Miami Heat fans are a fragile bunch at the moment, much like the team itself. Twitter arguments are erupting. Families are fighting families. It's all because midway through this wobbly season, so many questions remain for a Heat team that most observers figured would be on a roll by now. Instead, the Heat suffered through another uneven weekend, squeaking past the Denver Nuggets before getting demolished by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Heat wants any chance at a playoff run, the team has some decisions to make in the next six months. Some of those calls could come sooner rather than later. Here are the biggest questions:
Farewell to Birdman?
One option the team is surely considering is unloading expiring contracts such as Chris Andersen and Luol Deng for players who are locked up in the future. That could help stabilize the team in the short term.
But getting rid of those contracts now would also mean much less flexibility during the free-agent period next offseason.
Should the team unload Whiteside now?
There's no question that Hassan Whiteside is the most talented young player on this roster, and he's still contributing big time — though sporadically. On Friday, his triple-double was key to the comeback win over the Nuggets.
But the question is, how much money will Whiteside command on the open market this summer? Will the team be willing and able to pay to keep the diamond it found in the rough? If not, there's a valid argument for trading the volatile center while his stock is high.
Is it time to bail on Dragic?
The Heat has already invested heavily in its Slovenian point guard. The team traded two first-round picks to get him and has committed $85 million to keep him.
But he's about to turn 30 and has already had difficulty staying on the court. If there's a taker for his contract, would the Heat consider hitting the reset/eject button at point guard?
Are we wasting the last days of Dwyane Wade?
As Ethan Skolnick pointed out this past weekend, Wade is having a great year — he's on pace for his most games since 2008 and is on track for one of the best statistical seasons for a guard his age. Yet that hasn't been enough to elevate this team above mediocrity.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Fans are wondering what will happen to D-Wade this summer. Is he at the point when he's willing to move on to another team that needs less from him and gives him a better opportunity to win his fourth championship? And can the Heat continue building teams around him?
These are all tough questions. But they come from one plain fact that Heat fans can't escape: This team just isn't a title contender in 2016. And in that case, what are we even doing with this roster? Changes are guaranteed this offseason. It seems likely that 50 percent of the team will be different next year.
The hardest part for fans is knowing that the team isn't guaranteed to improve just because of that change. In fact, they'll have few options to really improve it if they end up paying Whiteside the $20 million he may command this offseason.
So how does Pat Riley fix the issue? The Heat isn't a franchise content with being just OK. In the words of Tom Petty: Waiting is the hardest part.