guy.
South Beach is an appealing home for NBA players, meaning the Heat are always a major player in free agency, and the team should have some flexibility next summer, but top free agents may be reluctant to sign with the Heat if they’re coming off a lottery season. Additionally, having traded multiple future first-round picks in their deal for Dragic, the Heat aren’t loaded with future assets. And as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel observes, many of their veterans, such as Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Josh McRoberts, and Luke Babbitt, don’t have much trade value, due to their underwhelming performances or short-term contracts.
Riley has indicated that he intends to get another first-round pick for 2017 if it’s possible, which could mean trading Dragic at some point during the 2016/17 league year. The Heat also should end up with a pretty high draft pick of their own if they continue to struggle. If the 71-year-old Riley wants to accelerate the rebuilding process, he could attempt to turn Dragic and his first-rounder into a star via trade(s). But it may make more sense to exercise some patience and add some more young talent through the draft.
What do you think? Is it too early for the Heat to start to look ahead to 2017/18, or is this year’s team not a viable playoff contender? If Miami explores potential deals, is Dragic the only obvious trade candidate, or could they extract some value from other players? Does it make sense for the team to be patient with its rebuild or dangle its increasingly valuable 2016 first-rounder to try to land immediate help? Jump into the comments section below to share your opinions on the Heat!