It's time for Pat Riley to accept a simple fact that has been obvious for months to everyone else: The Miami Heat isn't a player or two away from contending for a championship. LeBron James and the Western Conference elites are far ahead of the Heat, and there is no shortcut to getting on their level in the near future.
Heat fans don't need any more sit-down interviews on Sun Sports hinting that the team could bring in a "whale" of a free agent or about how they should buy season tickets because of a slogan. We don't need more pipe dreams that will never live up to what the franchise did from 2010 to 2014. It's time to stop kidding ourselves or selling the future to get that one last high.
The Heat must be patient and build its roster for tomorrow, not for today.
Riley isn't undertaking a retool or a reload. This offseason calls for a complete rebuild of the Heat roster. This isn't an episode of Flip or Flop. The Heat isn't in need of a remodel; it's in need of a complete tear-down. What that means is when the Heat begins rebuilding from the foundation — a process that likely will start before the trade deadline passes — Riley should have the year 2020 in mind more than he does 2017 or 2018.
Can Riley show such patience? Is he even capable of letting a 76ers-like "process" play out? It's never been Riley to build something slowly. He's more of a
The Heat charged up credit cards to make the Big Three Era happen, and the team is still paying the bill. They cannot continue to kick the can down the road until someone else is left with a decade of handcuffed personnel decisions after Riley retires. It's time to ask what the Miami Heat is all about: Is it making Riley happy in the short term or providing long-term stability that can keep the franchise relevant for a long time to come?
Where should the Heat begin the rebuilding process? That part is debatable, but what is not debatable is when that process should begin: The answer is
Selling Goran Dragic to the highest bidder would be the logical first move. There is no need for an expensive older point guard on a team that is years away from competing. It doesn't matter if his contract looks good compared to other average NBA point guards; he's still making more than a draft pick would command. By the time the Heat is ready to compete, Dragic will be an aging shell of himself on the cusp of free agency.
Trading away Hassan Whiteside also makes a lot of sense. Whiteside is the Heat's biggest asset, and the team could score a huge haul. Whether Whiteside is the centerpiece of a rebuilding process is debatable. He has yet to prove he can be the Heat's best player on a nightly basis. His talent is too obvious to ignore, however. If another team wants to give the Heat a massive deal to take on the questions, it might make a lot of sense considering the state of the franchise.
Next, have a fire sale and sell off any veteran on the roster. None of these players is likely to sign past next season. Getting something for them now would make sense. James Johnson has been a nice story, but does the Heat really want to pay him $8 million next season to play for another bad team?
Clean the slate. Keep the young pieces. Build for years to come, not next season. Nothing the Heat can do — signing Blake Griffin, trading for Paul Milsap, nothing — will challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors.
Riley might sell more tickets in the near future by acquiring overpaid B players, but he won't be doing fans, or the franchise, any favors in the long run. The team needs to be patient this time around, even if it means a few years of losing. The Heat really has no other choice.