Money isn’t everything.
At least that’s what the Miami Heat have had to tell themselves all summer long after a month has passed since free agency opened with the Heat’s roster remaining relatively untouched. Currently on the books for a whopping $126 million in salary, Miami is already $3 million into the 2018–19 luxury tax.
Unfortunately, this bill comes as no surprise. In the “Great Spending Race of 2016,” NBA players of all talent levels earned pay raises thanks to an influx of cash from the Association’s lucrative new television deal. The resulting spending spree ensured that Miami spent a collective $148 million on only two players: Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson.
Originally thought to be a tandem of a potential star and solid role player, Whiteside and Johnson have been on the gradual decline. This past season both were bitten by the injury bug which, among other things, completely ruined the potential for building a rhythm on either side of the floor. Those difficulties flipped the narrative around the pair, tossing their names into multiple trade rumors in the process.
Beyond Whiteside and Johnson, the Heat are steadily building the best way they know how: player development. Miami is anchored by a handful of young recent draftees: Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow. To this point, each have had their moments in the limelight — Adebayo is poised to become a defensive monster, Richardson has the makings of a perfectly squirmy scorer and Winslow is heralded as a potential future candidate for the do-everything award. Still, none of this trio has managed to string together a series of performances so compelling that they either beef up Miami’s trade hopes or make a significant dent in the team’s win total.
This offseason, the Miami Heat are paying the price for underperforming. As the sixth seed in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Heat were a team good enough to make the postseason, but not quite good enough to inspire conversation of an upset of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. Now, staring down the barrel of a luxury tax payment at season’s end, the Heat will need to leverage Heat President Pat Riley’s significant powers of persuasion if they plan to redirect their salary cap outlook and increase their competitiveness next season.
- Duncan Robinson (Undrafted, two-way contract)
- Yante Maten (Undrafted, two-way contract)
- Jordan Mickey (Team option declined)
- Udonis Haslem? (Yet to re-sign for 16th season)
- Dwyane Wade? (Yet to re-sign for 16th season)
No New Friends
Wait, that can’t be right. Miami’s only additions were a pair of two-way contracts?
In the strictest sense, no, they weren’t. This summer the Heat re-signed Rodney McGruder on the first day of free agency. Well technically, the team didn’t re-sign him so much as they didn’t waive him by July 1, thus guaranteeing the next year of his contract.
What about Derrick Jones Jr.? He was signed, right?
This is factually true, but calling him an addition is more semantically correct than anything. Miami upgraded Jones’ contract to a standard deal, promoting him from his two-way deal last season. After the turn of the new year in 2018, Jones saw game time in 14 Miami contests, starting in eight and helping the Heat to a 9–5 record in the process.
Truthfully, Jones has the highest ceiling of any of Miami’s “additions” entering 2018–19, having the luxury of spending the entire year with the team as opposed to the league-mandated 45 days, per two-way contract rules. A natural leaper, he has further developed his game this summer by smoothing out his jumper and continuing to build his slender frame.
(And yes, he still destroys defenders that wander too close to the rim.)
A New Day for Two-Ways
Regarding Miami’s new faces, Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson, the Heat are continuing to invest in players with the hope that they’ll be worth a decent payout down the road. Maten, a 6-foot-9 forward, fills the void left by Jordan Mickey. Equally capable of trailing fast breaks as he is comfortable pulling up from 3, Maten fits head coach Erik Spoelstra’s model for positionless basketball. With Whiteside falling out of favor in the rotation due to a lack of effort and positional incongruities, Miami is served best with a small-to-mid-sized lineup.
According to NBA.com, Miami’s best five-man group was bolstered by last summer’s addition of Kelly Olynyk (4.9 net rating) at center. Though Olynyk is 7 feet tall, his proclivity to successfully step behind the arc and nail triples stretches the floor in a way that lineups with Whiteside couldn’t. Olynyk was second on the Heat in 3-point percentage (minimum 200 attempts), hitting on 37.9 percent on a Heat team that was ninth in attempts per game. If Maten follows in Olynyk’s footsteps, Miami can further press the issue of fielding knockdown shooters without sacrificing too much length, especially against Eastern Conference giants like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas.
Robinson, on the other hand, can bring his talents to Miami’s backcourt. A 6-foot-8 shooting guard, his most readily available comparison is Kevin Huerter, the similarly sized Atlanta Hawks draftee and newly minted heir apparent to Kyle Korver. Robinson is capable of shooting over undersized defenders and directly addresses Miami’s ineffective pull-up shooting. The Heat managed just 36 percent on pull-up attempts last season, placing them 23rd in the NBA.
Of course, Robinson’s game is localized to the triple, hence the two-way deal. But with the full support of Miami’s G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, both Robinson and Maten can develop into healthy contributors.
The Gang’s All Here
When Miami’s final roster arrives for the season opener against the Orlando Magic, the consensus will be that no introductions are necessary. Assuming Wade and Haslem return and that Miami doesn’t add any new faces, the entirety of Miami’s current 2018–19 roster will have played for the Heat last season as well. Though Miami may have failed to introduce a new spark into the rotation, the Heat’s familiarity with their players offers a good foundation to build upon.
Where the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards will have to endure growing pains with their new additions (Gordon Hayward may as well be a new addition after only playing 5 minutes last season), Miami can enter the season as a well-oiled machine. The Heat lack an individual star who will propel them to new heights this offseason, but under Spoelstra’s watchful eye, Miami will make the most out of their cash-strapped roster.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com
Salary information courtesy of Sportrac.com