Ranking the Miami Heat's Free Agency Priorities
Photo by Alex Broadwell

Ranking the Miami Heat's Free Agency Priorities

The Miami Heat have many questions entering NBA free agency, which begins Friday. Questions that, depending on how they are answered, could influence the paths the franchise takes for the next decade. The franchise is betting a lot on Pat Riley and his ability to once again pull a rabbit out of his hat. The greatest player in Miami Heat history is still unsigned. The Heat's seven-foot nugget of gold they mined from the NBA D-League is puffing out his chest, seemingly daring the Heat to ask him to take a penny less than the maximum allotment. Key veteran leaders from last season's squad are as good as gone. 

Other than that, the next week or so should be pretty chill. 

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So what should the Heat's priorities be heading into this crucial free agency period? Let's take a shot at ranking them.

1. Find out what Dwyane Wade is thinking.

From the looks of things, this has already happened. Dwyane Wade wouldn't be running around Europe without having at least touched base with the Heat in anticipation of the opening of Friday's free agency. Wade has made it clear he himself wants nothing to do with free agency this time around. 

“The whole free agency thing, I didn't want to be in it last summer; I don't want to be in it this summer,” Wade told the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson in February. “I don't want to be on the market at all… I’m not curious at all. I want to get to it [with the Heat]. I want to be able to sign my deal and move on and not have to deal with any rumors, any free agency, any this, any that. This is where I want to end my career. So we'll figure it out.”

That sounded great, then last night news broke of Wade and the Heat once again hitting a snag in negotiations. This is probably just standard positioning by Wade's agent, but it feels bad. 

Whatever the Heat plan to do, they are going to need to know what Wade is thinking. What Wade is willing to take plays a huge factor in their pursuit of free agents this summer. If he is open to taking less if they can lure Kevin Durant and Hassan Whiteside to Miami, that's the base knowledge for everything else to be built upon. If signing Whiteside to the max means pissing Wade off to the point you're watching him play for the Cavaliers in next year's NBA Finals, Whiteside has to go.

2. Get Hassan Whiteside away from all the pens for a weekend.

This past weekend Hassan alluded to wanting to get the whole free agency thing over with the moment it opens, telling reporters he hopes Friday he knows where he'll land. 

"On July 1, hopefully I'll know," Whiteside said of free agency. "I hope it's an easy decision to make."

Hopefully is the key word here for everyone involved. Hopefully Hassan Whiteside doesn't think that's an option if he wants to return to the Miami Heat. Hopefully he knows the Heat can't just pass up a chance to speak to Kevin Durant. Hopefully his agent doesn't have him sign the first contract he's offered, because if he does, it won't be from the Miami Heat.

Hopefully when Hassan Whiteside says loyalty has nothing to do with anything, he's not completely telling the truth.

3. Put all of Pat Riley's rings into a felt bag and fly to New York. 

If the Heat get to step three without any issues, they can then put themselves in a position to play ball with Kevin Durant. Without both Wade and Whiteside in place, none of this matters. Pat Riley certainly feels like if he gets in the room with Durant, the Heat can figure out the math later. 

“You know we’re always looking for a whale, if there’s one out there that we can [sign],” Pat Riley said in May after the Heat were eliminated from the playoffs by the Toronto Raptors “I think we have the flexibility to do that.”

With his history, you really can't doubt Riley. Normally getting a meeting with Durant would be the top priority for a team in the offseason, but the Heat aren't a normal team in a normal situation. The Heat are an abnormal team with abnormal problems. Some of them are good problems to have (finding Hassan Whiteside and now needing to pay him, having a Hall of Fame player to pay legacy money to), and some are bad problems to have (not knowing if Chris Bosh will ever play basketball again). 

4. Getting answers on Chris Bosh.

Will Chris Bosh be cleared to play basketball this season? When we last left Bosh, he and the team finally announced he wouldn't be returning to the court in the playoffs, but they were hopeful he could return this upcoming season. 

"The Heat, Chris, the doctors and medical team have been working together throughout this process and will continue to do so to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible," the team announced.

Without Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat are a good team, but with him they have the capabilities of being a fantastic title-contending team. The problem is that Bosh's recurring blood clots aren't your usual injury, and no one can guarantee that if Chris Bosh begins the season on the court he won't finish it the same place he has the last two seasons. 

If Chris Bosh is unable to return this season, the Heat might not have that hard a decision to make. They also would find themselves with more cap space heading into next offseason, when the free agent pool is even deeper than this summer's batch. 

5. Sort out every other lingering free agent afterward.

Unfortunately for guys like Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, if they want to return to the Miami Heat they are going to have to let some dust settle first. Deng is the most likely to return of the pair, but he's also the more expensive of the two. When Deng came to Miami two summers ago, he says it wasn't all about money, but more about the team and culture. 

“I remember choosing here, and it wasn’t really the financial side," he told reporters. "It was the fact that I wanted to be comfortable and be somewhere where what I do is appreciated.”

While that might not be totally false, it's not totally true either. Deng wasn't committing to the Heat on the cheap to help lure LeBron back to Miami. Only after LeBron left and the Heat had more money to spend did he arrive. 

The Heat have made a $1.2 million qualifying offer to Tyler Johnson for next season, although he will probably demand more.  The Heat will surely be looking to move Josh McRoberts and his salary this offseason in hopes of clearing space to do all of the above things more comfortably. 

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