Heat Have Little Time to Waste


After a lackluster 2021 season, the Miami Heat’s window to compete for a championship with Jimmy Butler is closing.

Jimmy is 31, and time is of the essence. No more fooling around. It’s time to go all-in and bring this team back to the promised land. After failing last season, Pat Riley has another shot to improve this team.

Fire Sale

Aside from Jimmy and Bam Adebayo, everybody on this team should be available. Their assets are limited, but Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala attached with bigger salaries can surely reel in a star (a la Kyle Lowry). Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson are also impending restricted free agents, so a sign-and-trade could be in the works for them should they not be a part of Riley’s vision.

This random youth movement right in the middle of their 30-year-old star’s prime hasn’t fared well. It has compromised their ability to go out and compete. Because of this, Herro, Nunn and Achiuwa should see themselves out.

Knowing When to Flip an Asset

Kendrick Nunn

Knowing when to flip an asset is one of the best skills a GM can have. Riley is plenty capable of this, but his mismanagement of recent players is quite confusing. For example, Kendrick Nunn was incredible during the first half of his rookie season, but it became clear that his production was too good to be sustainable.

  • Over the first 51 games of his career, Nunn averaged 15.3 points on 43.9% shooting.
  • After making it through the trade deadline, he averaged 10.3 points on 31.3% shooting in the bubble.
  • In the first three rounds of the 2020 playoffs Nunn was virtually unplayable, averaging 3.2 points on 29.3% shooting.

Riley could have flipped the rookie at the 2019/2020 deadline for veteran Danilo Gallinari, who would have been serviceable in the Finals and helped turn the tide for the Heat. Unfortunately, the deal fell through when Riley refused to sign Gallo to an extension. Now, Nunn is projected to make upwards of $15 million per year. The Heat can choose to overpay him or let him walk.

Either way, Pat fumbled this situation.

Tyler Herro

The Heat need to capitalize on their 2019 draft steal, Tyler Herro, and flip him while they still can– don’t make the same mistake they made with Nunn. Since the 2020 Bubble, Herro’s trade stock has only fallen. In fact, it may not ever get higher than it was last offseason. After averaging 16 points on 43/37/87 splits during Miami’s Finals run — including a 37-point game in the Eastern Conference Finals — Herro was playing like he could’ve been the Rookie of the Year.

On the biggest stage possible.

In 2021, Herro failed to make the leap the Heat wanted him to, and regressed in a sense, averaging 15.1 points on 44/36/80 splits. A 20-year-old averaging those type of numbers should have loads of trade value, but the Heat expected significant improvement which never came. A trade including Herro could’ve increased the odds of Miami acquiring a 3rd star to help them compete in 2021.

Precious Achiuwa

In the 2020 NBA Draft, the Heat picked Memphis forward Precious Achiuwa 20th overall. There’s no easy way to say it– while Achiuwa wasn’t totally useless for the Heat this season, he didn’t make much of an impact, either. Miami never played him alongside Bam Adebayo, so he rarely saw any time on the court. In the playoffs, Achiuwa appeared in the three blowout games against Milwaukee, playing merely garbage-time minutes.

The worst part about this is Achiuwa showed legitimate potential during the beginning of the season. Over the first 10 games, he averaged 8.5 points on 61.8% shooting. If the Heat were truly serious about this season, he had no business making it through the deadline.

According to Ira Winderman, Achiuwa was never even included in any packages at the trade deadline. Mind-boggling.

Free Agency

In FA, there will be a few plans. No matter what, Miami will be improving the roster through acquiring high-profile free agents, useful depth pieces and hopefully some ring chasers. In order for the Heat to find success, they need to do the opposite of what they did last season.

Team Options

Likely Departures


Duncan Robinson: Restricted + Bird Rights

It’s simple. Shooters like Duncan don’t fall off trees. The Heat need to retain him regardless of any offer sheet he receives. A shooter is always going to be needed in today’s NBA, especially with two non-shooters in Jimmy and Bam being the most featured players on the roster.

Victor Oladipo: MLE/Minimum

Though Oladipo only played four games for Miami, it’s clear as day that he wants to be here. He turned down $20 million per year from the Rockets and recently bought an $8 million mansion in Miami Beach. After coming off an injury, he’ll be expected to sign a low-end deal to remain in Miami. This is where he has wanted to be for years, and I believe he will stay.

