Now that the Miami Heat's body is cold, we can officially call it a season and get to work on what the team needs to do to return even stronger next year. Not only does the NBA offseason feel like the shortest of any sport, but also the offseason itself feels like a sport. Like Nike says, basketball never stops.
The Heat caught some unfortunate health breaks in 2016, ones that surely robbed everyone of what should have been a highly watched Heat-Cavs Eastern Conference finals. It just wasn't meant to be.
So what does the Heat need to accomplish this offseason to challenge LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Not as much as you might think.
5. Keep the future in-house.
Much of this is a formality at his point, but the Heat must keep its up-and-coming core of younger players it has worked so hard to mold into useful rotation players. Justise Winslow is guaranteed to be on the Heat's roster next year and many others to follow. The team can easily make sure Josh Richardson is a part of the next few years thanks to a clutch rookie deal the team signed him to. They were seemingly well aware of the gem they had found.
The trickier contract might be Tyler Johnson, who is an expendable but important cog. Johnson looked to be on his way to a nice contract early in the year and then became the forgotten man when he missed months due to shoulder surgery. He was able to return late in the playoff run and contribute more as the games went on. It's yet to be seen how much a desperate team might pay Johnson to play a bigger role for it. The Heat definitely will want to retain him, but at what price?
4. Find a way to re-sign Luol Deng at a reasonable price.
The keyword is "reasonable," because anything more than the $10 million Deng made this season would not be reasonable. The Heat can get to a place where it can afford Deng (and possibly Joe Johnson on a discounted deal) by ridding itself of Josh McRoberts' contract. That move would clear up enough space to take a bite out of whatever Deng
Deng proved his worth when the Heat lost Chris Bosh. He was reliable, versatile, and incredibly resilient — all things the Miami Heat prides itself on and terrific traits to have rub off on players like Winslow for another year or two.
3. Find a middle ground with Dwyane Wade.
It's frustrating to see all of the reports that Dwyane Wade's performance this postseason should lead to another contract worth upward of $20 million a season — because that's not exactly how it works. If Wade and the Heat want to be successful in the future, they need to find a middle ground in negotiations that reflects what future Wade can contribute, not what past Wade has.
It's a sketchy place to be. Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers. They paid Kobe a lifetime achievement contract, and look where that got them. A contract somewhere between $12 to $15 million per year seems like the sweet spot for Wade and the Heat. Barring being able to acquire a superstar this offseason, the Heat can totally afford it, and D-Wade has earned it.
2. Re-sign Hassan Whiteside for as little as possible.
Two things are certain: Hassan Whiteside will demand a maximum contract, and the Heat, in the politest possible way, will try to entice him to take a tad less. As the season progressed, Whiteside checked every box he needed to on his way to a big payday this offseason. Whether that be with the Heat or someone else is yet to be seen.
It's clear the Heat's best course of action moving forward would be to lock up Whiteside on a deal that would more than reward him for his hard work but also free up enough money so the Heat could surround him with players who ensure the team can compete post-Wade. How much, if any, money Whiteside is willing to leave on the table will be a huge part of Miami's offseason.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Make a run at signing Kevin Durant.
With the way Durant's Oklahoma City team is playing right now, this option seems more like a fantasy as the postseason days pass. Miami, nonetheless, is obligated to see if it can hook the biggest fish, so it's a guarantee the Heat will at least attempt to get a sit-down with Durant before he inevitably re-ups for one more year in Oklahoma City.
It's tough to imagine Durant leaving OKC after a championship, but if the Thunder loses along the way, it's entirely possible Pat Riley may be able to work his magic once again.