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NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Miami Heat

Drew Maresca continues Basketball Insiders’ Grading the Offseason series by analyzing the Miami HEAT’s summer that landed the team a prized acquisition and more.

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Every team’s offseason is graded differently than the next. Some teams make a big splash immediately upon entering free agency, and others methodically add pieces and evaluate talent over the next month or so.

Either way, most free agents have signed with teams by now and rosters are mostly set. With that being said, Basketball Insiders continues its “Grading the Offseason” series.

Next, we’ll assess the Miami HEAT’s offseason and review how their new additions could bring the playoffs back to South Beach.

Overview

The HEAT have been stuck in a basketball purgatory for the past few seasons – especially considering their success a few seasons ago with LeBron James and company.  However, Pat Riley has surprised the league a number of times before, and Erik Spoelstra is a highly regarded coach who is known for getting the most out of his players – so nothing is off limits in Miami.

Aside from Dwyane Wade’s retirement tour, the 2018-19 season was mostly forgettable. The HEAT went 39-43 and missed the playoffs.

But Miami enters 2019-20 nearly unrecognizable. Wade famously retired and the team was forced to move on from its most identifiable star.

But that’s not all the change the HEAT underwent. They also traded their starting center and one of their most promising young stars to acquire Jimmy Butler. In that same trade, the franchise also acquired an above-average role player and two promising rookies.

With all that change, Miami will almost certainly enter 2019-20 with higher expectations – especially considering two of the top four teams (Boston and Toronto) in the Eastern Conference have hemorrhaged significant talent, thus leading to more parity across the conference.

Offseason

The HEAT entered free agency already over the salary cap, but that didn’t dissuade them from pursuing, and ultimately landing, Jimmy Butler. Butler is the superstar-caliber player Riley yearns for, and Miami is a market unlike most – albeit one notorious for starting games with a half-filled American Airlines Arena. Butler adds a legitimate two-way star in the prime of his career.

The HEAT also added Myers Leonard as part of the four-team trade that netted them Butler. Leonard can provide solid backup minutes and stretch the floor out to the three-point line. And Hassan Whiteside’s involvement in the Butler trade opens up the center position for 22-year-old Bam Adebayo to prove his worth, as well.

The HEAT’s draft was relatively successful, too. The organization selected Tyler Herro from Kentucky with the 13thoverall pick. Herro shot up draft boards in the days leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft.

He turned heads in summer league and reinforced the idea that he has what it takes to succeed in the NBA. Herro averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. He came in as a known shooter, but he also proved that he can rebound, pass and even defend.

The HEAT clearly likes their second-round pick – KZ Okpala – as well, evidenced by the fact that Miami signed him to a three-year contract despite his not playing a minute of summer league action. The team swapped three second-rounders to trade up to the 32ndoverall pick.

And while no one knows exactly what Okpala will add to the HEAT, it’s fairly intuitive to assume that he’ll be impressive given Riley and Spoelstra’s track record of identifying and developing talent. 

PLAYERS IN: Jimmy Butler, Myers Leonard, Tyler Herro, KZ Okpala

PLAYERS OUT: Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson

What’s Next?

The HEAT are still awaiting word from Udonis Haslem regarding his future. While Miami already signed Butler, it is rumored to be open to adding other stars. Chris Paul has been mentioned if the price is right, which must include some of the HEAT’s own unprotected first-round picks heading back to Miami from Oklahoma City, as well as Paul agreeing to waive his player option for 2021-22 for $44 million.

The HEAT have also explored adding Bradley Beal; however, Washington has been resistant to moving Beal for anything less than a king’s ransom. And Miami’s lack of draft capital will probably be a major impediment to landing the young star from the Wizards.

Justise Winslow’s progress last season was a major bright spot for the team. He averaged career highs in points (12.6 ppg), assists (4.3 apg), field goal percentage (43.3) and effective field goal percentage (49.7). He took major strides in turning into a creator and distributor, and his three-point shot looked significantly better in the second-half of the season.

And while Winslow looked primed to take on a bigger role in initiating the offense, the HEAT still have an unsettled situation with point guard Goran Dragic.

Dragic’s name came up in rumors as part of the Butler deal prior to the trade taking on its final form – to the extent that it was announced that he was being sent to Dallas. But ultimately, Dragic and Winslow and both very good players will form an effective backcourt pairing if they can’t move Dragic as part of a deal for Paul, Beal or someone else who upgrades talent or returns future picks.

The HEAT’s offseason was stronger than expected considering their lack of flexibility.

But at what cost? Miami sent a protected 2023 first-round pick to the Clippers as part of the Butler deal – it also parted ways with its first-round pick in 2021 and second-round picks from 2020 all the way to 2026!

The HEAT will struggle to restock the cupboard cheaply. Hopefully, the team will be well-positioned thanks to Butler, Winslow, Adebayo, Herro and whomever else signs up to play in South Beach – the HEAT owe only $65 million in 2021-22 assuming all options are picked up – because they’ll struggle to add pieces through the draft.

But what’s more important to the HEAT is the present.

And Miami looks poised to be in contention in the East as soon as this season. 

OFFSEASON GRADE: B+

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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