The Miami Heat are the perfect example of how one bad offseason can force to do a complete 180. Instead of building a contender, they’re in rebuild/tanking mode, with Goran Dragic on the trading block.
The Slovenian combo guard acquired less than two seasons ago from the Phoenix Suns as part of the plan to retool the Heat following the LeBron James departure into a contender again has been the best player for the 9-20 Heat this season, but considering how they’re going nowhere in 2016-2017, the Heat feel like building around a younger core would be more beneficial, and Dragic does have his suitors, potentially the Minnesota Timberwolves being the most serious ones. The 30-year old is averaging 19.1 points per game, leading the Heat in scoring while also shooting an impressive 41.6% from beyond the arc.
His contract shouldn’t be something stopping teams for making a move. He makes $15.9 million this season, $17 million in 2017-2018, $18.1 million in 2018-2019 and there’s a $19.2 million player option in 2019-2020. He might not be that productive by then, but Dragic has consistently delivered solid numbers from the backcourt when he got minutes and the ball in his hands, playing a bigger role on offense this season compared to when Dwyane Wade was his teammate.
Pat Riley said that any rebuild will happen very quickly, and I guess moving Dragic really speeds up things, although I’m not sure how eager the Timberwolves are to part with anyone that might be considered a building block. Draft picks are obviously something worth considering, but that could mean the Heat are headed towards more than just one losing season, something that Miami fans aren’t used to.
The Heat’s plan was to have Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Dragic and maybe Wade in this season. But Bosh’s health issues mean he’s probably not going to play another NBA game again, while chasing Durant and signing Whiteside didn’t leave any room for Wade, pushing the biggest star in the history of the franchise and perhaps Miami sports in general back to his hometown of Chicago, where he’s doing quite well individually, averaging 19.3 points per game.
If Dragic does leave, the Heat will start building with Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson as the young players they feel good with moving forward. Not exactly superstars, but good players to have who fill multiple roles. Whiteside is 27, in his prime, and on the books for a few more years as the centerpiece of this team, although the plan is both acquiring young talent that can produce very quickly, and hopefully drawing in a free agent that can make an immediate impact. This season, however, will be about putting the team in position to acquire pieces, not win.