It's been only a month since the Miami Heat played its last game of the season — a 104-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs — but it feels like ages. Because the Heat has no picks in next month's NBA Draft and little to no money to spend in free agency this summer, it seems fans are in for a ho-hum, eventless offseason.
That is, unless Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg get our their sledgehammers for some demolition work, call HGTV, and film a special NBA version of Flip or Flop. Then Heat fans might be in for a wild few months.
What kind of crazy stuff might Riley and Elisburg have up their sleeves? It's anyone's guess. But if they're reading, here are some stupid ideas:
1. Trade Hassan Whiteside in a three-team deal for Carmelo Anthony. This is more about what the Heat might have to do rather than what it wants to do. No, the team shouldn't make its first attempt to dump its most expensive player, but taking on Carmelo might be what it takes to rid Miami of the Hassan Whiteside project. The Oklahoma City Thunder is about as desperate to get rid of Melo as the Heat is Whiteside, but Oklahoma already has a seven-foot center in Steven Adams. This deal would likely take a third team like the Portland Trailblazers getting involved.
The disgruntled Whiteside is owed about $50 million over the next two seasons, while Anthony has only one year at about $28 million left. The Heat would be essentially committing to a few months of Anthony before a late-season buyout for the opportunity to have a lot of cap space available next summer. Moving the heaviest salary-cap boulder in the fastest way possible, not securing a specific player in return, is the goal here. Melo would sell some tickets, offer a bit of intrigue, and at the very least help the team compete while it transitions.
Carmelo looks finished, but if there's any NBA team that could ring the last bit of usefulness out of him, it's the Heat. And having Carmelo and Wade on the same roster would be a Hail Mary attempt at getting LeBron James to return to the Miami. It would never work, but it's worth a try!
2. Trade Goran Dragic back to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick. In June's NBA Draft, the Suns already have the first-overall selection and the 16th selection, which they received from the Heat in the 2015 deal that sent Goran Dragic to Miami. Phoenix also owns the first pick of the second round (No. 31) and the 59th pick. The Suns will likely take Dragic's international team teammate and Euroleague MVP Luka Doncic with the first selection, making Dragic an excellent fit to mentor the 18-year-old phenom as he acclimates himself to the NBA.
For the Heat, getting back what amounts to a late first-round pick would lessen the blow of losing this year's pick to the Suns for Dragic. He no longer makes sense for the Heat. He's an aging point guard on a team that has no avenue to compete without a massive overhaul of its roster. Two more years of leading the Heat to middle-of-the-pack seasons does no one any good. The time for change is now.
Acquiring a young player who could be a rotation player for the Heat when the team is ready to compete seriously makes sense for Miami. Getting Dragic back to mentor Doncic and still being owed another future first-round pick from the Heat in the deal is highway robbery for the Suns. It's a win-win.
3. Strike a sign-and-trade deal to acquire DeMarcus Cousins. This move would certainly shake crap up and give Riley the superstar "whale" he's long coveted since James left in 2014. Cousins is coming off an Achilles tendon tear that ended his season in January. Following his absence, the New Orleans Pelicans actually got better — go figure. It seems as if Cousins and Anthony Davis just aren't the greatest fit.
Enter Riley, who loves to swoop in and make your girl happy again. Cousins is still only 27 and one of the best centers in the league. He's an actual night-in, night-out, multidimensional impact player, not like Whiteside, who decides when to play hard based on what the moon is up to that night. Cousins would instantly take the Heat from a star-less team to a squad with a star to build around.
Cousins is free to sign wherever he'd like, but the most likely scenario for the Heat would be a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans sending Cousins to Miami in exchange for a package that would undoubtedly include either Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson paired with Hassan Whiteside. Cousins is already a superstar in the NBA, but we can only imagine what he would be capable of once he got in "Miami Heat condition."
This deal also assumes the Pelicans, or a third team, want to acquire the services of Whiteside. At the moment, that's a huge assumption. If the Heat could figure out a way to keep Winslow and build around a core of Cousins, Adebayo, and Winslow, that would be a nice start to getting back to the top of the East.
4. Aim lower and try to dump one or more mid-tier players in a multiple-team trade. Of all the scenarios the Heat could involve itself in this summer, finding a way to sneak one of Miami's overpaid yet useful players into a multi-team deal for little in return is the likeliest scenario. Inserting James Johnson into a deal that involves a team such as Brooklyn or Sacramento and getting back a 2022 second-round pick would be a win right now.
Dumping salary so the Heat can reinvest now and have assets for later is the best idea. Blowing up an entire team you've overpaid and committed to long-term is almost impossible to accomplish in one offseason, but selling off parts at garage-sale prices when buyers present themselves isn't a crazy idea. If the Heat needs to pay someone a 2026 second-round pick to take Tyler Johnson and his two remaining years of $18 million-plus off the books, Miami should jump at it.
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5. Pat Riley takes on an ambassador/consultant role and Shane Battier becomes team president. The day is coming when Riley will no longer be the man buying the groceries for the Heat, so why not make the transition happen slowly? It's well known that Riley is torn between retiring in California and chasing another title in Miami. In an ambassador role, he could do both, much like Jerry West is doing for the L.A. Clippers these days.
Battier is on the verge of being plucked from the Heat's organization. His analytics-first mindset and a stellar reputation are exactly where the NBA is headed. The Detroit Pistons recently interviewed him for their current opening, but he withdrew his name from consideration yesterday. If the Heat is smart, it'll at least entertain the idea of giving Battier a president-in-waiting role while Riley transitions. When the Heat hired Battier, Riley said, “He embodies everything that we are looking for in our players and staff.” The last person Riley spoke about that way was Erik Spoelstra. That worked out well.
The Heat is not close to a championship. It will be at least another few years until Miami will be a contender again. Riley is already 73 years old. These are all things to take into account when wondering how long the greatest shot-caller in South Florida sports will remain in his current role. Change comes eventually. Dan Marino didn't quarterback forever, and Don Shula eventually had to retire. It happens. It's better to keep Battier in-house now than be stuck searching for an unknown when Riley suddenly wants to hit the beach.