Dewayne Dedmon: Minimum

The veteran big man was one of the Heat’s only bright spots from the playoff series against the Bucks, as he averaged 6.3 points per game including a 19-point game in Game 2. He fits the backup-big role perfectly and must be re-signed.

Plan A: Kawhi Leonard + Vets

Sign Kawhi Leonard

The newest player rumored to be on the free agent market is two-time Finals MVP and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.

Normally, I don’t really get phased by this kind of speculation. It feels like every player is rumored to become member of the Heat at some point in their career. The reason this has a chance to happen is because when Kawhi signed with the Clippers, the Clips promised him they would get a second star. Guess who Kawhi called before Paul George? Jimmy Butler. Jimmy opted to come to Miami instead, but the connection is apparent.

Leonard recently declined his 2021-22 player option, and while the general consensus is he re-signs in LA, he is reportedly planning to listen to other offers, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

He wants to win. If he can’t get it done in LA, there may be no better place for him to play than Miami. A team of Kawhi, Jimmy, Bam and Oladipo would be one of the best defensive teams in NBA history. Add Robinson’s shooting, Dedmon’s bench presence and however many ring-chasers come to South Beach, the Heat could be the NBA’s next superteam.

For this to happen, Miami would most likely have to acquire Leonard through a sign-and-trade. A realistic transaction would include Goran Dragic and parting ways with youth out in a separate transaction. Herro, Precious and KZ are all possibilities in this case.

If Kawhi wants to be in Miami, Pat Riley will do whatever it takes to see the Klaw in a Heat uniform.

Ring Chasers

Kawhi can’t and won’t be the only addition in this plan. Since around 2015, the phenomenon “Ring Chasers” has appeared. Ring chasers are veterans who sign with contenders for a discount in order to compete for a championship. These players could probably make more money in the open market.

But these guys are usually accomplished, have made loads of cash already and have everything except a coveted championship. In recent history, teams like the Warriors, Lakers, Clippers and Nets are notorious for having a bench full of them (ex: Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge).

If Kawhi lands in Miami, they wouldn’t have the cap space to recruit middle-tier free agents. This is where the ring chasers come in, as they naturally gravitate to superteams. A big three of Kawhi, Jimmy and Bam is almost surely a superteam. A few names to consider in this scenario would be Nicolas Batum, Paul Millsap, Derrick Rose, Lou Williams and JaVale McGee.

Plan B: Sign the Next-Best Star

Kawhi may take his time in free agency, putting pressure on Miami and others to look elsewhere before it’s too late. Should this become the case, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the next priority.

*disclaimer* these players would be part of a Plan A in any other year, but when someone of Kawhi Leonard’s stature is available in FA, everyone else takes a back seat.

Kyle Lowry

The Heat almost acquired Lowry at the trade deadline, but a dispute over the trade led him to stay in Toronto.

The veteran point guard is still incredibly useful. Even at 35, Lowry averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. If the Heat had him this season, the odds of being swept by the Bucks would have been lowered by a large margin.

Regardless, Lowry checks a few boxes for things the Heat desperately need: a point guard, three-level scorer and defensive guard. In the past 48 hours, Lowry-to-Miami talk has ramped up, and teams like the Mavericks, that were interested in his services, have shifted their focus elsewhere due to Lowry being a “near-lock” to Miami.

DeMar DeRozan

The Heat desperately need another scorer and DeRozan can provide some versatility for the team defensively. While he isn’t a great three-point shooter, he is a great overall scorer and offensive weapon. The 31-year-old averaged 21.6 points and 6.9 assists per game on 49.5% shooting in 2021. Though the fit may not be great next to Jimmy and Bam due to his poor three-ball, passing on adding a 20-point-per-game scorer in their Plan B would be flat out unreasonable.

Financially speaking, The Athletic’s John Hollinger mentioned that DeRozan may be open to taking the MLE to play with Lowry in South Beach.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to team up with their old friend?

It’s Time to Win

No matter what Miami does, entering next season without a top roster in the East will be a failure. Pat Riley needs to bring in a whale this offseason, as the Eastern Conference is only going to get stronger.

No more playing both sides. The Heat must go all in, because it’s time to return to the top.

Follow us on Twitter @HeatLead for the latest Heat news and insight. 

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